New research is revealing how everything from medications to killer diseases affect women differently than men. The upshot: Its clear how important gender is when it comes to making decisions about your health, says Phyllis Greenberger, M.S.W., president and CEO of the Society for Womens Health Research and editor of The Savvy Woman Patient (Capital Books, 2006). Here are five health disparities to be aware of:
Studies show that doctors dont always manage womens pain adequately. If youre hurting, speak up: Certain medications actually work better in women.
>Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Women are twice as likely to contract an STD as men. Tissue lining the vagina is susceptible to small abrasions during sex, making it easier for STDs to be transmitted, says Greenberger.
Women tend to wake up from anesthesia quicker than men, and are three times as likely to complain of being awake during surgery. Ask your anesthesiologist how she can prevent this from happening.
Women may absorb serotonin differently or make less of this feel-good neurotransmitter. That may be one reason theyre two to three times more likely to suffer from depression. Levels may change during your menstrual cycle, so research may soon show that dosages of medication that boost serotonin in women with depression should vary according to the time of the month, Greenberger says.
Women are 1.5 times as likely to develop lung cancer as men and are more vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke. But women who have certain lung cancer treatments actually live longer than men do.