Women also take more medications that do men. This puts them at higher risk for drug interactions, the SWHR says.

Significant changes

Women's health needs change more during life.

Women face a host of health concerns depending on whether they are in puberty, the reproductive years, or menopause. "Our bodies change more significantly during our life span," Dr. Klein says. "Where we are in our life span should affect the way we look at our health."

At different stages of women's lives, they may grapple with contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive issues, depression, heart disease, cervical cancer, breast cancer, incontinence, and osteoporosis. And because women live longer than men, women are more likely to live with chronic diseases and meet the challenges of aging alone.

Less attention

Women put their own health on the back burner.

Many women take care of children, husbands, aging parents, and sometimes even pets before they tend to their own health. But experts say ignoring personal needs is dangerous.

"We can't be stressed out meeting everyone else's needs and expect to stay healthy," says Dr. Chamberlain. "Going to the doctor regularly isn't enough. It's vital that we put ourselves first sometimes and take care of our health."

Knowing the role gender plays in health can empower women to live healthier lives. Experts say women need to educate themselves, be proactive about their health, and take their health concerns to their doctors.

"We can add life to our years by eating right, moving our bodies, and not smoking or quitting smoking," says Dr. Marts. "The key to combating chronic diseases is chronic prevention."

Other health differences

According to the SWHR, these health problems are more likely in women:

  • Asthma. Women also are more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die from asthma.
  • Obesity. Hormonal changes may play a role.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Macular degeneration. The risk increases if a woman smokes.
  • Osteoporosis. Women make up 80 percent of the people with this bone-weakening disease.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases. Symptoms often are not obvious, so many women may not know they have an STD.
  • Insomnia. Hormones, pregnancy, and menopause all have an effect on sleep.
  • Autoimmune diseases. These include lupus and multiple sclerosis.