Men vs. Women: Who's Healthier?

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When it comes to health, what does your gender have to do with it? Is one sex healthier than the other? The answer is… it’s complicated. In some other areas, men fare better; in others, women do.

Health Means More Than Living Longer

Women tend to live longer than men by about five years, but when you compare the health of men and women who lived to be 100, the men were generally in better health when they hit the century mark. Overall, men have a 60% higher mortality rate than women, largely due to heart disease, which is often caused by smoking and other behaviors. Men also have higher rates of lung cancer and emphysema, but this is largely because more men than women smoke. 

Genetics, the environment, and lifestyle are among the factors that play a role in our health, along with whether we are male or female. But there are some things we do know about gender and health. 

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both sexes, but women develop it 7 to 10 years later than men, on average. Heart attacks are on the rise among women and on the decline in men for those ages 35-54. Among people with diabetes, though, women have higher rates of heart disease.

  • Before age 55, men are more likely than women to develop high blood pressure. After that, it reverses, and women are more likely to acquire it.

  • Women have a lower risk of high cholesterol at younger ages, but over time, it evens out so that both sexes are at about the same risk. Men are more likely to have strokes, but women are more likely to die from them.

  • Women have stronger immune systems than men, but that has a downside: They also have three times as many autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

  • When it comes to allergies and asthma, boys tend to have them more than girls up until puberty. But as adults, females are more prone to them.

Healthy Behaviors Are Key

When you look at how our behavior affects our health, it’s also a mixed bag. Women are about three times more likely to see a doctor on a regular basis than men and are more likely to express concern about their health. Men exercise more than women, but have higher overweight and obesity rates. The number of people of both sexes in the United States who smoke has dropped—it’s now down to about 18%—but it’s still the leading cause of preventable disease and death. 

So what’s the takeaway? You can’t control your gender, but no matter whether you are a man or a woman, you can lead a healthy lifestyle that will reduce your risk for some of the main causes of serious disease. You’ve heard it before, but a healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, reducing stress, and staying at a healthy weight are going to optimize your well-being, no matter whether you are male or female.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Nov 27
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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