Stony Brook University is intending to create a master’s degree program in “masculinity’s studies?” This article in the August 9, 2015 edition of The New York Times got my attention. Dr. Michael Kimmel asked his students to describe what it means “to be a good man?” He then asked them to describe what it means “to be a real man?” Initially, students suggested: caring; putting others’ needs before yours; honest. Then they responded to the second question: take charge; be authoritative; take risks; suppressing any kind of weakness; talk like a man; walk like a man; never cry. The title of masculinity’s studies, according to the sociologist founder of the program, means there’s more than one way to be a man.
Perhaps one way and only one way of talking about being a man is by describing the differences between men and women’s health during the aging process. These differences begin to delineate masculinity. We know that genetics comprise about 25%- 35% in aging. The smart man Hippocrates about 2400 years ago “if we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” He also said “walking is a man’s best medicine.” He knew that decision making had a lot to do with successful aging.
Comparing differences between men and women on a number of health-related items highlight, illuminate and begin provide insight into masculinity or what it’s like to be a real or good man. For instance, in 2005 the following were the top 10 preventable risk factors in US deaths. In 3 of the 10, more women died than men, and they included: 1. High blood pressure. 2. Physical inactivity. 3. High salt intake. However, in a next 7 categories, more men died than women, and they were: 1. Smoking 2. Excess Weight 3. High Blood Sugar 4. High LDL Cholesterol 5. Low intake of Omega-3 Fats 6. High Dietary Trans Fats and 7. Low Intake of Fruits and Vegetables. Briefly, although women were less active, their decision-making-diets seemed much healthier than men. Men also make significantly more poor and dangerous health decisions-relating to smoking and diet. It’s not a surprise that women have longer life spans and have higher intelligence levels than men.
As far as the top 10 leading causes of death for women and men in the United States, there are some similarities within the top 10 as well as differences. For instance, heart disease, cancer and stroke are the top three leading causes for both men and women. The following are also top causes of death, but not necessarily the same order for men and women: accidents; diabetes mellitus; influenza and pneumonia, COPD/Emphysema; and kidney diseases.
The two remaining top 10 causes of death for men, but not for women are suicide and liver disease and cirrhosis. Further, statistics on suicide demonstrate that men are much more violent when it comes to killing themselves-gunshots, jumping off bridges, and crashing high-speed vehicles. Even though excessive alcohol consumption, drink for drink produces more serious heart damage in women than in men, more men die. Once again, men make poorer and deadly behavioral choices compared to female gender. Did Bruce Jenner know something, and did he make the gender choice in time?
Although, men, on average, experience their first heart attack earlier  than women , more women are more likely to die of a heart attack than men. Hypertension, one of the culprits, poses a greater problem for women, along with nontraditional stroke symptoms. Further, the Incidence of stroke has increased sharply among women aged 45 to 54. And by age 55 to 64 women had significantly higher levels of blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides levels than men. Perhaps, genetics, might play a more significant role per differences-women smoke, less drink less alcohol and eat more balanced nutritiously.
Of the top 10 cancers in the United States, the following seven are shared by both men and women: 1. Lung 2. Colorectal 3. Urinary- bladder or endometrial 4. Skin melanoma 5. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 6. Kidney and 7. Pancreatic. Prostate, leukemia and oral round out the list for men. Further, it is estimated that nearly 1/3 of women, and nearly ½ of men will be diagnosed with cancer sometime in the lifetime. Generally speaking, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can markedly reduce the risk of developing and dying from the 10 most common cancers. Once again, men likely make more poor choices in developing cancer.
Men have better bone health than women. Cognitively speaking men are affected slightly more often than women as far as Parkinson’s, which is the most common of the neural degenerative disorders. However, Alzheimer’s occurs more often in women than men. Once again, bone health and Alzheimer’s might be more genetically based.
As far as aging and causes of death, it appears that men and women are more likely to die as a result of our genetic similarities. However, if you are to age successfully, the women are the winners and men, the losers. As Hippocrates said, a long time ago, the right amount of proper nourishment is extremely important. Men have largely taken his advice in getting the right amount of exercise and walking. But obviously, the other half of his equation does not overcome male behaviors and choices such as the deficits of nourishment. Obviously, Smoking drinking alcohol cannot be considered nourishment. And committing suicide is not nourishing one’s soul. So in spite of exercise and activity, men’s behavior limit his lifespan as well as health span. More to follow regarding the nature and nurture of man.