Women have a longevity advantage over men. As of the last decade, the average life expectancy for a male was 73.4 years and 80.1 years for women. A woman, on average, can expect to live almost 7 years longer than a male. This longevity advantage exists not just in the U.S.A. but in societies around the world. Experts have a number of theories as to why women outlive men. Some have proposed the female hormone estrogen gives women health advantages. Others point out that women are more likely to take care of themselves from a health standpoint, get preventative care and not engage in high-risk behaviors. Still, women seem to enjoy a biological longevity advantage enjoy independent of lifestyle habits. One of the most interesting ideas, supported by some studies, is women have an immune system that ages more slowly relative to a male’s.
Gender, Aging and the Immune System
We depend on a healthy, robust immune system to protect our bodies from viruses, bacteria and other parasites that cause disease. Just as importantly, a strong immune system is faced with the job of destroying cancer cells that can lead to life-threatening tumors. A healthy immune system knows how to distinguish “self” from “non-self.” The ability to make this distinction is vital for preventing a myriad of autoimmune diseases and inflammation that can destroy healthy tissue. When you think about it, a healthy immune system is important for keeping most types of disease in check.
Do women have an immune system advantage that gives them greater longevity? In a study published in Immunity and Aging in 2013, researchers looked at the blood of healthy Japanese men and women between the ages of 20 and 90. As expected, they found the number of white blood cells, including neutrophils and lymphocytes, cells that fight infection, declined with age. Certain types of infection-fighting lymphocytes went down with age in both sexes, but the decrease was less pronounced in women.
Other types of lymphocytes, including CD4 and natural killer cells increased with age, with women experiencing a greater increase than men. Immune cells produce a number of chemical messengers called cytokines that regulate the immune response by sending chemical messengers to other cells. In this study, men experienced a steeper drop in cytokines.
Taken as a whole, these results suggest that women may have the benefit of an immune system that ages more slowly. The process of immune system aging is called immunosenescence. Since we know the immune system is important for preventing a number of age-related health issues, including cancer, this advantage could partially explain why women live longer.
Thymus Gland, T Cells and Aging
The component of the immune system most impacted by aging is T-cells. The reason T-cells age more quickly has to do with the loss of thymus gland activity with age. The thymus gland has an important role in immune health. It produces proteins called thymic proteins that help T-cells mature and become fully functional infection and cancer fighters. The thymus gland becomes smaller in size and begins to lose its activity after puberty. The resulting reduction in thymic proteins is one reason immune function declines with age. Now thanks to BioPro-Plus™, a bio-identical thymic protein you can replace these proteins and rebuild your immune system. Start feeling better today, click here to get your BioPro-Plus™!
The Bottom Line?
A healthy immune system plays a vital role in protecting against infections and tumor cells. Immune function decreases with aging, but may decline more slowly in women, explaining why more women make it to the ripe, old age of 80 than men. Take care of your immune system and keep it healthy by eating a healthy diet, getting moderate amounts of exercise and enough sleep. Immune supplements are another option for giving your immune system the support it needs to keep you healthy.
-Alternative Health Concepts
Medical Daily. “Why Do Women Live Longer? Their Immune Systems May Age More Slowly than Men’s” May, 2014.
Hirokawa, Katsuiku ; Utsuyama, Masanori; Hayashi, Yoshio; Kitagawa, Masanobu; Makinodan, Takashi; Fulop, Tamas. “Slower immune system aging in women versus men in the Japanese population.” Immunity & Ageing. 2013.