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A Look at Male vs. Female Life Expectancy

By Mary-Frances Walsh, 8:00 am on

While there are always genetic and geographic abnormalities, women tend to outlive their male counterparts by five years, according to the current life expectancy averages of 76 years for men and 81 years for women. Curious as to why this gap exists? We were too! A closer look at make and female life expectancy may shed some light on the reason for the gender gap.

The Testosterone Factor

An important piece of the life expectancy gap may be entirely biological. Testosterone, the primary male hormone, has been associated with increased aggression, competitiveness and libido, which may lead to stress-related issues and risky behaviors that could affect life expectancy. Testosterone has also been linked with higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), decreased levels of the good cholesterol (HDL) and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

The Estrogen Factor

Conversely, estrogen has been linked to positive biological reactions within the body, including regulating cholesterol metabolism by controlling the production of liver enzymes. Research suggests that estrogen therapy later in life, when estrogen production naturally slows in women, may help reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease and possibly ward off the onset of dementia-related conditions like Alzheimer’s.

Closing the Gap

The news isn’t all bad for men. One study found that men are closing the gap by averaging twice the increase in life expectancy over a 25-year period compared to women. Part of the reason for this trend may be that women aren’t always adequately treated for high blood pressure and cholesterol, conditions traditionally associated with men rather than women.

Care for Aging Loved Ones

Remember, life expectancy is only an estimate. There are many things that both men and women can do to increase the odds of living a long, productive life, from seeing the doctor on a regular basis and keeping a generally positive attitude to maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

If you have an aging parent or loved one and are concerned about their health as they age, provide them with the support they need to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Sonoma County home care agencies such as Home Care Assistance are a great place to start, offering a variety of care services ranging from help cooking and cleaning to assistance with personal care and medication reminders. For more information, call 707-843-4368 and schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with a friendly Care Manager.