News Column

Health Q&A: Study: Women's Lifespan on the Decline

March 13, 2013

Naomi Creason

A study released in early March by the journal Health Affairs reported life expectancy for some U.S. women is on the decline, though an exact reason for that change is unknown.

The study said women age 75 and younger in nearly half of the country (many rural areas and in the South and West) are dying at higher rates than in previous years. The study indicates a pattern in disadvantaged young women and theories blame smoking rates, obesity and lower education levels, but there is no known smoking gun, the Associated Press said.

Boiling Springs Family Medicine physician Dr. Chad Jumper talked about why women are thought of to have higher life expectancies and what are the main causes of death for women.

Q: Is there a medical explanation as to why women have a longer life expectancy than men?

A: "An exact medical explanation of why women live longer is not known. Genetic factors, behavioral variations between the sexes, and later onset of certain diseases in women, such as heart disease, may all be at play here."

Q: What has contributed to helping women live longer of the last few decades?

A: "Improved disease prevention, diagnosis and management have all helped to prolong the life expectancy of women over the past few decades. Behavioral factors such as decreased smoking rates have also helped."

Q: What are the main causes of death for women?

A: "The main causes of death in women remain heart disease, cancer and stroke."

Q: What health challenges are there for women who live in rural areas?

A: "Women who live in rural areas may have less access to health care, be more likely to practice behaviors such as smoking, and be less likely to graduate from high school. All of these play a role in determining health and life expectancies."

Q: What can women do to try to live longer?

A: "Women can help increase their life expectancy by eating well, exercising and avoiding harmful behaviors, such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse. At the appropriate age, seeking regular medical care and following recommendations for screening tests is also very beneficial."

Dr. Chad Jumper is a family practice physician at Boiling Springs Family Medicine and is board certified in family medicine. He attended Penn State and completed his residency at Reading Hospital and Medical Center. He is a member of the American Medical Association and the American Association of Family Practice.

This information is intended for educational purposes. Please consult your health care provider for advice about treatments that may affect your individual health.

Source: (c)2013 The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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