Find out why old age affects women more than men.

Why women face more health issues than men as they age?

Even though females of various species tend to outlive their male counterparts, numerous studies have confirmed that older women are less healthy than similarly aged men. Lifestyle choices aside, there are some evolution-based theories that tip the health scale in favour of men. 

Our genes could be the culprit

One reason put forth is the ‘male-female health survival paradox’, which is based on the notion of intra-locus sexual conflict. Simply put, there are genes in our body that not only selectively benefit one sex, but can actually harm the other.

The human body has a series of shared genes; that is, genes common to both sexes. However, biological selection constantly tries to push an individual towards the male or the female sex, leading to their overall gender identity. The presence of the shared genes, therefore, ends up being a deterrent for the dominant male or female sex genes from reaching its optimum stage.

This tug-of-war continues till women reach menopause. By this time women can no longer reproduce and pass on their genes, so the selection process gets compromised. Part of the shared genes that may positively affect male health (while negatively affecting female health as those genes are constantly trying to prevent the other sex genes from triumphing), lead to better late-life fitness in men and start to pose greater health issues in women.

Why women are more prone to certain diseases 

The absence of diseases is another way to judge the overall level of health and quality of life. While men are at a higher risk of certain lifestyle diseases, such as heart diseases and cancer, women are more prone to specific illnesses that can worsen in old age.

Osteoporosis, a condition where the body is unable to produce new bone material to replace what is depleted, is common among the elderly. However, it affects far more women than men. It is estimated that one in three women can suffer fractures resulting from osteoporosis. 

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, accounting for 30% of all cancers. In fact, the two most significant reasons that put women at a higher risk of breast cancer are their gender and advancing age. So, other factors remaining constant, elderly women are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer.

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, affects more women than men. Logically, this can be attributed to the fact that women tend to outlive men, but there are biological correlations with brain changes in women – and how genes react to certain lifestyle components like stress and depression – that may put women at a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. 

Though women may have fewer evolutionary advantages than men, adopting preventive habits that positively affect their overall physical and mental health can go a long way in giving them a better chance at a healthy life as they grow older. Needless to say, getting screened at regular intervals for certain diseases that run in the family and constantly monitoring changes in their health can help immensely.

Another important step for women is to have health insurance, so let's look at this simple guide on how to choose the health insurance policy that is customised to their needs.