Researchers Probe How Men and Women Age Differently

Jul 31, 2020 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

It has long been known that women tend to outlive men, and their longevity streak will likely continue. Life expectancy for women is expected to reach 87.3 years, and 83.9 years for men, by 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Researchers—including those in the emerging field of geroscience, the study of aging and age-related disease—are trying to piece together why. By examining gender-based distinctions in the immune system, cell structure, brain and other systems, researchers are discovering how and why men and women grow older in clearly different ways.

Their findings could help explain why Covid-19 has had a greater impact on older men than older women. A recent study found that men, after the age of 65, lost important antibody-producing B cells in the blood, while women didn’t. The research team also found that men, as they age, experience greater inflammation in their blood, which has been associated with severe cases of Covid-19.

Other gender distinctions emerge with age. Men develop more laugh lines, women more frown lines. Recent studies show women are better able to locate car keys and more likely to see a doctor when they don’t feel well. They sleep about 20 minutes less a day than men. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, looked at the blood of men and women between the ages of 65 and 95 and found protein levels changed at different rates. Less change means more stability, he said. Men’s levels changed far more than women’s, with 600 significant changes versus 277 for women, according to the study.

“Men and women age differently. We’re kind of guessing how,” said Marcia Stefanick, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. Women have long been left out of aging-related studies, she said, so researchers are playing catch-up. And many social, cultural and economic factors also set women and men apart as they age.

You can read the full Wall Street Journal article here.


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