Guest Blog: What a Difference an X Makes

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Gina Kelly Rice, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR). SWHR, a national non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., is the thought leader in research on biological differences in disease, and is dedicated to transforming women’s health through science, advocacy and education.

We don’t have to look back very far at all, since prior to 1990, women were routinely not included, if not outright prohibited, in medical research studies, and no one thought about possible differences between men and women, other than reproductive issues.

Part of the reason was to protect women during their reproductive years, but the other reason was that scientists believed women and men to be biologically the same.Clinical trials for drugs and devices included mostly men, and it was assumed that the results could be applied to both men and women.

Why Gender Does Matter?

When it comes to health, there are many crucial differences between men and women. Yet many women do not know that they react differently to some medications, are more vulnerable to some diseases, and may have different symptoms. Just a few examples from Women’s Health A-Z:

  • Heart Disease kills over 50,000 more women than men each year.
  • Depression – Women are two-to-three times more likely than men to suffer from depression.
  • Osteoporosis – Women comprise 80 percent of the population suffering from osteoporosis.
  • Smoking – Smoking-related diseases kill more than 140,000 American women annually.
  • Autoimmune Disease – Three out of four people suffering from autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, are women.
  • Alcohol – About 1.6 million alcoholics in the US are women, who are the fastest growing segment of the alcohol abusing population.
  • Pain – Many chronic pain conditions are more common in women, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, and osteoarthritis (after age 45).
  • Stroke – Each year, approximately 40,000 more women than men suffer from a stroke.

SWHR’s What a Difference an X Makes – The State of Women’s Health Research Conference, July 18 -19, 2013 is designed to raise awareness about the importance of sex differences in various diseases and conditions that affect both men and women or women disproportionately. This conference will address the state-of-the-science in various scientific fields, while highlighting future research and knowledge gaps in knowledge.

Get engaged in National Women's Health Week, by visiting swhr.org to learn about how sex differences affect your health.

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