When it comes to good health, women paint a prettier picture than we men do. They smoke fewer cigarettes, drink less beer, visit the doctor more often, and maintain better diets.
Statistics may prove that women average longer life spans, but occasionally nature cuts men a break and fortifies us against diseases that afflict females in greater numbers.
For a change of pace—and perhaps a change in perception—here’s a snapshot of five such conditions. As it turns out, men sometimes do fare better than the fairer sex.
Women experience migraine headaches far more frequently than we men do, and not just because they have to deal with us. The American Headache Society acknowledges that the cause of the disparity is undetermined but that sexual hormones may play a role.
Research shows that before puberty, the prevalence of migraines is nearly matched between girls and boys; but once puberty arrives, migraines afflict girls at three times the rate of boys. Sharp drops in estrogen levels at the front end of a woman’s menstrual cycle are believed to be a culprit.
The reluctance among men to skip a meal may further explain why just 6 percent of males, compared to 18 percent of females, are prone to these debilitating headaches.
“The migraine brain is sensitive to any type of disruption in the normal day, and it likes to have consistency,” says Dr. David Biondi, headache management consultant at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“One of the more important factors for people with migraines is not to miss a meal. When a meal is missed, a person can become hypoglycemic, or low in blood sugar. That’s a big trigger for a lot of people.”
The number of people with arthritis, the leading cause of disability in the U.S., has been steadily increasing in tandem with our aging population. A national health survey completed in 2005 found that a staggering 25.4 percent of adult women had been diagnosed with the condition. Arthritis affected 17.6 percent of men in the same age group.
Why arthritis and its related conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, fibromyalgia) are tougher on women than men is unclear.
David M. Parrack, a spokesman for Men’s Health Network and Chief of Surgery at Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine, says researchers are considering the roles of genetics, testosterone, and exercise to explain the gender gap. Parrack also notes, “Women tend to seek help to learn more about their arthritis. Men tend to seek help to relieve their symptoms.”
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