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Want to Live Longer? Be a Woman

Women who live to be 100 or more are rare--but not as rare as men who do. In the UK, five times as many women as men receive the "congratulations" birthday card from the Queen on their 100th birthdays. Life expectancy has been steadily improving for both sexes in most developed countries, but it's been improving more for men than for women, who already live much longer.

What's the reason--lifestyle or genes? Or is it because women's pills work better?

One of the biggest changes is that fewer men are smokers. The Economist reports that "in Britain in the 1960s, when the habit was commonplace, men were much more likely to be smokers than women. But they have also been more likely than women to give up cigarettes over the past half-century." (We hope this isn't because women think that smoking keeps them from gaining weight, because the OPPOSITE is actually true. If YOU'RE gaining too much weight, you need Anne Strieber's famous diet book!)

Drinking too much alcohol is another reason that men expire earlier, and a third reason is greater levels of obesity.

According to the Economist, "Men do, nevertheless, have the deck stacked against them by biology. One way the cards are marked is that female mammals (women included) have two X chromosomes, whereas males have an X and a Y--the latter being a runty little thing with only a small complement of genes. Females’ “spare” X chromosome protects them from genetic mutations on the other one. Males have no such protection. (Subscribers can listen to Anne's movie idea about a man who decided to have it BOTH WAYS).

"A further biological difference between the sexes is in the lengths of their telomeres. These are sections of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes from decay. Men's telomeres are shorter than those of women, and also degrade more quickly."

But the biggest difference may be the amount of testosterone, which increases both aggression and risk-taking, causing more males to do things like drink and drive.



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