Tags: women | men | longevity | super-centenarians

Why Women Live Longer Than Men

By    |   Monday, 08 June 2015 02:47 PM


It's no secret that women live longer than men, and the advantage continues even in the oldest among us: Most super-centenarians — those who live at least 110 years — are usually women. In fact, 95 percent of the world's oldest people are women, according to a study at Stanford University.

The oldest person alive today is Jeralean Talley. She's 116 and lives in the Detroit area, according to Yahoo. The oldest woman ever documented was Jeanne Louise Calment from France who died at the age of 122 in 1997.

But why do women usually outlive men? The journal Cell Stem Cell explores several different possibilities.

Hormones have always been suspected, but in searching for an answer, Stanford University researchers Ben Dulken and Anne Brunet say it time to look at the differences in how men and women age. The answers, they believe, may lead to a new understanding of how the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone, affect lifespan.

Previous research shows that estrogen increases the number of blood stem cells. Whether or not this affects lifespan hasn't been studied, but recent studies show that estrogen supplements increase the lifespan of male mice. Research has also found that human eunuchs live about 14 years longer than males who have not been castrated. Another study, published in Menopause, The Journal of The North American Menopause Society, found that women who have children after the age of 33 live longer than those who had their last child before the age of 30.

Genetics also affect the aging of stem cells. Scientists have found that turning off different genes in mice can make one sex live longer, but not the other, and that in twin studies, males have shorter telomeres compared to females. (Telomeres are the caps at the ends of strands of DNA that keep the DNA from becoming unstable and unraveling. A bit of the telomere is lost when a cell divides, and shortened telomeres are associated with aging.)

"It is likely that sex plays a role in defining both lifespan and healthspan, and the effects of sex may not be identical for these two variables," wrote Dulken and Brunet. "As the search continues for ways to ameliorate the aging process and maintain the regenerative capacity of stem cells, let us not forget one of the most effective aging modifiers: sex."

Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are working to solve a problem of modeling genetic diseases in dishes using stem cells — the age of the cells aren't the same age as the patient with the disease being studied. For instance, if you take skin cells from a 65-year-old victim of ALS, reprogram them into stem cells, and then differentiate the new stem cells into neurons, the neurons will only be a few weeks old. As new cells, their telomeres would be longer, and may not represent the cells in the patient. Sloan Kettering researchers are working on methods to age the new cells, so studies will more accurately reflect the patient's actual cells.

"Such studies could yield more relevant disease phenotypes and define novel classes of therapeutic compounds targeting age-related cell behaviors," the researchers wrote. "The ability to program and reprogram cellular age on demand will present an important step forward on the road to decoding the mystery of aging."

A third possibility focuses on why stem cells, which become the different cells in our bodies, age, but germ cells, those that become sperm cells and eggs, don't. The answer could be that there's a difference in the amount of energy the two types of cells receive. Perhaps the germ cells receive less. It wouldn't be the first time that the amount of nutrients has been linked to longevity: several studies have shown that restricting calories in animals, including mammals, can increase lifespan.

Men aren't doomed, however. A healthy lifestyle, which includes a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise, can help them live longer.

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It's no secret that women live longer than men, and the advantage continues even in the oldest among us: Most super-centenarians - those who live at least 110 years - are usually women. In fact, 95 percent of the world's oldest people are women, according to a study at...
women, men, longevity, super-centenarians
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2015-47-08
Monday, 08 June 2015 02:47 PM
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