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Closing the Longevity Gap

Americans are living longer than ever, according to the latest life expectancy statistics. But American men still aren't living as long as American women. The average life expectancy for men in the US is now roughly 75 years. For women, it's more than 80.

Exactly why men are shorter-lived than women isn't entirely clear. Even in infancy boys run a higher risk of dying than girls, and researchers aren't sure why.

Research, however, does suggest that a leading reason for the "longevity gap" between men and women is that men don't take care of themselves as well as women do. Surveys have found, for example, that women are much more likely to have a regular healthcare provider, and to see him or her within the course of the year, than men are. Men are also more likely to engage in "risky" behaviors - like smoking and drinking heavily - than women.

By taking better care of themselves, experts agree, men can boost their odds of living healthier, longer lives. Here's what the experts with the American Geriatrics Society's (AGS') Foundation for Healthy Aging (FHA) recommend:

  • See your healthcare provider for regular checkups. Even if you feel perfectly healthy, you should see your provider at least once a year for a checkup.

  • Go to the doctor. Call or see your healthcare provider when you're feeling sick.

  • Follow the doctor's orders. Take medications, vitamins and supplements only as your healthcare provider directs.

  • Get your shots. Check with your healthcare provider to make sure you're getting a flu shot, a pneumonia vaccination, a combination tetanus/diphtheria booster shot and a shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine on schedule.

  • Get checked out. Screening, or checking, for early signs of certain health problems can help diagnose them early. The following screening approaches are generally recommended for older men; ask your healthcare provider if they're right for you.

  • Use sunscreen. Aging skin is more susceptible to sun damage, which boosts risks of skin cancer. Use sunscreen year round and, for added protection, wear a wide-brimmed hat

  • Lower osteoporosis risk. Lower your risk of falls and fractures. Be sure to get plenty of bone-healthy calcium and vitamin D daily.

  • Don't smoke. Quit if you do.

  • Eat right. Even later in life, you need to eat healthy foods, though you need fewer calories. The USDA's updated MyPyramid for Older Adults, at, and your healthcare provider can help you choose a healthier diet. You can also get a personal nutrition plan at the USDA website.

  • Stay in shape. Exercise your body. Regular exercise is important for good health, no matter how old you are.

  • Keep your mind sharp. Exercise your brain.

  • Limit alcohol intake. Drink only in moderation.

  • Build relationships. Spend time with others.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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