Men Are Stronger, But Women Live Longer: So Which Is The Healthiest Sex?
Men Are Stronger, But Women Live Longer: So Which Is The Healthiest Sex?
- The Mail 07th April 2009
We all know that when it comes to physical strength, men have the upper hand.Yet women tend to live on average three years longer, so which is the healthier sex?
In fact, there are many crucial differences between men and women, including susceptibility to certain disease, survival rates and ability to tolerate medication. Here, with the help of leading experts, we explain how.
Women fare better with their skin - although behaviour plays a part
Men tend to develop skin cancer on their backs and fronts while the most common site for women is on the lower leg. This difference could be explained by the ways in which they expose their skin, explains Dr Andrew Wright, consultant dermatologist with Bradford NHS Foundation Trust. Men, for example, take off their tops more often than women.
Before the age of 40, melanomas are slightly more common in women; after 40 men are more often affected. Men are also more likely to have invasive and fatal melanoma, although some research suggests the higher rates are only because men fail to get suspicious skin changes checked before they become dangerous.
The rate in women levels off somewhat between 45 and 60 - possibly because a drop in oestrogen brought on by the menopause has some sort of protective effect or the hormone can encourage cancer cells to grow. HEALTHIER SEX? WOMEN
Many eye conditions such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts happen to men and women equally. Glaucoma is an age-related condition in which the pressure inside the eye becomes raised, damaging the optic nerve.
AMD is caused by cells in the retina no longer functioning and, though caused by ageing, the condition is aggravated by smoking, which doubles the risk.
Cataracts happen when the lens becomes cloudy and can be caused by a number of factors including heavy drinking, smoking, diabetes, or an injury to the eye.
Eyes deteriorate as we age and neither sex has an advantage over the other
However, Mr Oliver Backhouse, consultant ophthalmologist at the Yorkshire Eye Hospital, points out women are more prone to auto-immune diseases of the eye such as scleritis - inflammation of the white of the eye - although the reason is unknown.
Researchers from the Rotterdam Eye Hospital also found men are more likely to suffer eyelid droop as they age. Sagging is caused by the increased slackness of eyelid tissues and loss of fat around the eye socket.
Eyelid droop can cause irritation and damage to the cornea, though researchers were unsure why men were more susceptible. HEALTHIER SEX? NEITHER
Women win the battle of the lungs - but smokers watch out
Wome who smoke are more susceptible than men to developing lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term for several conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, in which airways are narrowed, says Dr Keith Prowse, medical director of the British Lung Foundation.
Studies have also found the rate of COPD is increasing nearly three times faster among women than men.
'Women's lungs are smaller than men's so it's possible that when smoking, they take in smoke in a more concentrated form by inhaling more often,' adds Dr Prowse.
Yet overall more men suffer from COPD - it affects 2 per cent of them compared with 1 per cent of women. HEALTHIER SEX? WOMEN
Arm muscle: Men are able to retain their strength for longer
Women over 65 find it harder than men of the same age to preserve muscle. This is because of the difference in the way men and women respond to food and exercise, say Washington University scientists.
They found post-menopausal women were less able to use food to build muscle mass than men of the same age, again probably due to falling levels of oestrogen with the menopause.
It's thought that since oestrogen is necessary to help maintain bone mass both in women and men, it also may play a role in preserving muscle mass.
Women are particularly at risk of muscle loss, as they tend to have less muscle and more fat than men, so are nearer to the 'danger' threshold of becoming frail in their 50s and 60s. HEALTHIER SEX? MEN
Men and women have different reactions to pain
Women generally experience more recurrent pain, more severe pain and longer-lasting pain than men, it was reported at a recent conference for the International Association of Pain.
This was partly explained by differences in both body composition and the male and female central nervous system, which might make women more susceptible to a range of painful conditions.
The conference also found men and women react differently to pain killers. Over-the-counter medicine such as paracetamol had less of an effect on women.
Women found more relief if they were given painkillers based on opium, while men do better on ibuprofen. Opiods work by stopping the brain's pain signals, says Dr Andy Dowson, whereas non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen work locally at the site of the pain as well as on pain signals in the brain. HEALTHIER SEX? MEN
Men and women generally display different symptoms of heart attacks
Overall men are more likely to have a heart attack than women. However, women might be at greater risk from the effects of a heart attack as they are less likely to realise they may be suffering from one in the first place.
This is because women don't always show the classic male symptoms such as severe, squeezing-chest pain.
Instead, they are more likely to have 'silent' symptoms such as a shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness or pain in unlikely places such as the jaw.
This could be because a woman's hormones, body weight and different-sized heart and arteries might cause her to react differently.
Additionally, women who smoke may develop heart disease at almost the same age as male smokers, cancelling out the natural difference between the sexes. Norwegian researchers found that female smokers have heart attacks nearly 14 years earlier than women who don't smoke.
For men, the figure is about six years. It's also thought smoking makes women go through the menopause earlier.
Doctors have long suspected that female hormones protect women against heart disease - oestrogen is thought to raise levels of good cholesterol as well as enabling blood vessel walls to relax more easily, lowering the chances of a blockage.
