Let loose and take a risk by taking on an activity that you can do only during the cold season. It could be skiing, …
Which gender ages better, the guys or us? The answer depends on the aspect of wellness and appearance that's under consideration. Here's how we sometimes best the boys - and how in other ways, we definitely don't.
Historically, women have outlived men in this country by about five years. True, before the 1928 discovery of penicillin childbed fever claimed the lives of enough women to keep the average age of death fairly low. But even then many of the mothers who survived their birthing experiences went on to celebrate birthdays well into their 80s and 90s. Now, though, the gender gap in longevity appears to be closing. A 2011 study from the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reported that women currently live only two years longer than men on average. One reason is that new medications and surgical advancements are keeping more men from having deadly heart attacks at fairly early ages. Beyond that though, a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released in July of 2011 showed that women ages 45 to 64 have the lowest well-being and the highest stress levels of any age group or gender. Medical experts say that these factors could contribute to shorter lifespans for Boomer women.
Overall, we're winning this one. According to a new study led by a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist, men are more likely than women to suffer from cognitive decline as they age. Not only that, but mild cognitive impairment in the men frequently leads to dementia. The researchers found that of the men in their study, 72 per 1,000 developed a mild cognitive impairment compared with 57 per 1,000 of the women. Even so, for the participants aged 85 to 89, the rate of decline was the same in men and women. Also interesting is the fact that in a huge study called "Midlife in the United States," or Midus, and funded by the National Institutes of Health, women were better than men at remembering a list of words but men were better when it came to spotting number patterns. Of course that difference may not be a function of aging. Women may be more verbal while men are tops at number crunching -- although the feminist push starting in the 1970s to dispel the so-called myth of female math anxiety would have us refute that claim.
Before menopause, estrogen helps to protect us from cardiovascular conditions including heart attacks and strokes. Unfortunately, after our supply of that essential hormone is depleted, we are just as likely as men are to have heart problems. In fact, heart disease is the #1 cause of death in women in the U.S. Solutions include hormone replacement therapy as well as lifestyle changes such as weight loss, increased exercise, and quitting smoking.
We lose this one. Our bone density is lower to begin with and our bones thin more quickly with age. Virtually all postmenopausal women have osteopoenia and many go on to develop osteoporosis. Statistics from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases show that 68% of the 44 million people at risk for osteoporosis are women and that one out of every two women over age 50 will probably have a fracture in her lifetime. However, osteoporosis is preventable and treatable with an adequate intake of calcium and Vitamin D, enough exposure to sunshine, and regular weight-bearing exercise.
The men have all the luck in this arena. They have somewhat thicker skin because of a much greater amount of testosterone. They get wrinkles, of course, but typically at a later age than women do, partly because of our thinner skin and also because we have fewer sweat glands, fewer blood vessels, and a different muscle structure. As always though, a healthy lifestyle helps. And in this case, avoiding direct sunlight except for a few hours a couple of times a week to get your Vitamin D is especially key.
We've got them on this one. Male pattern baldness is much more common than "female alopecia." Our hair may get somewhat thinner with age, but rarely do we lose most or all of it.
When we're younger, we tend to have "pear-shaped" bodies while men are "apples" with thicker waistlines and more belly fat. After menopause, though, we become "apples" as well and that's part of why we're more at risk for heart disease than we were earlier. We're also more at risk for Diabetes 2. But if you stay at a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and keep your waist circumference at 35 inches or less, you can outsmart Mother Nature.
The crazy cat lady jokes notwithstanding, we may actually be better at savoring the solitude of our later years than men. Divorced and widowed women are statistically not as quick to remarry as their male counterparts are. A new book by sociologist Eric Klinenberg, "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone," says that 17 million women in the U.S. today are what he calls "singletons." He also maintains that most of them are not lonely. An informal survey of single female ThirdAgers we know backed up that assertion. "I love having the place to myself after all those years of caring for everybody else," one woman said. "And it's not as though I never see anybody. I can pick and choose when I want to have dinner out with a friend or travel with a group or go to my exercise class and chum with my classmates after that." In contrast, the suddenly single men we know seem to be at a loss now that they're fending for themselves after years of depending on the women in their lives to do most of the household chores and cooking. It's no secret that the "role-free marriage" so fervently espoused in the late 1970s and 1980s never really came to pass. Even for two-career couples, women put in a second shift once they got home.
Coping With Our Changing Bodies
Finally -- and this is pure speculation - women may age better on the immeasurable level of life satisfaction simply because we're not taken completely by surprise when our bodies transform with age. Men seem to mourn the loss of physical prowess more than we do and complain more about infirmities. This could be because we've been in tune with our physical selves all along. We've dealt with everything from PMS to pregnancy to giving birth to breastfeeding to perimenopause. The postmenopausal years are actually not so bad by comparison! There's an Apache legend about a goddess called Changing Woman. She represents the life cycle of females as she morphs from a child to a fertile woman to a revered elder. Nice image! Especially the "revered elder" part. I think a little reverence for our womanly vitality and staying power in the ThirdAge is definitely due, don't you?
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