In the sci-fi masterpiece "The Left Hand of Darkness," Ursula K. Le Guin imagines a world without gender, where everyone's a blend of male and female.
Now, that may sound boring, but it sure would make it easier to determine the effectiveness and side effects of medications.
In our world, many drugs have distinct benefits and risks, depending on whether Jack or Jill takes them. New research on the Type 2 diabetes drug metformin reveals that it has a positive effect on women's heart function, but not on men's, and may even increase a man's risk of heart failure. And last year the Food and Drug Administration cut gals' recommended dose for the sleep aid zolpidem in half. Unfortunately, this was only after women (but not men) taking the drug ended up in more traffic accidents.
Even aspirin has gender-specific effects: Taking it daily cuts men's risk of heart attack by 32 percent, but not women. However, a daily dose reduces women's risk of stroke 17 percent, while men don't get that protection. This is especially important for women on hormone therapy. So it's often good for both genders to take two low-dose aspirin a day - with water before and after.
Because there's not a lot of gender-specific info on many meds, it's extra-smart to notice how your medications affect you. If they seem oddly ineffective or you think you're experiencing side effects, talk to your doc about whether your gender may be making a difference.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.