10 Health Issues that Affect Women Differently Than Men

There is no denying good health is encouraged across the globe, but are males really from Mars and women from Venus when it comes to health diseases and conditions? While Mars-Venus sex disparities are not totally out of this world, these 10 conditions are amongst the most common women’s health problems and often affect them differently compared to men.

The Top Women’s Health Issues and Their Effects

1. Heart Disease

Kicking off the list… The top women’s health issue: Heart disease. Although considered a common issue among men, heart disease affects males and females almost equally. Heart disease is the top leading cause of death in the United States and is responsible for one out of four deaths in women. And when it comes to gender disparities of heart attack symptoms, women are more likely to experience fatigue and dizziness compared to men.

2. Breast Cancer

While breast cancer can shake the lives of anyone, it is one of the most common and deadliest women’s disease. According to breastcancer.org, approximately 12 percent of U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, whereas a man’s lifetime risk is about 1 and 1,000. Additionally, 236,968 women and 2,141 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer, while 41,211 women and 465 men in the United States died from breast cancer in 2014.

3. Osteoporosis

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, being female increases the risk of developing osteoporosis and broken bones. Of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, approximately 80 percent of that portion are women. Startlingly, a woman’s risk of breaking a hip equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers. The disparity between genders relate to women tending to have smaller, thinner bones than men. Women who have reached menopause are also at an increased risk of osteoporosis related to estrogen loss, or a hormone that protects bones.

4. Osteoarthritis

Arthritis is the leading cause of physical disability in the United States and osteoarthritis is the most common form. Osteoarthritis causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling and affects almost 27 million people. The condition is approximately twice as common in women compared to men and risk increases with age. Like osteoporosis, the loss of estrogen following menopause may influence the likelihood of osteoarthritis.

5. Mental Health

Mental disorders can affect women and men differently and according to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression and anxiety are more common in women than men. Some women may also experience symptoms of mental disorders during times of hormonal and emotional changes, including postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopause-related depression.

6. Urinary Tract Health

Women are more likely to experience urinary tract problems including urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs occur when germs infect the tract that transports urine from the body, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Since women have a shorter urethra compared to men, they are more susceptible to urinary tract infections. And when women experience menopause, they have lower levels of estrogen. Lower levels of this hormone may cause the urethra to thin and change the balance of bacteria, subsequently making infections more likely.

7. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Whereas sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections (STIs) are a public health concern across the board, women disproportionally bear the long-term consequences according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For instance, untreated STIs cause infertility in at least 2,000 women each year, along with increasing the risk of infant death. Women are impacted more severely based on a number of factors, including anatomy of the reproductive system, dismissing or unnoticing symptoms, and consequences of certain vaccines. 

8. Lupus

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, including skin, joints, and/or organs. One of the earliest signs of lupus includes weight loss, while certain medications can compromise appetite and lead to an even greater loss. Lupus is about nine times more common in women than men, which may be largely related to hormones, sex chromosomes, and lupus susceptibility genes.

9. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the protective covering of nerves, particularly in the central nervous system (CNS). MS mostly affects the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves and may compromise or debilitate normal physical functions, including walking and physical activity. While multiple sclerosis is thought to affect more than 2.3 million people according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is at least two to three times more common in women than in men, with some recent studies suggesting the female to male ratio may be as high as three or four to one. Researchers speculate differential hormones between genders plays a significant role in determining susceptibility of MS.

10. Bowel Conditions

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects approximately 1 in 500 people living in the United States and generally occurs with equal frequency in men and women according to a study published in Gastroenterology & Hepatology. But each gender faces their own set of challenges, as women are more likely to experience impaired body image, decreased sexual activity, and increased risk of issues associated to menstrual cycles, endometriosis, and fertility. Moreover, when it comes to celiac disease, Beyond Celiac indicates 60 to 70 percent of those diagnosed are women.