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Gender’s Influence on the Most Common Senior Health Concerns

May 15, 2015

The Battle of the Sexes is nothing if not persistent. From youth on, the differences among men and women are constantly present. This is perhaps no better demonstrated than in our golden years: men and women often face different health issues as they grow older.

 Still, some similarities exist. Many diseases are not a disease of gender, but rather a disease of age. A person’s rate of cancer, heart attacks, infectious disease, diabetes, and other ailments will increase regardless of a person’s sex. However, that degree of increase can be influenced by gender.

Life Expectancy

As most people know, women have a leg up when it comes to longevity: they live an average of five years longer than men and are much more likely to cross the 100-year threshold. However, quantity of life doesn’t directly translate into quality.

According to Medical Daily, when men and women both live a full century, men are more than twice as likely to do so without any major health conditions. Around 32 percent of men who turn 100 are free of health ailments; the same can be said for only about 15 percent of women.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, largely due to obesity and tobacco use. While it is widely believed to be a man’s disease, more women actually die from it.  Per the World Health Organization, among men and women over the age of 60, heart disease kills women more often. There are other variables, however. There are more women over 60 than there are men (since more men die younger), thus, the data can be skewed.

Cancer

Perhaps the greatest feared disease, cancer kills men more often than women. Overall, a men’s mortality rate is about 30-50 percent higher than women. In a lifetime, men have a one-in-two chance of getting cancer, while women have a one-in-three chance. But, just as with heart disease, this often comes with other variables. Much of the difference among cancer rates has to do with lung cancer among men. They are more likely to get it simply because they are more likely to be current and former smokers.

Musculoskeletal Problems

Osteoarthritis, a very common musculoskeletal condition among seniors, is more common in women. Some claim this is linked to muscle mass: women have less of it, making it relatively easier to lose. Others believe it is the result of hormones.

Mental Health

The gender differences in the mental health of seniors seem to be dictated by individual reports. Some studies claim that women are better able to adapt to aging, ultimately making them happier in their golden years. They are also more likely to maintain social ties and participate in activities and this can help compound their happiness and wellbeing.

Other studies, however, state that women are more prone to depression and anxiety as they age. They are also more likely to fret over the physical changes that come with aging, such as changing skin and gray hair.

While growing old can be difficult for some people, sometimes the best thing to do is remember that staying young can be a state of mind. Senior living facilities, for instance, provide golden-agers with a chance to maintain an active lifestyle filled with strong social connections. These two things can help everyone feel healthy for as long as possible.

Understanding how your gender may affect the aging process is a good start to leading a healthier way of life. At Concordia Lutheran Ministries, each one of our non-profit senior care communities focuses on providing our residents with the tools and resources they need to help maintain their happiness and health throughout their golden years. Our highly-qualified and caring staff goes above and beyond to provide our senior living community residents with the utmost quality of care possible. Contact us today to schedule a tour of a Concordia location near you and discover how we put our faith in caring .

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