Women and men share a lot of the same health issues, but they also share their own gender-specific health problems, too, due to the differences in male and female anatomy which go well beyond their reproductive and skeletal systems. For example, heart health. While both men and women should strive to keep their hearts as healthy as possible (by getting regular exercise and cutting out high-carb, high-calorie foods), studies have proven that women tend to be at less of a risk of suffering a heart attack compared to men. In fact, women often suffer their first heart attack 10 years later than men do. However, research has also suggested that the likelihood of a woman dying from a heart attack is much lower than that of a man. Things like stroke, hypertension, diabetes, hair loss, acne, and osteoporosis also all affect men and women differently. But what about all of the other health problems that affect women specifically?
Aside from the aforementioned conditions above, health issues that are specific to women include certain gynaecological disorders, disorders related to infertility and pregnancy, as well as certain cancers – such as ovarian and cervical.
When it comes to gynaecological health, one of the biggest issues women deal with is menstrual irregularity. This may include absent periods – either not developing a period or when your period stops for at least 3 months (also known as amenorrhea), or having periods that occur more than 35 days apart from each other (known as oligomenorrhea.) Alternatively, women can also develop heavy or excessive bleeding during their menstrual periods (known as menorrhagia), prolonged bleeding (that lasts for more than 8 days), as well as painful periods including cramping (known as dysmenorrhea.) There are many reasons why a woman might develop menstrual irregularity. It could be the result of a thyroid disorder, uncontrolled diabetes, excessive physical activity, certain medications (especially ones used to treat epilepsy or mental health problems, such as anti-depressants), and even age can play a factor. Common pregnancy and infertility issues include uterine fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids, as well as loss of pregnancy (miscarriage or still birth), preterm labour, problems with prenatal care, and breastfeeding. If you’re having any of the problems mentioned here or have concerns, it’s important that you make your family physician and/or OBGYN aware.
Less common conditions that also specifically affect females include both Rett and Turner syndromes. Rett syndrome, a genetic neurological and developmental disorder that affects the brain, typically occurs in infants; and while it may appear as though the infant is growing and developing as normal during the early stages of their life, they eventually stop developing and lose skills as they get older – usually beginning around 6 months. An infant with Rett syndrome may have problems with coordination and the use of their muscles that are responsible for controlling movement, as well as problems with communication, and may also have decreased intellectual ability and even develop seizures. With Turner syndrome, a female is either partially or completely missing an X chromosome. Symptoms of Turner syndrome vary from person to person, but it will commonly alter a female’s appearance and can also lead to infertility and heart problems.