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There are many health differences between women and men. Some of these differences include:
- Many conditions are more common in women than in men, so women need special information about them. Examples include breast cancer, osteoporosis, and depression.
- For a long time, health-related research used men as subjects. Conclusions drawn from that research sometimes were inappropriate or incorrect when applied to women. This is changing slowly, but women of color and older women still are under-represented in clinical trials.
- Women and men can have different symptoms for the same conditions or problems. For example, we are learning that women and men often have very different warning signs for heart attacks. If health care providers don't know this, they may not respond as quickly and appropriately as they should to a woman who is having a heart attack, and she could have lasting damage or even die needlessly.
- Women and men often work in different settings and so are exposed to different kinds of environmental health hazards. Women generally have more body fat than men, and many of these hazardous substances are stored in fatty tissue, so women can be more at risk than men from the same sort of exposure.
Women make decisions every day that affect the health of their families. For example, they generally decide what food the family eats and how much physical activity the family will be involved in. They decide when their children go to their health care provider, and they are responsible for interpreting the provider's advice about their children's health conditions. They are responsible for seeing that their families get important preventive services such as screening exams and immunizations.
Chronic disease, such as heart disease and diabetes and cancers, are the leading cause of death and disability for women in Missouri, yet there are ways of reducing risk for developing these conditions. Eating recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, being physically active on a regular basis, avoiding tobacco use and smoke, and drinking only moderately (if at all) can significantly reduce the risk of these chronic diseases. Seeing a health care provider regularly for screening exams is another important preventive step.
You will find that this web page does not offer medical advice. The Office on Women's Health is a public health office focused on helping women and their families stay healthy. None of the information on this web page is intended to replace what your own health care provider tells you. We hope you use this web page as a starting point for taking charge of your health by getting information you need and adopting healthy behaviors.