Scientists have long known that women outlive men. Learn the reasons why, and the important health screening guidelines men should follow to best ensure a long life.

As of the 21st century, the trend is universal: women now outlive men practically everywhere in the world.

In fact, at the age of 20, women are expected to live 7.6% longer than men. This jumps to 14% at the age of 80.

The US Census Bureau found that American men lived to be 77.3 years old while women reached 82 in 2017, and is projecting men to reach 79.7 year old alongside women’s 83.8 by 2030.

The research is conclusive, with one study confirming that even among seven populations around the world under harsh conditions such as famine and epidemics, women still fared better and lived longer.

What explains this? It pretty much comes down to biology and behavior.

The biological reasons women live longer

By and large, scientists believe that the female hormone estrogen goes a long way in helping to protect women from fatal conditions like cardiovascular disease by keeping harmful LDL cholesterol levels lower.

Estrogen also enhances the immune response and even acts as an antioxidant, making women less likely to die from bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections.

On the flip side, the testosterone and progesterone hormones found in men are thought to actually suppress the immune system, making men much more vulnerable to infectious disease.

Testosterone may also play a role in influencing risky social behaviors among men, increasing their likelihood of exposing themselves to infection.

Behavioral differences also explain the trend

Women also live longer because they are less likely to partake in risky behaviors that put their health in danger, like smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs, or driving dangerously.

Women are also more likely to eat healthier, sticking to more wholesome and low-fat foods and eating less salt and meat.

Women also seek medical care and attend routine screening exams more often than men do, and are better about taking medications and vitamins when needed.

Men’s top health risks and what to do about them

Making a few lifestyle changes is an important first step toward heading off premature death in men.  

Prevent heart disease. Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and high-fiber foods, limit foods high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar, and keep active on a regular basis to help you control your weight and lower your risk for heart disease.

Ward off lung disease. Quit a smoking habit if you smoke and avoid second-hand smoke to protect your lungs.

Limit your alcohol.  Alcohol use is associated with a higher risk of cancer, so try to avoid alcohol if you can. If you choose to drink, only stick to two drinks a day if you are younger than 65, or one a day if you are older.

Manage stress. Protect your immune system by keeping your stress under control. Exercise and mindfulness meditation are two healthy, effective ways to keep your stress in check.

Visit your doctor. Men tend to wait until a health issue turns serious before reaching out for medical care. Avoid this pitfall, and follow your doctor’s treatment plans to help maintain your health.

Health screening exams for men

Seeing your doctor for regular checkups is critical for the prevention of health issues down the road, even if you feel healthy today.

If you are in the 40 to 64 year old age range, make sure you work with your doctor to screen for the following conditions:

High blood pressure. If you have diabetes, heart disease, or a kidney condition, your blood pressure should be checked at least every year, otherwise it should be checked every 2 years to make sure you stay within the 120/80 mmHg range.

High cholesterol. Cholesterol should be screened starting at age 35 for men with no risk factors for heart disease, and then 5 years after that. Men with high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney issues should be checked more often.

Colorectal cancer. Men aged 50 to 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer every several years, depending on the screening test used, with no strong family history of colon cancer or polyps. A family history should include earlier screening. Screening tests include colonoscopy, stool-based tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or a CT colonography.

Diabetes. If you are over 44 years old, you should be screened for diabetes every 3 years, which includes checking for high BMI, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

Prostate cancer. Men who are 55 through 69 years old should discuss with their doctor whether a PSA test is recommended to screen for prostate cancer, especially when you are at higher risk.