16 health problems you may need to worry about more if you're a woman
- There are certain diseases and conditions that are more likely to affect women than men.
- Examples include anxiety, UTIs, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Here are the 16 conditions that women tend to be more prone to.
For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
But being female also means you're more prone to certain diseases.
Of course, not everyone's body fits neatly into a strict male-female binary. But, generally speaking, these 16 conditions affect more women than men.
Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, according to the US Department of Health and Humans Services Office on Women's Health (OWH).
These disorders are real medical problems, and there are treatments that can help. This guide from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America can help you find a therapy that works for you.
Just as with anxiety, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, according to the OWH.
There's no one cause of depression, but fluctuating female hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, the postpartum period, and menopause may increase a woman's depression risk. Stress, family history, pain, and medical problems can also factor in.
And, just as with anxiety, depression is treatable.
In osteoporosis, the bones become weak and more likely to break. Age is one important risk factor - the older you are, the higher the chance you'll get it - but so is being female. An estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and 80% of them are women, according to the OWH.
The disease is more common in women for a few reasons, as the OWH notes. First, women tend to have smaller, less dense bones than men. Second, bone loss ramps up when estrogen levels drop after menopause. Third, women often live longer than men - and living longer increases osteoporosis risk.
There are a few things everyone can do to slow down bone loss: Don't smoke or drink to excess, get exercise, and make sure you're getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Your body uses calcium to build healthy bones, but it can't absorb calcium without help from vitamin D, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains.
4. Breast cancer
Breast cancer can still occur in men - but unsurprisingly, it's about 100 times more common in women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Right now, the average risk of a woman in the US getting breast cancer in her lifetime is roughly 12%, the ACS notes.
There are some risk factors you can't control, like getting older and having certain inherited genes, but there also are everyday habits that can reduce your risk of getting the disease, like limiting alcohol intake and staying active.
5. Autoimmune conditions
There are more than 80 different autoimmune diseases - conditions in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells. Celiac disease is one example, according to the OWH. When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye), their bodies mount an attack on the small intestine.
A staggering 75% of Americans with autoimmune disease are women, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. Researchers are still working to figure out why.
Some stroke risk factors apply to everyone, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, and smoking.
But other risk factors are unique to women, the NIH explains. These include taking birth control pills, being pregnant, using hormone replacement therapy in menopause, and having frequent migraines (which, as you'll read below, are also more common in women).
7. Bladder control problems
Women experience bladder control issues - what doctors call urinary incontinence, or UI - twice as often as men, according to the NIH.
The difference is partly explained by pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. All three can increase the chance of having UI, by causing changes to the urinary tract, the NIH notes.
8. Urinary tract infections
There are many wonderful things about being a woman. The fact that women get agonising urinary tract infections (UTIs) up to 30 times more often than men is not one of them.
One reason this happens is that the urethra - the tube that carries urine out of the body - is shorter in women than it is men. This makes it easier for UTI-causing bacteria to get into the bladder, the OWH explains.
The OWH also adds that in women, the vagina and anus (two sources of potential UTI bacteria) are closely situated near the urethra. On a very related note: This is why it's crucial to wipe front to back.
9. Chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term condition that can cause sleep issues, difficulty thinking and concentrating, pain and dizziness, and extreme fatigue that doesn't get better after resting.
Women are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with CFS than men, according to the OWH. Scientists still don't know what causes it, but some sufferers report that it started after a period of significant stress in their lives, the OWH adds.
10. Carpal tunnel syndrome
The bones that make up the wrist have a small groove known as the carpal tunnel. It allows for tendons and a nerve to pass from your arm into your hand. But when those tendons swell up or get irritated, they can press against the nerve and cause pain, tingling, or loss of strength in the wrist and hand. This group of symptoms is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
And according to the OWH, women are three times more likely to get it than men.
There's still not much research on this disparity, but experts have a few theories as to why it happens. It may be because women have naturally smaller wrist bones, meaning the wrist tendons and nerves are stuck in a tighter space. It may also have to do with genetics or hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy and menopause, the OWH says.
Migraines - often-severe headaches sometimes paired with nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity, and vision changes - affect more than 30 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But women are three times more likely than men to get migraines.
12. Thyroid diseases
But sometimes the thyroid produces too much or not enough of these hormones.
In hypothyroidism, for example, the thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones, causing to symptoms like weight gain, feeling cold, and low heart rate, the NIH explains. In hyperthyroidism, it's the opposite: The thyroid overproduces hormones, causing symptoms like weight loss, rapid heartbeat, and hand tremors.
Women are more likely than men to have thyroid problems - in fact, one in eight women will experience them in her lifetime, according to the OWH. For women, thyroid issues can also interfere with periods and cause problems during pregnancy.
13. Irritable bowel syndrome
According to the OWH, women are more likely than men to get irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It's a condition that occurs when digestive woes like cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating last for three months or more.
Women who have IBS may also get more symptoms when they get their periods, the OWH adds.
People with trichotillomina repetitively pull out their own hair. It's classified as a body-focused repetitive behaviour, or BFRB - the umbrella term for self-grooming behaviours that result in damage to the body.
Trichotillomania occurs with about equal frequency in boys and girls, but among adults, 80 to 90% of reported cases occur in women, according to the TLC Foundation for BFRBs.
Dermatillomania, or skin picking disorder, is another BFRB. People with dermatillomania pick at their skin.
And just like trichotillomania, it's more common among women. The TLC Foundation for BFRBs says 75% of people affected are women.
BFRBs aren't just bad habits that can be overcome with sheer willpower. As Insider reported earlier this year, they're serious conditions that can be managed with treatment. (The TLC Foundation has more information on where to find help.)
16. "Broken heart syndrome"
Medically speaking, you really can have a broken heart.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome, occurs when a surge of stress hormones "stun" part of the heart, interfering with its ability to pump blood and causing intense chest pain, Insider previously reported.
It can be brought on by an emotionally stressful event, like a death or a breakup, and it can strike even healthy people. The American Heart Association also notes that it's more common among women than men.
Broken heart syndrome can be fatal in rare cases, but most patients usually recover, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Still, it's important to see get medical attention whenever you have chest pain, since it can also be a symptom of heart attacks.
Also from Business Insider South Africa:
- Steers just got a Burger King ad banned because of how it braais burger patties
- 12 photos of Hong Kong's cemeteries that show how the city is running out of space for its dead
- A 12,000-year-old Turkish city is about to disappear underwater. Residents are moving ancestors' bones to dry land.
- A woman created a Cinderella costume with a glass prosthetic arm to celebrate her physical difference, and the photos are going viral
- The most incredible perks Silicon Valley workers can take advantage of, from free rental cars to travel stipends