Health – Where genders differ

Liji Varghese

She is loving and caring - she is gentle and yet tough - she knows what is best for her kids, husband, parents, parents-in-law, friends, uncles, aunties and every other person who matters to her.

From taking care of the dietary habits of her family to meeting everyone’s expectations…she is the master of it all. But amidst all the running around, women miss out on almost everything - from taking enough calories to timely meals and a good night’s sleep. Most importantly she forgets to take care of the needs of her body.

A woman in her entire lifespan essays each and every role with perfection, but when it comes to taking care of her own self she seems ignorant, or possibly careless.

Though the social outlook towards women is changing and they are being treated as an equal to men, but the gender difference does come into play when the issue is related to health. A woman’s nutrition requirements are different from that of men as her body undergoes multiple changes in different stages of her life. Women need a combination of Calcium, Vitamin D, iron, protein and folic acid to meet her daily energy requirement.

Just like a woman needs different nutrition throughout her lifespan, similarly certain diseases are either unique to or more prevalent amongst the fairer sex.

Here are some of the health problems a woman has to deal with:

Breast cancer

Among all cancers, breast cancer is one of the biggest problems among women today. Globally, breast, lung and colon cancer are among the top ten causes of death. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death among women followed by breast cancer.

Though 5% to 10% of breast cancer is linked to mutations in certain genes, it necessarily doesn’t imply that you may not have cancer because your mother never had it.

While there is no one particular reason for the cause of breast cancer, certain factors like sedentary lifestyle, obesity, alcohol, tobacco, late marriage, less breast feeding can heighten the risk.

Heart disease

Heart disease is often related to men but it is the main cause of death among older women the world over. Coronary heart disease kills five times more women than breast cancer. Though a paradigm shift in lifestyle like unhealthy eating habits, less exercise, alcohol intake can be blamed for the increase in heart problems, another major issue is the tendency of women to associate chest pain with a cardiovascular disease and ignore or misread other symptoms like shortness of breath, jaw pain, shoulder ache, nausea and vomiting.

Health problems like high blood cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes also increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.


Most women spend most of their life taking care of others and juggling between personal and professional life making them vulnerable to hypertension which is one of the leading causes of stroke.

Other causes include unhealthy eating habits, alcohol intake and no exercise. Work pressure can also aggravate the chances of stroke.


A largely preventable disease, Osteoporosis, is a progressive condition where one tends to loss calcium leading to decreased density of bones leaving those affected more susceptible to fractures. Bone build up usually happens till the age of 30, so special care needs to be taken to provide your body with enough calcium till the age of 30 and then work on maintaining the old bones. Other than lifestyle factors, age, anorexia, infrequent menstrual cycles, estrogen loss, low calcium and Vitamin D intake can lead to osteoporosis.


Blame it on hormonal changes, chronic illness, menstrual problems, maternity or stress, women are twice at the risk of being depressed as compared to men. Globally, about 73 million adult women suffer a major depressive episode each year, with 8 to 11 percent women being depressed during pregnancy.

Though some diseases can occur despite taking precautions, certain lifestyle changes, adopting healthier eating habits and timely medical intervention can definitely help prevent them.