The latest research on life expectancy shows that women are still living longer than men. Look deeper, though, and there are many more subtle differences when it comes to susceptibility of the sexes to certain diseases.
This bone-thinning disease is strongly associated with women, with 75 per cent of all hip osteoporosis cases suffered by them. However, one in five men over 50 will also develop the condition but they may go undiagnosed because most GPs also see it as a woman’s complaint.
Why? Women start with lower bone density than their male peers and they lose bone mass more quickly as they age, especially after the menopause, thanks to the drop in the bone-protective oestrogen.
Reduce your risk: Eat plenty of calcium-rich dairy foods and consider taking a Vitamin D supplement, since most Indians are low in this bone-strengthening nutrient. Spending 30 minutes a day doing weight-bearing exercise — that’s anything where you support your own body weight, such as aerobics or brisk walking — will also help to build stronger bones.
Despite the fact men have more heart attacks than women, death rates by gender are actually 50:50. This is because women are more likely to die if they have a heart attack.
Why? Women benefit from the heart-protective effect of oestrogen before the menopause, but after it, their risk becomes even higher than a man of the same age.
Until 45, more men than women have high blood pressure — a risk factor for heart disease — but by the time they’re 70, women, on average, have higher.
Reduce your risk: Lose weight if you need to, stop smoking and get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked yearly after the age of 40 (younger, if early heart disease runs in your family).
Women are up to four times as likely as men to contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Why? The lining of the vagina is thinner and more delicate than the skin of the penis, making it easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate the body.
Reduce your risk: The best prevention is to use a condom each time you have sex.
More men die from liver disease than women (60 per cent versus 40 per cent). But women can suffer serious liver damage after relatively low alcohol consumption. Why? Men still typically drink more alcohol, but figures show women are catching up – and have less of the enzyme needed to break down alcohol in the body, along with a higher body fat con- tent, meaning they’re less able to dilute alcohol. As a result, drink for drink, women end up with more alcohol in their bloodstream, and therefore, higher levels reaching the liver.
Reduce your risk: Men should drink no more than 21 units per week and women 14. In practice, this means no more than three to four units per day for men (one and a half pints) and two to three units (two small glasses of wine) for women. Two booze-free days per week is also recommended.
Colds and flu
Recent research suggests that women are less likely to catch cold and flu viruses than men.
Why? One study by Stanford University last year found that women had more active immune systems, thanks to their high levels of the hormone oestrogen, which appears to boost their ability to battle flu bugs. Men, meanwhile, have a weaker immune response because testosterone has a damping effect on the way their bodies fight viruses.
Reduce your risk: Wash your hands regularly as research shows you’re most likely to pick up a cold by touching an infected person’s hands or from contact with surfaces that they’ve touched, such as door handles.
Lung cancer rates among women are rising.
Why? It’s been noticed that female smokers now outnumber male smokers in some areas. Research shows women are less successful at quitting, plus oestrogen is suspected to increase women’s susceptibility to lung cancer, which may explain why female smokers are three times more likely to develop lung cancer than their male counterparts.
Reduce your risk: As nine out of 10 cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking, quit now. Your risk will drop immediately, and after 10 years it will be half that of a smoker.