The telltale heart attack sign of feeling like there's an elephant sitting on your chest isn't as common in women as it is in men. Many women feel upper back pressure, jaw pain, and are short of breath. Or they may feel nauseated and dizzy instead. Though heart disease is the leading cause of death for both genders in the U.S., women are more likely to die after they have a heart attack.
Diseases that affect the immune system are often more severe in men. For example, MS affects many more women than men overall, but when it comes to the progressive form (PPMS), men get it in equal numbers to women. PPMS tends to be harder to diagnose and treat than the relapsing remitting form of MS.
Nearly 55,000 more women than men have strokes each year in the U.S. Common symptoms are sudden weakness on one side, loss of speech and balance, and confusion. But women often have additional or different symptoms: fainting, agitation, hallucinations, vomiting, pain, hiccups, and seizures. Women typically have a worse recovery after a stroke, too.
Women are less likely to have symptoms with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia and gonorrhea. STDs can also lead to chronic pelvic inflammatory disease in women, causing fertility issues. Men seldom have such complications. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is also the main cause of cervical cancer in women, but it doesn't pose a similar risk for men.
Men are far more likely to lose hair as they age than women. Some 40% of women will have hair thinning or hair loss, but 85% of men will have thinning hair by age 50. Men tend to lose hair in the same pattern -- their hairline goes farther and farther back. (This is called a receding hairline.) They may also get a bald spot on the crown of their head. Women have either thinning all over or random bald patches.
Hormones are often to blame for acne. Because women's hormones shift during periods, pregnancy, and throughout menopause, they're more prone to adult acne than men. Treatment can vary based on your sex, too. Doctors tend to prescribe meds that control hormones, like birth control, for women. Creams that you rub onto your skin are more common for men.
Women are more likely to say they're stressed than men. Both sexes feel anger, crankiness, and muscle tension at near the same rates from stress, but women more often say it causes a headache, upset stomach, or makes them feel like they need to cry. Men are less likely to feel physical symptoms during times of stress than women.
Although women tend to get urinary tract infections (UTIs) more often, men's UTIs are more complicated. They have different causes, too. Women most often get them because of bacteria from sex or poop (their urethra is shorter and closer to that area). Men's UTIs are more likely to arise from something that blocks their urine stream, like an enlarged prostate or kidney stones.
More women live with chronic pain (pain that lasts longer than 6 months and doesn't seem to respond to treatment) than men. Their pain also tends to last longer and be more intense. Doctors are still trying to figure out why, but they think differences in hormones between the sexes may be to blame.
Because women are more likely to get osteoporosis, it's often overlooked in men. But men who have this lack of bone density and break a hip are twice as likely to die than women with osteoporosis who break a hip.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
- Lars Neumann / Getty Images
- Monica Schroeder / Science Source
- SCIEPRO / Science Source
- KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images
- Manuel-F-O / Getty Images
- Obencem / Getty Images
- MargoeEdwards / Getty Images
- ojogabonitoo / Getty Images
- darkside26 / Getty Images
- Chris Fertnig / Getty Images
- American Heart Association: "Heart Attack Symptoms in Women."
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: "What health issues or conditions affect women differently than men?"
- National Stroke Association: "Women and Stroke."
- CDC: "10 Ways STDs Impact Women Differently Than Men."
- American Hair Loss Association: "Introduction," "Men's Hair Loss," "Women's Hair Loss,"
- American Academy of Dermatology: "Adult acne," "Hormonal factors key to understanding acne in women."
- Cleveland Clinic: "UTIs: Are They Worse for Men or Women?" "When Should Men See a Dermatologist for Adult Acne?"
- American Psychological Association: "Gender and Stress," "All Pain Is Not the Same: Psychologist Discusses Gender Differences in Chronic Pain."
- NIH News in Health: "Sex and Gender: How Being Male or Female Can Affect Your Health."
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Primary Progressive MS (PPMS)."
- American Family Physician: "Osteoporosis in Men."