Resources: Senior Health Issues at Hebrew SeniorLife

Why Women Live Longer

If women are the so-called "weaker" sex, then why do they live longer than men? It's no myth that women outlive men-by an average of five years in the United States. The typical American woman today lives 81 years, while the average man lives 76, the smallest gap in nearly 30 years.

There are a number of theories-some backed by science, others just guesses-about why women outlive men. Among the more popular notions:

  • Men die younger because they have more stressful work lives. This theory has been largely debunked as more and more women join the work force and face the same work-related stress as their male counterparts.
  • Women live longer because they exhibit less risky behavior, like smoking, than men. The World Health Organization, however, says that smoking is on the rise among women, while more and more men are actually quitting.
  • The female body is better at carrying out routine maintenance and keeping the body's cells alive; men's cells are not genetically programmed to last as long as they do in women.
  • Men typically suffer and die from cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, in their 50s and 60s, compared to women, who tend to experience these illnesses in their 70s and 80s.

Regardless of why women live longer and men die younger, there are simple steps both sexes can take to ensure a healthier life, says Robert Schreiber, M.D., Medical Director of Outpatient Primary Care Practice, Community-Based Programs, Innovation and Development at HSL:

  1. Eat a healthful diet, including plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  2. Quit smoking, or never start in the first place.
  3. Have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly and get treated if either is elevated.
  4. Manage your stress, which can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.
  5. Get regular medical check-ups, which allow you and your physician to assess your general health.

While none of these steps can ensure that you will live to be 100, each has been scientifically proven to keep you healthy. And, as more Americans follow these and other healthful guidelines, the gap between how long women and men live is sure to get even narrower..

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