You may not know it, but your gender affects and determines the health challenges you might face.
While both sexes are similar in many ways, researchers have found that sex and social factors can make the difference when it comes to your risk for disease, how well you respond to medications, and how often you seek medical care.
That’s why scientists are taking a closer look at the links between sex, gender, and health.
Many male health risks can be traced back to behaviour: In general, men engage in behaviours that lead to higher rates of injury and disease. They also tend to eat less healthful diets.
However, anatomy, hormones, and genes also play roles in men’s increased risk for these diseases;
Among men aged 65 and over, more than 39% have this, compared to about 27% of women in the same age group.
Why? While women’s bodies tend to be pear-shaped, men’s bodies are generally apple-shaped. When women gain weight, it often lands on their hips and thighs. “Men almost always put weight on around the middle,” says an internal medicine physician. “And we know this type of body fat, known as visceral, is a heart disease risk factor that many women simply don’t share,” he said.
Also, men don’t have the protection of estrogen. Estrogen may keep women’s cholesterol levels in check, reducing a key heart disease risk factor. However, once women hit menopause, their heart disease risk goes up.
This disabling neurological disease affects about 50% more men than women.
Why? Researchers suggest that this may also have to do with estrogen, which protects neurological function by activating certain proteins or interacting with molecules called free radicals.
Men’s relative lack of estrogen leaves them with less protection. Several studies have also pointed to the possibility that it has a genetic link to the male X chromosome.
When you talk with doctors about women’s health risks, anatomy and hormones often come up. Here are a few examples:
Each year in the U.S, about 55,000 more women than men are affected by strokes. Why? Many factors play into this statistic, but estrogen is chief among them.
Women may not be aware of the effect estrogen has on stroke risk. They might know that birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and pregnancy raise risk, but they may not understand the underlying mechanism, which is shifting estrogen levels.
Those changes in levels of estrogen, not the estrogen itself, affect the substances in the blood that cause clots. More activity results in more clotting, and that can lead to a higher risk of stroke.
Nearly 80% of the estimated 10 million Americans are female.
Why this? Women start with thinner, smaller bones and less bone tissue than men. Throughout most of their lives, women’s bones are protected by estrogen, which may block a substance that kills bone cells.
However, when women begin to lose estrogen during menopause, it causes loss of bone mass (osteoporosis). This loss takes a toll. Nearly 50% of women over 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
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