It’s common sense that women live longer than men. But it seems that they are behind them regarding advances in life span, based on a recent nationwide research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
The study analyzed county-by-county data from 1989 to 2009. In that time period, life expectancy for men improved by an average of 4.6 years – but for women, it improved by only 2.7 years.
“It’s tragic that in a country as wealthy as the United States and with all the medical expertise we have that so many girls will live shorter lives than their mothers,” Dr. Ali Mokdad, the head of IHME’s research team, said in a written statement.
But what is causing these differences in life expectancy?
The usual suspects:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
“Women aren’t as encouraged by their doctors to get medication to ward off heart disease,” Dr. Gina Lundberg, national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, told USA Today . “And many doctors don’t treat their symptoms as aggressively as they do in men. They’ll say you have an upset stomach and send you home.”
According to the researchers, an estimated 54,000 women’s lives could be saved by reducing salt consumption alone.
Differences in health care treatments are another possible reason behind the gap. “What makes the difference is getting the right medication at the right dose,” Mokdad said. “We screen people for diseases but don’t always follow through to manage the diseases.”
Despite the gender gaps, the life expectancy gap between African Americans and white Americans is growing smaller. In 1989, African Americans could expect to live 63.8 years on average, while white Americans had an average lifespan of 72.5 years – a difference of 8.7 years. In 2009, African American male life expectancy improved by nearly a decade to 71.2 years, and white male life expectancy improved at a slower rate to 76.7 years, narrowing the gap to 5.5 years. For women, the gap is even narrower, at 3.6 years. African American women on average in 2009 had a life expectancy of 77.9 years, compared with 81.5 years for white women.
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