By Gina Sides, RN, Manager of Saint Simeon’s Memory Center
According to a recent report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the life expectancy for U.S. males grew by 4.6 years between 1989 and 2009. It is predicted the modern men will live to be an average age of 76.2 vs. 81.3 years for women.
The reasons given for this increase includes men smoking less than past generations, less likely to be obese than modern women and more prone to treat hypertension and high cholesterol than their female counterparts, states Dr. Ali Mokdad, professor of global health at the IHME. Men are starting to be more aggressive than women in treating cardiovascular concerns.
In researching some of the reasons it was found that New York City pioneered many health initiatives, including blunt anti-smoking ads and banning cigarette puffing in public restrooms and cabs, restaurants, bars, parks and beaches. New York City also became the first to prohibit artificial trans fats at restaurants, and in 2008 required chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. Since 1989, the average male life span has increased by 13.6 years, the biggest life expectancy gain of any U.S. city, thanks to these initiatives. New York City’s average male lifetime is now 79. However, the area to beat overall is San Francisco, where men’s average life span is 81.6 years.
Despite these vast improvements in living a healthy life style, men and women are still behind other countries such as Japan (83.5 years), Switzerland (82.3 years), and Spain (81.5 years). The U.S. average life expectance in comparison is 78.9 years.
Healthy eating and exercise
Bill Briggs of MSNBC states that scientists believe many men avoid vegetables but can’t get enough of beef sizzling on the grill. Americans see a metaphoric link between men and meat. Red meat is considered macho, bicep-flexing, all-American food, while leaner alternatives like soy in considered wimpy. In the past, meat was associated with strength. There is now an initiative to reshape soy burgers in hopes of nudging men toward better diets.
Another goal toward healthier living is found in the spices people ingest. There is new research from the American Chemical Society that eating spicy foods may protect the heart from disease. In a study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, hamsters that were given high-cholesterol diets were broken into two groups: one group was given chili peppers, jalapenos, and cayenne peppers; the other was not given spicy foods. The end result was that the hamsters eating spicy foods had lower levels of “bad” cholesterol. This is believed to be because the spicy compound caused the muscles to relax, allowing blood to flow more easily to the heart. The scientists do warn, however, that too much spice can make ulcers and reflux disease worse and is not recommended for people with these diagnoses.
Obviously, another reason men’s health is getting better is due to a popular trend of exercising. Gyms are growing considerably and it is the acceptable trend to work out routinely.
So, in summary, our culture is changing for the better. Exercising and eating healthy have become mainstream. But despite these vast improvements in men’s health, they still fall short of women due to a higher risk of heart disease and being killed in road accidents, stats show. However, it is impressive to see that data is showing that men narrowing the gap.