Men used to have shorter life spans than women, according to statistics that seemed unchanging for many decades. But lately the gap started to close, and at least part of the male population is now making headways in terms of healthy aging and longevity.
Causes for higher mortality rates among men were traditionally seen in health problems like heart disease, pulmonary disease, liver disease, and greater accident proneness, all mostly related to diet and lifestyle habits.
Many of these outcomes are related to behaviours that are encouraged or accepted more in men than in women, according to government research, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, eating highly caloric foods, and also engaging in risky activities like gun use, extreme sports, and working in hazardous jobs.
Smoking in particular is still seen as a leading contributor to early deaths. On the other hand, reduction in tobacco use is being credited as one of the most important factors in the improvement of public health and life expectancy, especially among middle-aged and older former smokers.
However, the benefits of positive lifestyle changes are not equally distributed. Almost only educated and well-off males are seeing their odds turning in their favor. High earners in non-hazardous occupations who live in safe and clean environments, can afford to eat well and have easy access to health care can expect to live significantly longer than their less fortunate counterparts, recent surveys report.
Surprisingly, it is older women -- even if they live reasonably long lives -- who nowadays suffer from more diseases and disabilities than other demographics. One reason may be that aging females, especially if they live alone, have on average fewer economic resources available to them. Therefore they may not be as able to accommodate their declines in functioning when they occur, says Dr. Vicki Freedman, a researcher at the Population Studies Center of the University of Michigan and lead author of a new study on age-related health issues.
Unfortunately, debilitating illnesses tend to build on each other, she says. That, of course, applies to both sexes. It becomes harder to perform daily routines like dressing, bathing, cooking, shopping, driving, etc, which all worsen outcomes in many ways.
The fact is that we cannot simply judge the health status of older generations in terms of added years of life expectancy, but that we should look more closely at the quality of their day-to-day lives.
While expanding lifetimes can certainly be seen as part of healthy aging, how this extra time can be filled and enjoyed may be the more compelling issue.
For aging Baby Boomers, this may become the greatest challenge they have to face yet, namely how to make their unprecedented longevity sustainable, both for themselves and for society at large.
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Found in cocoa beans and abundant in servings of dark chocolate, a recent study suggests they could even reverse age-related memory decline.
This illustrious nutrient is well known for the bouquet of benefits it presents and cognitive health is no exception. It's found in salmon, bluefish, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, sturgeon, lake trout, tuna, flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, soybean oil and chia seeds.
Two pilot studies have given these nutrients high marks for senior brain health. The first is found most abundantly in soy lecithin, and also in mackerel, herring, eel and tuna and it's available in supplement format. Popular with body builders, phosphatidic acid is available in supplement form, usually derived from soy.
Adding walnuts to your diet regularly could slow the progression of Alzheimer's, a mouse study suggests.
Foods are not a good source of citicoline, according to WebMD, but many people take a supplement of this compound --which is very similar to choline -- and well-documented for its neurological health benefits.
Good sources include meat, specifically liver, beans, cruciferous vegetables and eggs. It's essential for liver health and for women and it's close in structure to the B vitamins. It aids in the development of brain tissue, according to Ohr.
Recommended for those who suffer concussions, it's found in avocado, soybeans, bananas and dark chocolate and is available in supplemental forms.
Well known as an anti-inflammatory agent, studies have shown that even moderate consumption could increase neural signaling in the brain.
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