The menopause sees a drop in the hormone, leaving women less protected. HEALTHIER SEX? WOMEN
Pain in the neck: Men suffer less migraines
Migraine affects 20 per cent of women but only ten per cent of men, possibly because female hormones act as a trigger for the condition by affecting pain pathways in the brain. Yet pre-adolescence, more boys than girls suffer with the problem.
However, men are five times more common to suffer cluster headaches than women, says Dr Andy Dowson, director of the King's Headache Services in London.
These are severe headaches that typically affect the area around one eye or the temple and which happen in bouts. Cluster headaches may be caused by variations of testosterone levels, adds Dr Dowson, as it is thought a drop in the hormone can trigger an attack. HEALTHIER SEX? MEN
Women are more likely to suffer urinary infections
Again, women are more likely to suffer - around 50 per cent of women will have at least one urinary tract infection during their lifetime, whereas most men will never suffer.
'The main reason for this is because the urethra - the tube down which urine travels from the bladder - is shorter in women than in men, so bacteria from outside the body have a shorter distance to travel to the bladder, where they cause infection,' explains Stuart Stanton, professor of urogynaecology at Portland and Parkside hospitals in London.
Another reason is that after the menopause, declining oestrogen levels make tissues in the urethra thinner and weaker, reducing bladder support. HEALTHIER SEX? MEN
Say what? Men lose the hearing battle
Hearing loss affects men and women equally until around the age of 40, says Angela King, senior audiologist with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.
After this, a higher proportion of men become hard of hearing, probably because they have been exposed to high levels of industrial noise. HEALTHIER SEX? WOMEN
Women are up to three times more likely to suffer irritable bowel syndrome, a common intestinal disorder, though it's not known why.
'IBS in men is far more likely to be a symptom of an underlying disease such as Colitis or Crohn's disease, which both cause inflammation of the intestines,' says Dr Paul Hurlstone, consultant endoscopist and gastroenterologist at Barnsley NHS Foundation Trust.
Women are more likely to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome
In women, IBS is more likely to be a symptom of coeliac disease, a sensitivity to gluten that causes chronic inflammation. Bowel cancer has a higher incidence rate among men, though Dr Hurlstone believes this could be because men are slower to seek medical help. HEALTHIER SEX? MEN
All smiles: Women win on the teeth front
Gender differences in oral health are down to different patterns of behaviour, says Dr Henry Clover, Dental Adviser for Denplan.
Men are more likely to have gum disease and attend fewer check-ups, but women are more susceptible to gum disease during pregnancy due to changes in oestrogen and progesterone levels - causing gums to swell and bleed. HEALTHIER SEX? WOMEN
Women are almost 20 per cent more likely to suffer insomnia than men.
A year-long investigation by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) into the sleeping habits of more than 2,000 women found almost two-thirds had between one and three disturbed nights every week.
Almost 70 per cent said they frequently experience a sleep problem.
Sleep tight: Women are more likely to suffer insomnia
This compares with 52 per cent of men who say they suffer insomnia a few nights a week or more. The causes could be emotional - as women tend to worry more. Menstruation, pregnancy and menopause can also disturb sleep. HEALTHIER SEX? MEN
Women have smaller brains, but they pack the cells in tighter
Women's brains, though smaller than men's, are more tightly packed with cells in the area that controls mental processes such as judgment, personality and memory, according to Canadian researchers.
However, as they get older, women appear to shed cells more rapidly from this area than men. By the age of 70-80, the density is similar for both sexes. The difference might account for the fact that women are ten times more likely to develop psychiatric conditions such as panic attacks and anxiety disorders related to these specific mental processes.
Alzheimer's Society research shows twice as many women than men over 65 have dementia. A new study suggests a variant in a gene on the X chromosome - the female sex chromosome which determines our sex - is associated with an increased risk.
Men generally suffer from the mental illness schizophrenia more severely than women. HEALTHIER SEX? MEN
DEPRESSION AND STRESS
Women are more likely to suffer depression, both it affects both sexes
Women are up to three times more likely to suffer from depression, partly because women's brains make less of the 'feel good' hormone serotonin.
The menopause and childbirth can also trigger depression. HEALTHIER SEX? MEN
For men in Britain, the average age is 79 years and six months, while for women it's 82 years and eight months.
There's no hard and fast reason why women live longer than men.
But women might be born with a more powerful immune system that protects well into old age, suggest researchers at Imperial College, London.
They found women produce more infection-fighting white blood cells than men of the same age, while an earlier study suggested women could live longer because they have stronger hearts.
Men and women can both expect to live to around 80 years of age - but women on average get an extra three years
Traditionally, the difference in life expectancy was blamed on the greater risks taken by men - they were more likely to drive fast or do extreme sports. They were also more likely to suffer from illnesses linked to lifestyle such as heart disease.
It was also thought female hormones were more protective. But some experts say women have evolved to live longer because they can help nurture future generations. HEALTHIER SEX? WOMEN
Men are the healthier sex. While they might not live as long as women, their lives are more likely to be illness-free.
Umm!!! don't know about the conclusion drawn here, but still find it an interesting analysis anyway. What do y'all recknown. Are men the healthier sex?