The medical community knows that some diseases disproportionally affect women, though the explanation as to why can vary from case to case. Some of the diseases on this list affect women in greater numbers because of their unique biological makeup. The causes for some, however, remain shrouded in mystery.
Today, we’ll analyze the most common diseases affecting modern women and offer the most up-to-date scientific theories and explanations.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for both men and women in the United States today, and yet just 13 percent of women classified it as their greatest personal health risk.
Though a large swath of the public considers heart disease a predominantly male problem, the medical community says something different. The numbers side with the doctors.
A woman is much more likely to die within a year of having a heart attack. Part of the reason for this is that heart disease presents itself differently in women than it does in men. In fact, women respond to clot-busting drugs and heart-related medical procedures differently. Plus, women’s heart disease symptoms present differently and biological occurrences like menopause can exacerbate the issue.
All told, heart disease is responsible for roughly one in every four female deaths.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety have a dramatic effect on the well-being of modern society. How dramatic? Well, when depression-related deaths due to suicide and stroke are considered, depression has the third highest global burden of disease.
It’s important to note that depression and anxiety disorders can happen to anyone at any time, but the numbers suggest that they occur more often in women. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 12-million women are affected by a depressive disorder each year, in comparison to about six-million men.
The reasons for this obvious gender discrepancy are numerous. Some believe that hormonal changes due to pregnancy, menopause, and PMS are responsible for this increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders.
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord. The resulting damage often leads to inflammation which presents itself in countless and varying symptoms. A lack of balance, bladder dysfunction, fatigue, pain, and tremors, just to name a few.
What causes MS is relatively unknown. However, data does shine a light on several factors that may increase one’s risk of contracting this troubling neurological disease.
MS has been diagnosed in more than 2.3 million people worldwide, many of them women. According to the National MS Society, women are at least two or three times more likely to get MS than men. Why? Unfortunately, we don’t have much of an answer. Some suggest that hormones may play a role. For now, though, all we really know is that MS occurs more often in women.
Another autoimmune disease that disproportionally affects women is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It’s a chronic, progressive disease that causes inflammation in the joints which, over time, can lead to painful deformity and immobility in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles.
Counter to the perception of most people, RA isn’t just an old person’s problem. Sufferers often begin to show symptoms of RA between the ages of 30 and 60.
Roughly 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from this debilitating disease, with cases in women outnumbering those in men three to one. Not only are more women affected by RA, but the disease tends to present itself earlier, and more severely, in women.
So, why does RA affect women more frequently? Unfortunately, the jury is still out. Some posit that the role of sex hormones is a contributing factor, while others stress the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Every year, nearly one-million new cases of Alzheimer’s disease are diagnosed. As it stands right now, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in Americans aged 65 or older, affecting an estimated 5.8-million Americans right now.
Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, often presents itself in the form of memory loss and the weakening of other critical cognitive abilities. That much is known. What most people don’t know is that this insidious disease affects women in far greater numbers than their male counterparts.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women, for reasons that the medical community is still trying to figure out. Some suggest a link between depression and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s in women. Depression, as we previously mentioned, occurs more frequently in women. Others are exploring the impact that pregnancy can have on the brain.
It’s truly too early to tell, but here’s hoping that continued research uncovers the link between women and Alzheimer’s, and possibly even a cure.
The most common type of cancer among women is breast cancer. According to BreastCancer.org, roughly one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her life. Estimates predict roughly 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer to be diagnosed in 2019, along with 62,930 cases of non-invasive breast cancer.
Though there is no known preventable cause, there are established risk factors. If a woman has a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, her risk of developing it herself is nearly doubled. With that being said, about 85 percent of breast cancer diagnoses occur in women who have no family history of the disease.
For a woman, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is about more than just eating right and getting exercise. As you have no doubt seen, regular doctor visits are vital to ensure proper development and protect against these insidious diseases.
The only way to protect yourself from the illnesses that we’ve discussed, and the ones that we didn’t have time for, is to be proactive. Read about your health, visit your family physician regularly, and change what you need to change.