As a specialist in gender-specific medicine, Dr. Marianne Legato believes that looking at health issues through a gender-specific lens offers unique insights and new methods of research. She talks with Dr. Oz about what she learned while writing her new book, Why Men Die First.
Males are at a disadvantage from the very beginning, Dr. Legato says. "They have a harder time getting out of the womb and are about six weeks behind their sisters in terms of physical readiness," she says. Males are biologically more vulnerable than women, and this vulnerability persists in many areas throughout life, causing men to die first at all ages.
With the onset of puberty, the differences between male and female longevity begin to become clear. Males are dealing with a sudden increase in testosterone levels, which are at odds with their judgment center, Dr. Legato says. "They begin to take incredible risks," she says. "They're persuaded that they're invincible, so they want to show bravery and volunteer for impossibly dangerous tasks." Adolescent females, on the other hand, have more developed judgment centers, so they consider risks before determining a course of action.
Ultimately, male lifespan may be tied to evolutionary issues, Dr. Legato says, pointing out that men were created to be disposable once the children in a family were raised. "They were given the hardest and most risky jobs on the planet," she says."And to do them, they had to ignore danger, feel invulnerable and have a diminished sense of pain when wounded." To some extent, those qualities persist today, so men are still encouraged to do things that make their lifespans shorter than they need to be, she says.
Published on July 08, 2008