Thursday 4 June 2020

COVID-19 Affects The Sexes Differently, Says Marla Ahlgrimm

Marla Ahlgrimm
Since the beginning of its known existence, the COVID-19 virus has affected men proportionately much more than women. Unfortunately, men have much higher mortality rates than their wives, daughters, and sisters, despite being equally at risk of contraction. This is in line with 2003 information culled from research studies during the SARS outbreak.

But why?

According to Marla Ahlgrimm, males may be more affected because they tend to experience heart disease far more commonly. Liver disease, high blood pressure, and other disorders make the symptoms of the coronavirus much stronger and harder to shake.

Another potentially significant contributor is that men tend to smoke much more than women. Marla Ahlgrimm cites global and historical World Health Organization statistics that note around 40% of men smoke compared to just 9% of women. Smoking is an obvious trigger for lung disease, and considering that the coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, it makes sense that smokers are more at risk.

Women also have much more progesterone and estrogen than men. These female hormones may have some protective benefits, although there is not a definitive reason for this. And since women’s bodies tend to be more exposed to germs, viruses, and bacteria, they may have a slight immunity advantage when it comes to fighting off the novel coronavirus.

It is not just an abundance of female hormones that have likely led to the differences in mortality between the sexes. A handful of small studies have found that the hormone dihydrotestosterone, which is associated with male pattern baldness, may also make men more susceptible. A report back in April followed by one in May noted that between 71% and 79% of men with severe cases of COVID-19 also presented with male pattern baldness, says Marla Ahlgrimm.

Lifestyle and behaviors also play a role. Women are more likely to seek medical treatment for mild to moderate illnesses where men choose to “tough it out” as long as possible. Men are also more likely to downplay their symptoms when they do finally seek treatment. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, the sooner symptoms are recognized, the sooner a healthcare provider can begin monitoring for severe side-effects.

The genes are also important when it comes to disease protection. Women, says Marla Ahlgrimm, have two X chromosomes. Men only have one. This is important because of critical immune genes found in the makeup of X chromosomes. The protein TLR7, which is effective in detecting certain RNA viruses, plays a part. Because women have double the X chromosomes, this protein is produced twice as fast as in men. This potentially creates an amplified immune response.

Regardless of sex, Marla Ahlgrimm says it’s important for everyone to understand the symptoms of the virus. The most dominant are cough, fever, and shortness of breath, sometimes extreme. Many people also experience sudden fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches. Unfortunately, these are also associated with the seasonal flu, and testing may not be available in all areas.

Emergency warning signs of the COVID-19 viral infection are chest pain, an inability to maintain consciousness, blue lips, and extreme trouble breathing.

Marla Ahlgrimm
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, as of mid-June 2020, there were more than 200 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and nearly triple that worldwide. While social distancing and other measures have certainly helped slow the spread, no one predicts that the virus will be gone anytime soon. Because of this, men and women alike must remain diligent and take steps to keep themselves safe.

If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, call your healthcare provider. Do not go into the office. They will provide you with more guidance on how to proceed, and will do everything possible to keep you safe without exposing you – or their other patients – to any unnecessary risks.


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