Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Part II -- Why Men Should Behave More Like Women

     We all know that in general women live longer than men. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average life expectancy for a male born in the United States today is about 76 years. For a female it's 81. Even before they're born, males are at risk. About 115 are conceived for each 100 females. But on average only 104 of those males make it into the world, as 11 of them fail to survive to birth.

     A 2012 study from Australia suggested a new theory. Researchers studied fruit flys and found that mutations in the DNA of mitochondria accounts for at least some of the difference between life expectancies for males and females throughout the entire animal kingdom. As an example, the life expectancy of a male chimpanzee is 45 years, compared to 59 for the female. The average male mosquito lives a week; the female a month.

     The mutations within mitochondrial DNA not only affect how long males live, but the speed at which they age. Mutations that harm females are screened out when passed down from generation to generation. But mutations are not screened for males. Therefore, mutations that will not harm females, but might harm males, pass through from one generation to the next, accumulating for males but leaving females unscathed.

     The study supports what scientists have long knownthat at least some of the difference in longevity between men and women is in their genes. Natural selection favors reproduction over longevity, in essence using the body simply as a vehicle for passing on genes. Males have shorter lifespans because once they pass on their genes, they are disposable. Females are built to stick around to raise the young to maturity -- especially in species like humans who take many years to mature.

     A related theory suggests that males compete with one another for the attention of females. The male who proves his mettle by engaging in risky behaviors like hunting and fighting is more likely to attract the female and therefore pass on his genes. But unfortunately for males, the more risky the behavior, the shorter the lifespan.

     All this may be true. But scientists estimate that only about 30 percent of the variation in longevity can be attributed to genetics. The rest depends on environmental factorsyour exposures and your behaviors. So what can men do to increase their life expectancy? 

     Take fewer risks. Men in their late teens and 20s go through a testosterone surge that tends to produce aggressive and risky behaviors. Young men drive too fast, don't wear their seatbelts; they fight and experiment with deadly weapons. Even today, this leads to a higher death rate among young men, as more men than women die in car accidents as well as other types of accidents and homicides. (One current example: The New York Times reported that 64 people were shot in Chicago last weekend -- 56 males and 8 females.) And we all know that risky behavior doesn't always end when a man turns 30.

     Get a safer job. Traditionally, men took on dangerous jobs, from the military to mining, while women filled safer jobs such as teaching, nursing or child care. In our modern times, dangerous jobs have become safer, and the gender gap is closing. Nevertheless, men still work most of the dangerous jobs in America, from fisherman to farmer, roofer to truck driver.

     Don't smoke or drink too much. Man tend to party more than women, and it takes its toll on their health. Fortunately, this gender gap is shrinking, as over the last two decades men have smoked less and less.

     Eat a healthier diet. Men eat more meat, more high-fat snacks, more high-fructose corn syrup -- all leading to higher levels of cholesterol. A diet with more fruits and vegetables (which reduce colon cancer) and less red meat (which reduces risk of both cancer and heart disease) will help men improve their health and extend their life expectancy.

     Deal with your stress. Researchers once thought that men suffered more stress because of their demanding jobs. That may no longer be so true, as women are working more, earning more and shouldering more financial responsibility for themselves and their families. But one thing is certain. Men internalize their stress, or deal with it in harmful ways, such as drinking or fighting. Men also have higher suicide rates than women. And stress plays an important role in heart disease. So it's crucial for men to find healthful outlets for stress, through sports, counseling, meditating or support groups. 

     Go to the doctor. It's an old joke, but some men out of a false sense of bravado won't go to the doctor, no matter how much it hurts. While it may not be necessary for young males to undergo an annual physical, older men should see their doctor regularly. And make sure to keep up to date with preventative care, from monitoring cholesterol to screening for prostate and colon cancer. 

     One last note:  Women shouldn't take a longer life expectancy for granted. The gender gap has been closing. According to a report from the University of Washington, between 1989 and 2009, life expectancy increased by 4.6 years for men, but only 2.7 years for women. Let's hope any further narrowing of the gap is not due to women acting like males, but men behaving more like women.

