Why women live longer than men
The reasons behind the gender longevity gap aren’t fully understood, but the global nature of the disparity suggests that biology probably plays a strong role.
For instance, high levels of testosterone, which can weaken the immune response, may be a factor in why men, and male mammals in general, are more vulnerable to parasitic infections. Estrogen may explain why women have lower rates of heart disease throughout life — and why the gap narrows after women reach menopause.
Even though estrogen appears to be protective in women, studies in the 1970s showed that when estrogen was given to men, instead of being protective, it caused double the rate of heart attacks as those in a placebo group.
Cultural biases around masculinity that teach boys and men to hide their feelings and not complain also can influence men’s health.
“Depression in men is quite deceptive,” said Marianne J. Legato, a physician and founder of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine in New York. “Men are socially programmed to not complain. Suicide is often unexpected as an early end to a man’s life compared to that of a woman.”
Cultural expectations to remain stoic can also delay men’s care. For instance, although diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension are common in men and women, men often wait longer to seek care and the illnesses are diagnosed at later stages, leading to more damage and poorer outcomes.
“It’s an interesting conundrum and in many ways it’s not well understood,” said cardiologist Steven Nissen, chief academic officer for the Cleveland Clinic. “Men need to pay close attention to cardiovascular risk factors. Treating risk factors early can mitigate a lot of the risk.”
Men also are known to engage in more risky behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, smoking and reckless driving. While the reasons behind these trends aren’t fully understood, behavioral risks are also a reason men’s health doesn’t get studied, Griffith said.
“It’s hard to convince people that men’s health is an issue if we think it’s just because men don’t do what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
Source: The Washington Post