There are quite a few stereotypical differences that people think exist, generally, between men and women. And whether those specific differences do, in fact, exist or not, one thing is for sure, the ways that they physiologically react, respond, or experience different situations and health problems can be quite different. Knowing about anxiety and other common health problems women experience very differently than men, according to science, can help you not only understand your own health, but also that of your loved ones because not all conditions look exactly like they're described in a textbook.
Every part of the way that certain conditions affect you — the symptoms you might be more likely to experience, your potential prognosis, and more — can vary based on your physiology and sex. Knowing what kinds of things you might want to look for can help spur you to recognize that there's a potential issue and seek treatment sooner. Your doctor can give you more personalized information about your individual prognosis and situation, but knowing, generally, how a condition might affect you because you're a woman can give you an idea about what to expect.
Women experience these common health problems very differently than men do, so if you're a woman, here's what you need to know.
If you've ever experienced a migraine, you know just how unpleasant they really are, but you might not know that women are more likely to get them than men because of biology. Jan Lewis Brandes, a neurologist and the founder of Nashville Neuroscience Group, told NPR that hormone fluctuations — especially estrogen — can trigger migraines. So while the migraines you experience might not be that different than the ones men do in terms of symptoms, you likely get them much more frequently if you're a woman.
A 2016 systematic review published in Brain & Behavior found that anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women and other specific groups than in the general population. Lead author Olivia Remes, a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge, told CNN in an article about the findings that hormone fluctuations, strategies for handling stress, and differences in the brain could be some of the reasons for why anxiety disorders affect women more.
If you're a woman who's dealing with anxiety, you're far from alone.
Dr. Tarvez Tucker, MD, currently a professor of neurology at Oregon Health Sciences University, told Everyday Health that while men with fibromyalgia have about six places they experience pain, women with the condition experience it in "at least 11" of 18 places. Not only that, but women's pain associated with the condition is oftentimes more severe than men's.
4. Heart Attacks
You've likely heard about heart disease and its prevalence in women, but women experience heart attacks differently than men as well. The American Heart Association noted that women might experience heart attack symptoms like shortness of breath, back pain, jaw pain, nausea, or vomiting slightly more often than men do. So though chest pain or pressure is still extremely common in both men and women, women might have a heart attack without feeling that symptom.
5. STDs & STIs
You might think that men and women can be equally impacted by STIs and STDs, but that's not exactly true. Women are more seriously affected by STDs, as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet noted. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, including anatomy, confusing the symptoms for something else, and more, but, according to the CDC, there are some upsides, including the fact that women typically see their doctor more regularly, which means they might have the opportunity to be tested sooner than they would otherwise.
Although women experiencing strokes can have some of the more typical stroke symptoms like weakness on one side of the body or loss of coordination, women also sometimes experience symptoms that are less common. The National Stroke Association noted that hiccups, behavioral changes, fainting, and hallucinations, among other things, are all ways that women might experience a stroke. Because these aren't common symptoms, sometimes women don't realize that what they're experiencing is a stroke, which can make things much worse.
Researchers are still trying to determine exactly how and why men and women experience Alzheimer's differently, but Christian Pike, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, told USCNews that men and women have different prognoses and ways that they develop Alzheimer's.
The disease is more prevalent among women. The Alzheimer's Associated noted that two-thirds of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's are women. Not only that, but women often care for those with Alzheimer's, as well, so that's another way that they can be impacted by the disease, even if they don't have it themselves.
In an interview with Reader's Digest, Dr. Mehran Movassaghi, MD, a board-certified urologist, said that researchers think that women's higher HDL (the so-called "good" cholesterol) levels are what make diabetes more serious in women. Kidney disease and heart disease are both possible complications for women with diabetes, though researchers aren't yet sure exactly what the link is with kidney disease. With heart disease, Movassaghi explained that when you have diabetes, the high triglyceride levels cause HDL levels to fall, which can lead to an increased risk for developing heart disease, already a major issue for women.
Whether it's because women experience different symptoms than men do, have a more severe iteration of the condition, are more likely to develop it in the first place, or because they're caring for loved ones with the disease, there are many ways that health problems can affect women differently than men. Talking to your doctor and knowing what you might be at risk for and what sorts of symptoms might catch you off guard can help keep you vigilant and maybe even save your life.
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