Women outlive men by of average of five years in the United States. The typical lifespan of an American woman is 81 years old, while the average for a man is 76. This may seem like a large chasm of time, but the five year gap is actually the smallest gap in lifespan in almost thirty years!
What’s the reasoning behind why women, on average, are living longer than men? There are a number of theories. Some are supported by research, while others more closely approximate guesses. People have thrown out everything from stressful work life to penchant for exhibiting more risky behavior as the reasons men don’t live as long. Those notions have largely been debunked, as gender distribution has become more even in the workforce and women join men in exhibiting unhealthy behaviors such as smoking.
Age onset for disease is one legitimate reason women may be outliving men. The age onset for cardiovascular disease typically occurs earlier in life for men, between age 50 and 60, than for women, who are more likely to experience cardiovascular issues such as stroke, heart attack and heart disease in their 70s and 80s.
Living an active and healthy life is one way to ensure a longer lifespan. And fortunately, most of the steps to achieving and maintaining health are the same—regardless of gender. I counsel my patients, men and women alike, to make sure they’re consistently doing the following for their health:
1. Eating a healthy diet which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
2. Quitting smoking
3. Going for regular physical exams and discussing health concerns thoroughly with your physician
4. Monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol and seeking out treatment if either level is high
5. Managing stress—stress can play a silent but impactful role in physical health. Addressing prolonged stress issues with a medical professional is key to planning a healthy course of action to combat stress