Written by Solaade Ayo-Aderele
More often than not, women almost always survive their husbands. Experts aver that in most countries, women outlive men by between five and 10 years! Even in Nigeria where life expectancy ranks as one of the lowest in the world, the average life expectancy for women was 54.1 and 52.3 for male, according to the latest World Health Organisation data published in April 2011.
And while about 41.9 per cent of women are expected to live up to 65 years, it is 39.2 per cent for men.
Again, experts at scientificamerican.com note that "By age 85, there are roughly six women to every four men. At age 100, the ratio is more than two to one. And by age 122 - the current world record for human longevity - the score stands at one-nil in favour of women."
Married men have reasons to thank God for making them marriageable, as research shows that they tend to live many years longer than single men, whereas married women live only a little bit longer than single women.
Why men die earlier
There are scientific reasons why women outlive men, experts say. Psychologists say in the past, the assumption was that men died before their wives because of the stress they went through as breadwinners. They, however, note that things haven't changed better for men even in modern times when women not only share the bills with their men, but sometimes assume the role of breadwinners in families.
Scientists at Harvard Medical School warn that "available evidence implicates behavioural as well as biological differences between the sexes, differences in the effects of medical technology, as well as social and psychological factors."
Cardiologists note that men experience common heart diseases earlier than women do. They say that higher levels of estrogen in women protect them from heart disease for 10-15 years longer than men.
Harvard scientists corroborate this. According to Thomas T. Perls and Ruth C. Fretts, men experience an exponential rise in the risk of heart disease, beginning in their 40s. "In contrast, women’s risk of dying from heart disease does not begin to increase until after menopause, and it approaches the male risk only in extreme old age," the scientists note.
Indeed, physicians say women are likely to have heart attack and stroke usually when they hit 70s and 80s - about 10 years later than men, who develop them in their 50s and 60s.
Chronic stress in men may also contribute to heart disease, as it indirectly elevates blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin - all contributors to hardening of the arteries, cardiologists enthuse. They advise men to start monitoring their blood pressure and cholesterol when they're in their 20s. This would make them to act decisively once they suspect that something is abnormal. But there's a caveat here: fewer men see the doctor, compared to women. Experts at lifelabs.com say, "Statistically, men visit their doctors less often than women and have fewer tests ordered. When they do, it's often to check specific complaints rather than have routine tests."
The scientists warn that studies show that men are less likely than women to look after their health. They’re 25 per cent less likely to have visited their doctor in the past year, and almost 40 per cent more likely to have skipped recommended health screenings.
They counsel, "If you're not feeling right, check with your doctor. By getting the treatments you need, you can beat the odds.
Weak immune system
Researchers at Imperial College School of Medicine in London say women are probably born with a more powerful immune system that protects them against diseases well into old age.
According to the scientists, women produce more white blood cells than men of the same age. White blood cells help in fighting infection.
The researchers, Drs. Richard Aspinall and Jeffery Pido-Lopez, published their findings in the New Scientist.
Susceptibility to diseases
Again, scientists say, "Even in the first year of life, men have a higher mortality rate, which persists throughout life." They express concern that men are also more likely than women to die from injuries, suicide, respiratory cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and coronary heart disease.
Professor of Medicine at Newcastle University and an expert on ageing, Tom Kirkwood, in a study published in Scientific American notes that the sex hormone, testosterone, is worthy of re-examination here.
Kirkwood argues that high levels of testosterone, which boost male fertility, are quite bad for long-term survival.
Again, Perls and Fretts say "between ages 15 and 24, the male-to-female mortality ratio peaks because of a sudden surge in male deaths with the onset of puberty." They warn that during this period, men are three times more likely to die than women, while most of the male fatalities are caused by reckless behaviour or violence.
"High testosterone levels are associated with risk-taking and aggression in younger males and with heart disease and prostate cancer in later life," the scientists warn.
What to do? Some scientists offer the ultimate suggestion: Castration. Kirkwood says castration in males appears partially to equalise male and female longevity. He attests that neutered male animals often live longer than their intact counterparts.
"The evidence supports the notion that male castration might be the ticket to a longer life," he deposes.
But before you start throwing daggers, Kirkwod expresses doubt that many men - himself included - would choose such a drastic remedy just to buy a few extra years. Over to you, dear men!
Anti-ageing physician, Dr. Vincent Giampapa, warns that, "On average, people over six feet tall don't live as long as people shorter than six feet." He says studies of a genetic mutation referred to as the Methuselah Gene (named after Methuselah who lived for 969 years) support this theory. A study published in Medical Hypothesis supports this, saying that larger individuals within a species tend to have shorter lives.
As for those who think it's women who feel worse at the end of a romantic relationship, experts say men suffer more emotional troubles than women because, instead of letting go, they allow the stress of a break-up to weigh them down, leading to more psychological trauma that may predispose them to suicide. In fact, a 2010 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention study notes that men had a suicide rate of 19.9 per cent, compared to women's rate of 5.2 per cent.
Apart from the fact that men are likely to eat foods that are high in cholesterol than women, researchers also say men smoke and drink more than women do.
The World Health Organisation states that men smoke nearly five times as much as women; while it is estimated that about 17 per cent of men, compared to about eight per cent of women will meet criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.
A multinational study suggests that men don't just exceed women in drinking, they actually top the chart in high-volume drinking.
Now that you know what could kill you, take steps to save yourself.