Ever wondered why women typically live longer than men? According to a recent study, while this gender gap is not fully understood, it is well known that there are more reasons than just the typical riskier behaviour of some men, including smoking and drinking alcohol. It is thought to be, in part, due to oestrogen 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 ageing. One of the biological differences from birth is that women have longer telomeres (the endcaps of DNA strands that protect chromosomes from deterioration). Scientists have long understood the importance of telomeres in healthy longevity. More recent studies have focused on those factors that affect telomere length and what can be done to protect them.
Dr Elissa Epel, head researcher of the study, said, “Some experimental studies suggest that oestrogen exposure increases the activity of telomerase, the enzyme that can protect and elongate telomeres. We look forward to what promises to be a fascinating presentation with implications for slowing telomere attrition and age-related conditions”
The study was discussed in the 29th Annual Meeting of The North American Menopause Society.