The year is 1920 and women are outliving men by an average of one year in the U.S. So, it’s a close race. Women are in the lead, but men are only a year behind, so it’s very possible to make up that ground!
Fast forward to 2020, almost a hundred years later. Surely men have tightened up the race even more or perhaps even taken the lead, right? The contrary! In the United States, women are outliving men by almost five years. The gap is closer in the UK, where the average life expectancy for men is 79.2 and for women is 82.9. In Hong Kong, where citizens have the highest life expectancy in the world (average 84.63 years) the life expectancy for women is 5.8 years longer than men. In fact, women now outlive men in almost every society in the world. Let’s examine why and then see what men can do to extend their longevity.
Focusing on some key health problems in the U.S., the Department of Health and Human Services’ report, “Health, US 2015”, compares the age-adjusted death rate for men versus women. This report found that for every 100,000 men that died in 2014, approximately 211 deaths were due to heart disease compared to approximately 132 deaths per 100,000 for women. Men also had a higher rate for cancer at 192.9 compared to 138.1 for women. Additionally, men led in deaths due to injuries at 54.7 compared to women at 27.3. Men were three times as likely to die from complications related to HIV/AIDS and four times as likely to commit suicide. For African-American men, the numbers are even more severe.
A major source of the problem for men is a lack of disease prevention efforts. Men are more susceptible to many diseases because they are more likely to smoke and consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol. One Centers for Disease Control study found that women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men.
Believe it or not, I believe there is some good news in all this. While we cannot control our genetics, we can make lifestyle changes that can potentially minimize our health risks. So, there is something that can be done here, men! It’s time for you to take action for yourself, your future, your family, and your overall comfort and enjoyment of life.
First of all, pay greater attention to your physical health and seek medical attention when something seems or feels wrong. Establish a relationship with your doctor and participate in regular check-ups, as well as recommended diagnostic testing.
According to Men’s Health Network, important diagnostic tests for men include:
- Physical Exam
- Blood Pressure
- Blood Tests and Urinalysis
- Tetanus Booster
- Rectal Exam
- PSA Blood Tests
- Colorectal Health
- Chest X-Ray (for smokers)
- Bone Health
- Testosterone Screening
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Consult your physician about when and how often these tests should be performed.
There are also a few things you can do on your own. The first is self-exams. This includes the testicles and breasts to catch any lumps in their earliest stages. You should also check the skin to see if there are any changing moles, freckles or early skin cancer. Also, look in your mouth for signs of potential cancerous lesions.
Ask your doctor or healthcare professional about self-exams and the proper way to conduct them. If you have doubts about the results of self-exams, follow up with your medical professional.
The other things men can do to help reduce their risks are likely more familiar, including eating healthy amounts of fruit, vegetables and protein and participating in moderate to vigorous exercise a few times a week. Even simple efforts to increase your daily movement can make a difference. Consider parking further away, using the restroom on another floor, or going for a simple walk at lunch. You can also benefit from drinking more water and less alcohol, avoiding tobacco and getting plenty of sleep each night.
Don’t let stubbornness stand in the way of your potential. Instead, use that stubbornness to your advantage by being determined to get into healthier routines and working with your doctor to stay ahead of the game. After all, the only way to win the game of life is to keep playing it.
Disclaimer: This article is meant for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Individuals should consult their health care providers to discuss health risks and preventative measures.