Many diseases affect both women and men, but some diseases occur at a higher frequency in women. For example, gallstones are three to four times more common in women than in men. About 18% of women in the U.S. suffer migraine headaches compared with only 6% of men, a ratio of three to one females to males. Other conditions seen more often in women than in men include irritable bowel syndrome and urinary tract infections.
Urinary tract infections, including cystitis (bladder infection) and kidney infection (pyelonephritis), are significant health problems that more frequently affect women. Kidney disease is a leading cause of high blood pressure (hypertension) and after age 50, hypertension is more common in women than in men.
Also more common in women than men are the autoimmune disorders (for example, multiple sclerosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and lupus). In these diseases, the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. Autoimmune disorders afflict at least 12 million Americans and 3/4 of them are women. One autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, affects approximately 1.3 million Americans, with 2/3 of the sufferers being women.
Osteoporosis, a condition in which bone density decreases, occurs in both men and women. Overall, however, it is more of a major health concern for women. Some studies have reported that as many as one of every two women over 50 will suffer a fracture related to osteoporosis during her lifetime. By age 65, some women have lost half of their skeletal mass. A woman’s doctor can assess her bone density and make recommendations as to how to prevent further bone loss.