The X Factor: Why Women May Be Healthier Than Men

The Reason Women Live Longer May Lie in Their Second X Chromosome

WebMD—September 28, 2011

“X” may really mark the spot when it comes to why women live about five to 10 years longer than men and are less likely to develop certain diseases.

Specifically, it's the X chromosome and the microRNA -- or tiny strains of ribonucleic acid -- that it contains. Men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, and women have two X’s. Their microRNA tells our genes what to do or not to do.

Are Our Genes Our Destiny?

Women may live longer and be less likely to develop some diseases, but they are at much higher risk for autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Sex Hormones Also Contribute to Gender Differences

Other factors such as sex hormones including estrogen and progesterone and the environment may also play a role.

Michael D. Lockshin, MD, has been talking about the X factor for years. He directs the Barbara Volcker Center for Women and Rheumatic Disease at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

When asked if it all boils down to the X, he says, “Yes I think so.”

That said, environment also affects how long we live and what diseases we develop. “There is much more to look for in the environment," he says.

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