Who’s Healthier, Men or Women? (Part Two)
In last week’s edition, we looked at differences between men and women as well as some of women’s strengths. We left off, however, just prior to looking at what conditions may cut a woman’s life short. This week, we peer into that not-so-happy topic.
You might be surprised to know that research shows that more women than men die from the nation’s number-one killer—cardiovascular disease—each year. If you’re keeping score, women have a 53 to 47 percent edge. According to the American Heart Association, the number of deaths from heart disease among females has exceeded those of males since 1984.
Furthermore, one in three women has some form of cardiovascular disease, yet only 13 percent of women are aware that heart disease is a major threat to their lives. They think that only men keel over, clutching their chests as everything fades to black during a fatal heart attack. The fact is, women account for nearly half of all deaths from heart attacks.
When it comes to the second leading cause of death—cancer—a slightly higher percentage of men than women go to the grave each year. The most common form of cancer deaths among women is lung cancer, not breast cancer, as is often believed. Nearly twice the number of women perish annually from lung cancer as compared to breast cancer (74,000 to 40,000), yet we do not see pink ribbons or 10K walks for lung cancer. And what gets me is that no one is talking about how 60 percent of all cancers in women can be linked to dietary and lifestyle factors.
In addition, women are twice as likely as men to die from both stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive, degenerative brain disease that starts as slight memory loss and degenerates into irreversible mental impairment. And though diabetes—which is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, limb amputations, and heart disease—preys slightly more on men than women, 9 percent of women over the age of 20 have diabetes, and one-third of them don’t even know it, according to the American Diabetes Association.
At the end of the day, the debate about who’s healthier—men or women—isn’t important because it can never be resolved. What’s more important is what you are doing about your health and the health of family members around you.
Speaking Into Your Spouse’s Good Health
We all know that nagging can be irritating, but some friendly, good-natured input from spouse to spouse can help him or her live longer and enjoy better health. That’s the thesis of a book, The Case for Marriage, written by University of Chicago researcher Linda Waite, and Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. The authors, like a growing number of scholars, have been intrigued by mounting scientific evidence that women and (particularly) men live longer and enjoy better health when they are married. Waite believes there are a number of reasons for this, but one of her explanations is sure to get under the skin of every red-blooded American male.
“Marriage provides individuals—and especially men—with someone who monitors their health and health-related behaviors and who encourages self-regulation,” said Linda Waite, adding that married men can benefit from “someone who nags them.” Wives have a way of getting husbands to give up what we call “stupid bachelor tricks,” such as driving fast, drinking in bars, and getting into fights. They can, at the same time, participate in improving their husband’s health by cooking healthier meals—and anything is healthier than what passes for many young bachelors’ diets. They can also encourage their men to get regular sleep and to visit their doctors for annual exams.
While most men can see the benefits of having a wife who “reminds” them to get a regular checkup or eat a high-fiber diet, the last thing most men want is for some expert to legitimize the kind of merciless hounding normally associated with the term “nagging.” In her defense, Waite’s chief aim isn’t to encourage women to pester their husbands mercilessly. Instead, she wants to raise public awareness of research showing that a man’s life expectancy is more adversely affected by being unmarried than by being poor, overweight, or having heart disease. Waite thinks such findings need the same sort of attention given to cigarette smoking and lack of exercise.
I think it’s a point well-taken.