Women get ill rather more frequently than men. They go to the doctor more often, yet on the whole they are fitter than men and they live considerably longer. This is not really such a paradox as it would seem. The more frequent consultation rate in women is related to medical problems that arise in relation to reproductive function. This, with its inherent hormone domination of the system, is largely responsible for the symptoms that make medical consultations relatively frequent during the fertile life. But the female sex hormones also have a vast and inexplicable protective effect on the health of women – particularly on their cardiovascular system, their blood pressure and their heart. It could be said that when a woman enters a menopause, say at 50, her hormones have given her at least a decade or two of health protection over the years. (Some years ago when doctors began to realize this they started prescribing female sex hormones to men who had suffered coronary artery disease. Such unfortunate men soon began to grow breasts and become feminized. But it did not solve their medical problems. For that to have happened the hormones would have had to have been started some 20 years previously.)
Stress and anxiety have several rather special female connotations and the relaxation response is well geared to help in such cases. It is always difficult to separate soma (body) from psyche (spirit), and to some extent these difficulties become compounded when a man endeavours to draw conclusions about what is, after all, a strictly female entity – the female psyche. But it should be possible to trace some widely accepted circuits in the life of women that explain how stress and tension can interfere with body function without raising too many cries of ‘sexist’. The following scenario takes into consideration the known scientific facts.