Researchers have tried to ask a commonly asked question- Why do women live longer than men? Women have some natural physical advantages as to why they live longer than men.
While this gender gap is not fully understood, it is well known that there are more reasons than just the typical riskier behaviors of some men, including smoking and drinking alcohol. It is thought to be, in part, due to estrogen protecting women from heart disease for a longer period in life. In trying to understand why women age slower than men, researchers have looked at the rate of cellular aging. One of the biological differences from birth is that women have longer telomeres.
Scientists have long understood the importance of telomeres in healthy longevity. In her Keynote Address at the upcoming North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting, Dr. Elissa Epel from the University of California in San Francisco will provide a detailed look at those factors that modulate telomere length, with special emphasis on women's reproductive health, hormones, and mental health.
Longer telomeres predict less cardiovascular disease and, in many instances, a longer life for both men and women. "Some experimental studies suggest estrogen exposure increases the activity of telomerase, the enzyme that can protect and elongate telomeres," said Dr. Epel.
She warns, however, that telomeres can be shortened prematurely by stress and chronic or childhood psychological adversity. The findings are present in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society.