3 Chronic Diseases That Are More Common in Women Than Men

3 Chronic Diseases That Are More Common in Women Than Men

When it comes to general health, chronic disease prevalence, and life expectancy, men and women have many things in common. For example, many common conditions — including type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease are “equal opportunity” health problems because they affect both genders at similar rates. 

But there are also many notable differences between women’s and men’s health concerns. For example, men are 10 times more likely than women to get an inguinal hernia, four times more likely to develop gout, and three times more likely to be diagnosed with kidney stones. 

While women are more likely to prioritize preventive care and tend to live, on average, five years longer than men, they, too, face unique health concerns throughout life, including an increased risk of developing certain chronic illnesses. 

In this month’s blog, the board-certified physicians at Bethel Family Medicine in Brockton, Massachusetts highlight women’s health issues, explaining three chronic conditions that affect women far more often than men. 

1. Stroke 

Stroke is a disease which affects any of the arteries that deliver blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the brain. A stroke event — also called a brain attack — occurs when one of those blood vessels either becomes blocked by a clot or ruptures. Within minutes, the affected brain areas sustain damage or die. 

Stroke can cause long-lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or death. More women die from stroke than men; in fact, it’s the third leading cause of death among American women.  

Although primary stroke risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, and smoking are fairly even across genders, women have several female-specific risk factors that make stroke more likely, such as:

Given that one in five women (20%) has a stroke at some point in life, it’s important to know your personal risk factors — and work with our team to protect your health. Luckily, four in five strokes (80%) are preventable with medical interventions and lifestyle changes.    

2. Asthma 

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes your airways to swell and fill with mucus, making it hard to breathe. It also tightens the muscles around your airways, restricting your respiration even more. An asthma attack, or “symptom flare,” usually consists of: 

While many people think of asthma as a childhood disease — one that affects more boys than girls — the asthma gender ratio flips in adolescence: From puberty on, this chronic lung disease affects women more often, and more seriously, than men. 

After puberty, asthma becomes 40% more prevalent — and significantly more severe — in women compared to men. Starting at the age of 15, females with asthma are also more than twice as likely as males to be admitted to the hospital for severe asthma symptoms.  

It may not be common knowledge, but two of the most significant risk factors for adult-onset asthma are having allergies and being female

For women, asthma risk also increases with age: Women aged 65 and older are twice as likely as older men to develop adult-onset asthma. They’re also more than four times as likely to die from a severe asthma attack than any other group.   

The bottom line? If you start having unusual breathing troubles or develop a chronic cough — especially if you have allergies — ask your provider: Could it be asthma? 

3. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease that develops when bone mass or bone mineral declines, undermining bone tissue structure. These degenerative changes lead to a significant decrease in bone strength — one that substantially increases your fracture risk.     

Of the 10 million adults in the United States who have osteoporosis, about eight million (80%) are women. Put another way, women account for about four in five osteoporosis diagnoses.  

Osteoporosis is most common among older women because of the declining estrogen levels that occur with menopause. This important female sex hormone actively protects bone tissue, and when it starts dwindling during middle age, osteoporosis often starts developing.  

In fact, about half of all women aged 50 and older can expect to experience a bone fracture because of osteoporosis. While the disease can damage any bone, most osteoporosis-related fractures occur in bones of the hip, wrist, and spine. 

Because this “silent” disease emerges without noticeable symptoms, most women don’t know they have it until a bone breaks. This is why it’s important to start having regular bone density screenings at the age of 65, or earlier if you have an increased risk of osteoporosis (i.e., you smoke, drink alcohol, have a vitamin D deficiency, or have a history of bone fractures).     

Take charge of your health today

Are you ready to take charge of your health? Our chronic disease management experts are here to help. Call Bethel Family Medicine today for an appointment if you have a health concern. Our mission is your good health. 


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