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Categories > Heart Health > Women and heart disease

The gender gap

When it comes to health, men and women aren’t created equal. In fact, some conditions may affect women differently or in greater numbers than men. You may have heard how women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, but here are four other health conditions you may not know about:

Lung cancer. Some research has shown that female nonsmokers are more sensitive than men to carcinogens in secondhand smoke (60 percent of nonsmokers diagnosed with lung cancer are women) and that the hormone estrogen may elevate a woman’s risk of developing the cancer. Recent studies have also found that women smokers experience more severe withdrawal symptoms than men when attempting to quit and that women don’t respond as well to nicotine replacement therapy.

Depression. Women are twice as likely as men to develop depression. Hormonal changes throughout life, as well as certain life situations—stress from raising a family, working full time and sexual and physical abuse—may be factors.

Autoimmune diseases. Conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease (the leading cause of hypothyroidism), lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are three times more likely to strike women than men—especially those in their childbearing years. With autoimmune diseases, the body becomes confused and attacks itself—a phenomenon that may happen more often in women because of certain sex hormones and genetics.

Heart disease. Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease every year. According to experts, that may be due to factors including that women wait longer to be treated; they may present with different, more subtle symptoms than men and they tend to be older when they have a heart attack. In women ages 25 to 44, heart disease is the third-leading cause of death.