Health

Growing Old Together, Separately: Women vs Men

Getting older is terrifying.  I remember hearing, when I was younger, that girls mature faster than boys.  But now that I am older, I wonder how ageing affects us, both women and men.

All of us respond differently to general ageing.  Genetics, lifestyle, nutrition and even our environment affect us in how we age. Now granted, this is all in general. Race and ethnicity also varies between genders in the ageing process.  I wanted to see how each gender ages physically in general.

Life Expectancy

The fact is women generally tend to live longer than men. According to an article by the CDC in 2004, the average life expectancy for women was 80.4 years and for men, it is 75.2 years.  That is almost a five year difference between the two genders. There are many speculations as to why women live longer.  Some theorize that women are more likely to go to the doctor regularly than men.

Hormones

Puberty is vital start of adulthood in a young persons’ life. Girls begin around 10 to 14 while boys start between 12 to 16.  As we get older, there is still a difference in the way men and women age.  Women tend to dramatically respond physically to ageing whereas men tend to respond more gradually.

Hormone Affects in Men

The male sex hormone, testosterone, slowly decreases as men get older.  On average, testosterone levels decline by 1 percent every year.  Typical changes include less sperm count, erections can take longer, and recovery time between erections may increase.  Sexual desire may even decrease due to ageing.  Testosterone levels decrease around the age of 60 and stabilize for most men.  There is testosterone replacement therapy, which is becoming more popular for ageing men.  However, it is controversial and should be used with caution.

Other health conditions can also affect a man trying to achieve an erection.  Prostate cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and medications in general.  Talking with your doctor will help.

It is recommended maintaining a healthy nutrition with exercise can help with maintaining a healthy testosterone level for an ageing man.  Speaking with your doctor about these options is best.

Hormone Affects in Women

Unlike men, the ageing process for women brings on a sudden change.  This change is called menopause, which typically happens around the age of 50. During menopause, estrogen level greatly decrease and can cause physical changes.  These changes during menopause can change the size and thickness of the woman’s reproductive organs which can affect sex in general. The loss of estrogen can affect vaginal elasticity, the flexibility of the body’s blood vessels, stability of bladder functions, and even the general protection of the cardiovascular system.  Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, irregular periods and mood changes.  Muscle mass also decline during menopause.  Metabolism slows causing weight gain while the bones thin and cognitive abilities can decline.

Skin and Hair

As we age, our hair slowly turns gray and our skin begins to lose its elastic quality. Skin can appear saggy and wrinkles many appear.  Each person is affected in a unique and different way largely due to heredity and genes.

As you get older, hair strands become smaller and begin to have less pigment.  Many hairs follicles may even stop reproducing new hair.  Not everyone will experience hair loss.  Typically, men may start showing signs of baldness at the age of 30, but not for everyone.  Testosterone levels are related to baldness called male-pattern baldness.  Baldness can happen around the top of the head or even at the temples.

Women can experience baldness also known as female-pattern baldness.  Generally, women may start to see signs of hair loss as early as their 20s. But for some women, there are other factors that can lead to hair loss.  Check out my earlier article on Hair Loss in Women.

Our skin changes as we grow older.  We no longer have elasticity we once had as a young adult.  Wrinkles and sagging skin may also become our “older normal.”  The outer skin layer called the epidermis thins with age.  Like with most changes due to ageing, skin changes have many related factors.  Environmental factors, genetic makeup, and nutritional factors are just a few examples that can affect skin changes with age.  But sun exposure is skin’s greatest factor.  Elastosis is the change in the connective tissue that reduces the skin’s strength and elasticity.  Those with more noticeable sun-exposed areas have solar elastosis.  This is that leathery feeling skin some people have due to large amounts of outdoor time.  These changes do vary with each race and ethnicity.

Skin changes in men are tied to his testosterone levels.  Whereas women skin changes are due to their estrogen levels.  Our environment, genes, and nutrition can contribute as well.  Both men and women generally lose collagen at about the same rate sometime around in their 30s. Some studies have shown that men are less susceptible to show signs of ageing on their skin.  Testosterone levels help thicken skin in men and generally have more collagen density. But in women going through menopause, the rate of collagen loss speeds up for a few years then slows back down. If you think your skin issues are due to a possible medical condition, speak with your doctor.

Weight: Loss and Gain

Naturally, our body changes shape as we age.  Our lifestyle choices can affect some of these body changes but some cannot be avoided due to genes.   After the age of 30, the amount of body fat generally goes up in both genders.  However, men and women gain weight differently.  Men tend to gain weight until about the age of 55 but can start to lose weight later in life.  Weight gain is also related to testosterone level in men.  But in women, weight gain can occur all the way to the age of 65.  However, women can also lose the weight later in life.  Again, diet and exercise can play a huge role in anyone’s weight changes in their lifetime.

Even though women generally live longer than men, that does not mean that the ageing process is any easier for either gender.  Race and ethnicity vary in the ageing process but environmental, nutritional, and genetics all factor in how each of us age.  We all get old at some point of our lives.  We should look forward to growing wiser and cultivate our strengths as individuals.

 

Special Thanks to CreativeSiba

Photo provided by Wallpaper Awesome

 

 

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