Women are NOT Little Men

When it comes to healthcare, women have unfortunately been treated like little men for years. Back when I was in medical school, all medical studies were conducted on the typical 154 lb. man. Women were simply little men whose medications needed adjusting based on their weight.

As a result, women's unique health issues are often not factored into the health equation during a typical office visit, and the consequences are deadly. We know now that heart disease kills more women than men. In fact, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women over 65. American women are four to six times more likely to die of heart disease than of breast cancer.

Woman continue to struggle with other health issues specific to our gender including: hormone imbalances, menopause, PMS, thyroid problems, weight problems, headaches, and allergies. It is the impact of fluctuating hormones, birth control pills, fatigue, inflammation, and other factors that make these issues uniquely feminine.

Case in point, did you know, on average, it takes five years for a woman to be properly diagnosed with fibromyalgia? Five years. What could you do if had all that time and money back that you spent going back and forth to doctors' offices?

Weight loss is another example of where women are struggling more than men because of our biochemistry. Several medical conditions, primarily seen in women, can actually cause weight gain or hinder even the strongest of will, such as:

Hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism. When the thyroid is underactive, the metabolism may become slower, making it more difficult to burn stored fat.

Chronic stress. Anxiety, stress, or grief can cause the body to produce chemical substances, such as the hormone cortisol, that make fat storage more likely.

Hormonal changes in women. Hormonal shifts, such as those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, are associated with weight gain in many women.

Food sensitivities. People can become sensitive to certain foods without developing overt allergic reactions. When this occurs, the body may have a reaction similar to that of chronic stress, when cortisol levels are increased. Additionally, undetected food allergies can also result in constipation, diarrhea, and contribute to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

When it comes to a medical consultation, women need to feel comfortable, unrushed, and confident that their doctor can "tease out" gender-specific health issues. Otherwise, we end up being treated like little men.

This article by Dr. Susan Tanner, M.D. originally appeared in Natural Awakenings Magazine.