This health video takes a look at the constant battle between men and women.
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Jennifer Matthews: Arthritis. Depression. Heart disease. Three of many diseases that discriminate. Dr. Marianne Legato: The clinical observation that some diseases are more frequent in men and women is not news to us. The real news is that we're beginning to understand the reasons why that's the case. Jennifer Matthews: One reason for the years of misunderstanding is that research has mainly involved men. Dr. Marianne Legato: Men were considered simpler to study because they don't have hormonal fluctuations. They were considered cheaper, therefore, because we needed smaller groups to study. Jennifer Matthews: In fact, 83 percent of all humans in stress studies were men. When they started to look at women, Shelley Taylor and colleagues found a difference they didn't expect. Dr. Shelley Taylor: Humans, but especially females, cope with stress in large part by caring for their offspring, getting them out of harm's way, ensuring that nothing bad happens to them and by affiliating with a social group." Jennifer Matthews: Taylor calls this "tend and befriend" and says it may be one reason why women live longer. Dr. Shelley Taylor: When people give or get social support in response to stress, it downregulates stress hormones. What that means is that there's lesser wear and tear on the body. Jennifer Matthews: Marianne Legato is director of The Partnership for Gender Specific Medicine. She is spearheading a push to learn even more about how diseases affect men and women differently. Dr. Marianne Legato: The way disease affects them can be different in terms of symptoms, risk factors, the treatment options available, and the outcome from the disease. Jennifer Matthews: This includes everything from heart disease to depression, adhd and autism. One explanation Legato gives is where a gene comes from. Dr. Marianne Legato: There is something called imprinting in which certain genes are silenced by virtue of whether they come from the father or the mother. Jennifer Matthews: Another reason has to do with back-up genes. With two X chromosomes to a man's one, women are protected against mental disorders from autism to schizophrenia. UCLA's Art Arnold says men's Y chromosome can also cause trouble. It produces excess levels of the pleasure hormone dopamine, a characteristic of Parkinson's disease. Dr. Marianne Legato: There is tremendous difference in the genetic equipment of men and women. The impact of how those genes modify our normal function and how immutable those characteristics are, are really a matter of great discussion now. Jennifer Matthews: And with a better understanding, researchers expect gender will play a big part in the future of medicine, in a positive way. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.