We all know that men and women are biologically different. Because of this gender and sex difference, they escape from certain health problems. But in fact there are many health conditions that are common in both the sexes and genders, although it may vary in severity. Sex is biological classification where men has XY chromosome whereas women have XX chromosome. Gender on the other hand is socially constructed role and identity that distinguishes men and women. In some cases physicians do not know why some disease conditions are common in one sex than in another.In certain diseases, doctors are able to know because of the difference in their genetics, hormones and physiology. Let us understand the impact of sex and gender on various health issues.
Diseases more common in men:
Many men have tendency to take on more risk and this makes them susceptible to injuries and diseases. They also do not pay much attention to their diet. Besides this, the anatomical structure of men, genetic trait and male hormones also play important role in certain diseases and behavior that are found to be more common in men.
- Cardiovascular disease: According to studies conducted by researchers, men over the age of 60 years have increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Almost 35 to 40 percent men are at risk of heart disease as compared to 25 to 27 percent of women of same age. There are two reasons indentified. Firstly the fat gets deposited more in buttocks and thighs in women. In men fat accumulates more in abdomen which is called visceral fat. Visceral fat increases the risk of heart attacks. Secondly, estrogen in women keeps cholesterol under check. However, after menopause as estrogen level lowers, the risk of heart disease may rise even among women.
- Parkinson’s disease: Parkinson’s disease is more common in men than women. It is a degenerative neurological disorder affecting movement. Its development is gradual which starts with fine tremors. But after a period of time, there is slow down of movement and worsening of symptoms. Research suggests that estrogen dominance in women protects the brain cells from deteriorating as they activate certain protein. Since men have very less estrogen, they are more exposed to the damage. Studies have also revealed a link between male (XX) genes and Parkinson disease.
- Kidney stones: It has been seen that more men are known to suffer from kidney stones as compared to women.
- Pancreatitis: Usually the main cause for pancreatitis is excessive alcoholism. However, there may be other causes such as gallstone entrapment in the pancreatic junction. Men tend to be more alcoholic and hence they are at greater risk of this condition.
Diseases more common in women:
Diseases that are more common in women are usually related with their anatomical structure and hormones.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is more common in women. The bone mass in women is less than in men. After menopause women experience rapid loss of bone mass because of hormonal changes that occurs after the age of 50. This is related with estrogen. As estrogen becomes less, bone loss accelerates in women.
- Migraines: Women outnumber men almost three to four times in cases of migraine. Migraine is severe one sided headache sometimes accompanied with nausea, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light.
- Urinary tract infection: Urinary tract infection is more common in women as compared to men. This is partly because of the anatomy of urethra. In woman the urethra is very short as compared to men. This shortens the distance for the bacteria to reach the bladder. After menopause the decline in estrogen hormone makes the urinary tract and genital tract more vulnerable to develop infection.
- Diseases such as depression, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke are more common in women than men.