           

13 comments:

gigihawaii said...

I think that longevity has to do with inner peace and happiness. My former boss lived to 104, drove his car to work as a medical doctor every day, and died in his office at the hospital while working. He attributed his long life to a happy marriage and family.

DJan said...

I believe that diet and exercise are extremely important as we age. But living a long life and not having one's health is not what I hope happens to me. Or my loved ones. :-)

Dick Klade said...

Might have to take my tongue our of my cheek regarding my comment on Part I. Looks as though women are assuming the stress role by having or wanting to work, and man aren't so inclined to take that route anymore. Who ever really believed work was fun?

Jono said...

I guess I had better get more in touch with my feminine side.

Stephen Hayes said...

I've also read that women are shortening their lives because of the stress and risks of modern like. I guess for everything gained something is lost.

Still the Lucky Few said...

Lower life expectancy for women is most assuredly happening because more women than ever are assuming the responsibilities of being the primary wage earner—all this while being the main caregiver for children (teenagers, probably), and sometimes elderly parents. It's a big burden, and leads to more stress. It's not the only cause, but certainly contributes, I think.

Tom Sightings said...

Well, remember, women do not have shortened lives or lower life expectancy. They're just not improving life expectancy as fast as men have, partly because they already live longer and have less room for improvement ... but also, probably, for the stress and burdens and risks mentioned.

olynjyn said...

On June 14, next Tuesday, my ex-mother in law will celebrate her 100th birthday. She grew up in NJ, didn't learn to drive until she was 67 and taught herself how to drive with a riding lawnmower. She is short, so she has to sit on pillows to see over the steering wheel. She goes down basement stairs to do her laundry, still does all her own bill paying, cooking and cleaning. She uses a walker to get around. She didn't really have the healthiest environment...her husband smoked unfiltered Camels and a pipe in their home and in the car as he drove her to her hair appointments and grocery shopping, etc. She dyed her hair before all the safe guards were put into place for things like that. She ate canned vegetables, likes her store bought cookies and ice cream every night, etc. She only went to the 8th grade and her first marriage was an arranged marriage. My mother who passed away in Feburary this year ate organic prior to knowing that was a lifestyle, had a huge garden, neither she nor my father ever smoked anything their entire lives. They both did heavy farm and manual labor all of their lives and were in the sun everyday all summer getting the crops planted and harvested, so they got their Vitamin D. They both passed away at 85 years old. If you went by the To Do List to be healthy they did it out of necessity, not because it was on a list...while my ex-MIL didn't exercise, watched TV all day every day, not much sun except to get the mail. We just chuckle at the longevity that she is experiencing with her lifestyle choices over these last 100 years.

Carole said...

Good advice for anyone, regardless of gender. But I sure do agree with DJan about not wanting to live a long life if the quality is not there.

Anonymous said...

Since women now some at least make more money than men, they die earlier, if they marry their husbands are demoralized by having to retire early or earlier than they expected and hear about it daily..My hubs of 42 years had to retire, now he is around and sometimes he complains about all the women in the workforce who get the jobs men used to do..These women are pretty miserable if they are married they divorce and if they have kids they never see them much, so much for parity for women!! I had many jobs but stuck it out for a federal pension and some social security the men I worked with were like Clarence Thomas acted, but I kept my mouth shut and picked up my paycheck or had it deposited and my hubs and I did what we had to do to raise our only to be educated and not at the mercy of any person man, woman, or whatever or whomever! She has a wonderful job, travels and saved every dime, no interest in marrying or bearing children, however she spoils the daylights out of her god-children which happen to be only children with nearly her birthate, little scorpio dolls, but after she babysits them or takes them to museums or theater shows she can drop them off to their loving parents, she has a wonderful time, not just full time!

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

Women need more advantages. Having babies is hard work.

Lynne Bucher said...

Slightly off topic, a disturbing trend I see are highly achieving young women pairing with underachieving young men. These guys need to grow up, get an education and or job skills, and contribute more to their household. These days, everyone needs to be able to self support because your current situation is not guaranteed to continue.

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