How Your Gender and Body Weight Affect How Long You’ll Live

How are size and gender affecting our longevity? Our body size can affect more than how we feel about ourselves. It might even govern how long we’ll live. Height, weight and gender can each impact lifespan in different ways. 

A 20-year study has shown women who are short and overweight and men who exercise for less than a half hour each day are less likely to live into their 90s. In a strange twist, they found weight had less of an impact on the men’s longevity and activity levels were less impactful on the women. The cause of the differences is still unknown, but heart disease appears to be the common factor between them. Check out the details on how body weight and gender could affect our longevity...

A 20-Year Study

A study conducted in the Netherlands revealed new connections between height, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, gender and longevity. Researchers had 5,479 men and women between 68 and 70 years old fill out questionnaires, then followed up on their health about 20 years later. They looked at common factors between the participants who’d lived to age 90, and they found some interesting differences between the women and the men.

Impacts on Women

The study showed height and body weight have profound effects on women’s longevity. Researchers compared the lifespans of women who were five-foot-nine or taller to those who were five-foot-three or shorter. The taller women were over 30% more likely to live into their 90s. Women with consistently lower BMIs also tended to live longer than those who were overweight. Height and weight had far fewer effects on men.

Impacts on Men

Activity levels had the greatest effects on men’s longevity. Researchers compared the lifespans of men who were active for at least 90 minutes each day to those who were active 30 minutes or less. The men who exercised only 30 minutes per day were nearly 40% more likely to live into their 90s, with an added 5% increase for every additional 30 minutes of daily activity. In contrast, women saw about half as much benefit from an hour of daily activity, and they didn’t see any advantages from additional exercise beyond that hour.

Implications for Both

BMI and activity levels can both impact cardiovascular health, with effects on blood pressure being a major factor. It’s likely that women’s height-to-weight ratios and men’s activity levels both play vital roles in this one key influence. Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S. It appears that, due to whatever physiological differences exist between us, obesity affects women more, while sedentary living takes a greater toll on men.

The differences might be puzzling, but the conclusions are the same. Good cardiovascular health is essential to a long and happy life, and that begins with our lifestyle choices. Science is giving us the tools we need to make the most of our potential lifespans, but it’s up to us to put those tools to their best possible use.

~ Here’s to Your Health and Wellness

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10/20/2020 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
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I am 5'3" and 130 lbs. i am 85, strong, healthy, med free, and pain free. All my female ancestors were short, chubby but not obese, and all lived to be 96 or older. It is difficult for me to believe that being short is a sign of a shorter life span.
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