Saturday, February 11, 2012
Men vs. Women
What differentiates you from the opposite sex? Aside from the obvious physical differences, men and women have battled over the finer points throughout history. From brute strength to feminine wiles, the supposed differences between men and women are infinitely debatable. But when it comes to top health risks, the differences are clear.
Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in both sexes, but the similarities end there.* Men succumb to unintentional injuries and suicide at a higher rate than women, while women have higher rates of stroke and Alzheimer's disease. Understanding the differences between mothers and sons, brothers and sisters and husbands and wives can help us protect ourselves and our loved ones from the biggest threats to our health.
We're Not Created Equal?
The average American man lives 5.3 fewer years than his female counterpart, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No one can fully explain the discrepancy, but some experts point to inherited traits, male sex hormones and a propensity for risky behavior – such as smoking, drinking and using illicit drugs – as reasons why men are more at risk for premature death. Unintentional injuries are the No. 3 killer of men, with more than twice as many men as women dying in traffic accidents and poisonings.* Accidents in the workplace also claim far more men than women.
The eighth leading cause of death in men – suicide – doesn't even make it into the women's top 10. This is due in part to men's tendency to use deadlier means and because depression manifests differently in men and often goes undiagnosed. Rather than feeling sad, worthless or guilty as with women, men with depression may complain of fatigue, irritability, trouble sleeping and loss of interest in work or hobbies.
But women do lead men in several risk factors. Stroke occurs equally in both men and women, but men stand a greater chance of surviving it – nearly two-thirds of those who die from stroke are women. And more women develop and die from Alzheimer's disease every year, due in large part to their longer lives.
Even the top health risks for both men and women affect the sexes differently. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both, yet more women than men die from it in a typical year. However, men tend to develop the condition 10 to 15 years earlier than women. Nearly 25% of all heart disease deaths occur in men ages 35 to 65. Cancer is the second leading killer of men and women, and lung cancer is responsible for most of those deaths. For men, the next most common killer is prostate cancer; for women, it's breast cancer.
Knowledge Is Power
Don't let the statistics and averages scare you – you have the power to improve and maintain your health and vitality. Living healthfully by eating a balanced diet, reducing stress, exercising, not smoking and seeing your doctor regularly for checkups and recommended screenings can help you live life to the fullest.
* Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov.