Why women live longer than men
My grandmother is turning 99 next January. She’s a very strong woman, who lived through both World Wars that hit Europe in the 20th century. She even got a medal of honor for working uninterrupted as a nurse over a period of 60 years; with her first internships at early psychiatric institutions in a time were electroshock therapy was the best remedy against depression, amongst other things. Doing all that she raised 3 children, including my mother, to unfortunately also witness all 3 of them pass away in the course of the last 10 years. And by now, she has also outlived my grandfather by over 30 years.
I think my grandmother is special, but not just for being my grandmother. The woman owns a pair of damn good genes! At the age of 99, her mind and memories are still crystal clear, and she is not anywhere near being threatened by elderly illnesses, except maybe for the occasional back pain. But then again, who wouldn’t account for having a little bit of back pain after almost 100 years.
Secretly I hope I inherited her genes, or at least the longevity one. I’m currently 35 years old, and looking at her I’m given the perspective of 65 years more. From where I’m standing, that looks like all the time in the world right now. But so, could my genes hold the secret to longevity or what is it that makes women live longer than men?
According to a recent study from the Scientific American, women live longer than men because their cells have a better ability of regenerating or healing themselves. “It’s a biological fact that women are predisposed to a longer life than men”, says Tom Kirkwood, professor in geriatrics associated with the University of Newcastle, and the reason for that is evolutionary. Once a man has inseminated a woman, his job is done, at least in nature’s kingdom.
Some scientists doing tests on mice in Japanese labs even concluded that female genetic material provided longer lives to the mice population. A mouse created from genetic material stemming from two female mice lived an average of 186 days longer than the standard female mouse. Whether it was a good life – which I seriously doubt considering the animal testing part – is unknown. But it definitely was longer.
So I must conclude that I am, in fact, genetically advantaged. But along with me, so is the entire woman population, as in essence it is the female gene that provides a longer life to women and not some special other, yet to be discovered gene deep down inside my grandmother’s cells somewhere. Or is it? Only time will tell.
Lead image: copy of original picture portraying my grandmother Maria, my grandfather Nestor, my two uncles and my mother. Picture taken at the Belgian coast in the early 1950′