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Women are more at risk of these diseases

Women are more at risk of these diseases
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While the genders share a lot in common, men and women do have differences in anatomy, hormones and build. And it’s those differences that alter their risks of developing various diseases. These are the conditions that strike women more often than men.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis
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This most common form of arthritis results from wear and tear on the joints. “Women have about a three times higher risk of osteoarthritis than men,” says Dr Gina Tran. “The way a woman’s body is structured may play a role, as women tend to have more flexible joints and elastic tendons than men.” This laxity is useful during pregnancy and birth, but also puts women at risk of sprains and injuries, leading to future osteoarthritis (OA). “Women also tend to have wider hips, which may affect the alignment of the knees and causes stress on them,” she says. In addition, women over the age of 50 are at increased risk of OA. “The loss of oestrogen could be a contributing factor, as oestrogen protects the cartilage and the joints from inflammation,” Dr Tran says. To reduce your risk, the Arthritis Foundation recommends physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.

One of the most common forms of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Find out how to manage osteoarthritis.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease
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According to alzheimers.net, women 65 and over have a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s, compared to a 1 in 11 chance for men. Experts long assumed the gender difference could be explained by the fact that Alzheimer’s risk goes up as we age – and women live longer than men. But research suggests other factors may play a role, such as hormonal changes during menopause, according to research in JAMA Neurology and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. You may be able to reduce your risk by keeping your mind and body active, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet. Medical treatments can slow the progression of the disease, but can’t stop it.

Depression

Depression
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According to a US National Center for Health Statistics survey, women were twice as likely to have suffered from depression as men (10.4 vs. 5.5%). “Women have more biological origins for depression than men with more changeable neurochemistry,” says psychologist Deborah Serani, award-winning author of Depression in Later Life. “Monthly hormone changes, shifts and dips after giving birth, and before and during menopause, heighten the onset of depression.” How women think and process emotions, as well as internalise stress, can lead to lowered brain functioning in areas responsible for mood, she says. If you feel hopeless, irritable or overwhelmed, see your doctor – treatment, including medications or therapy, is available.

Heart disease

Heart disease
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Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women – but women are more likely to die after a heart attack than men, and have other factors that can make the condition more serious. “The question about why more women die in the first years after a heart attack is often discussed, and multiple theories have been posed to explain,” says Dr Gerald E. Beckham. “The most common thought is that women who develop heart disease are ‘more sick’, or have more co-morbidities like diabetes, atrial fibrillation and smoke, than men of the same age.” In addition, women often have atypical symptoms of chest pain which can lead to delays in presentation and diagnosis, causing a worse outcome, he says. To reduce risk, Dr Beckham advises 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, a healthy diet, and regular check-ups for cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.

From time to time we get a bit of chest pain, but how do you know if it’s something serious? Check out these 8 chest pains you might mistake for a heart attack.

Anxiety

Anxiety
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According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, women are more than twice as likely as men to suffer from anxiety. “Studies suggest that fluctuating hormones can set into motion feelings of anxiety, particularly low levels of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a hormone that organises stress responses,” Dr Serani says. “Because CRF is lower in women, it makes them twice as vulnerable as men to stress-related disorders.” If you have anxious thoughts, are avoiding everyday activities, and have physical symptoms like rapid heart rate and shortness of breath, see your doctor. Treatment may involve counselling and/or medicine.

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PTSD

PTSD
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“Women are twice as likely to experience PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] than men because they are exposed to more emotional, sexual and physical abuse than male counterparts,” Dr Serani says. “They also tend to be victims of trauma at earlier ages than boys.” If you are a survivor of a traumatic event and have nightmares, insomnia, depression or anxiety, trauma counselling can help.

Urological problems

Urological problems
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Anatomy is largely responsible for why women get more urinary tract infections (UTIs) and incontinence, or bladder leaking, than men. “A woman’s urethra is in close proximity to the vagina and rectum where many bacteria live, which puts them at higher risk for urinary tract infections,” says Dr Leslie Gonzalez. “Childbirth, age and obesity all increase the incidence of incontinence for women.” Pregnancy puts a strain on the pelvic floor muscles, which are crucial to the support of the bladder and bladder neck, and can have long-lasting effects, Dr Gonzales says. Drinking plenty of water can help avoid UTIs, and pelvic floor exercises can help prevent incontinence.

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Lupus

Lupus
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Lupus, an autoimmune disease, affects women much more often than men. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about nine out of 10 lupus diagnoses are in women of childbearing age (15 to 44). “Autoimmune” means the body attacks its own tissue, and with lupus, this can affect everything from the skin to internal organs. Because it strikes younger women, it’s thought that higher oestrogen levels, combined with environmental factors, may play a role. Genetic research has also suggested that the presence of two X chromosomes in women ups their risk of the disease. Because symptoms are varied and vague, it can be hard to diagnose, but ask your doctor about your risk if you have muscle or joint pain, a facial rash, fatigue and chest pain. Although there’s no cure, treatments, including drugs and lifestyle modifications, can reduce flare-ups.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders
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Researchers aren’t completely sure what causes anorexia, bulimia and other binge eating disorders, but the HHS says it’s likely a combination of biology and social experiences that affect women more than men. “Because society places unattainable perfectionistic goals regarding beauty for women, females are prone to more eating disorders and body image issues than men,” Dr Serani says. “Girls are socialised about thinness and beauty from the time they’re very young.” Brain chemistry and psychological traits likely also make some women more susceptible. If you have unhealthy eating habits, treatment including nutritional and psychological counselling can help get your disorder under control.

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