Saving Lives: Why Gender-Specific Medicine Will Transform Healthcare For Men and Women

            Part 2

            In part 1, I described my own experiences with mainstream medicine and my interest in developing a more personalized way of offering healthcare for men and their families. I learned about the work of Dr. Marianne J. Legato when I read her book, Eve’s Rib: The New Science of Gender-Specific Medicine and How It Can Save Your Life.

Dr. David C. Page’s work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the genetics differences between males and females opened up new avenues for exploration. He said,

“We’ve had a unisex vision of the human genome. Men and women are not equal in our genome and men and women are not equal in the face of disease.”

            In part 2, I will continue to explore the value of a gender-specific approach to men and women and how we can develop better healthcare for all.

XX and XY: On The Genetic Superiority of Women

            While Dr. Page was conducting genetic research with a particular interest in the Y chromosome, Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD, was looking at sex differences that related to the X chromosome. In his book, The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women, Dr. Moalem begins by offering the following basic facts:

  • Women live longer than men.
  • Women have stronger immune systems.
  • Women are less likely to suffer from a developmental disability.
  • Women are more likely to see the world in a wider variety of colors.
  • Women are, overall, better at fighting cancer.
  • Women are simply stronger than men at every stage of life.

Dr. Moalem’s research points to the benefits that accrue to females because they have  two X chromosomes in every cell of their bodies where males have only one. Dr. Moalem’s interest in the benefits of the X chromosome came home to him when he and his wife were in a serious automobile accident.

“So, you know what I was thinking while strapped to a spine board in the back of the ambulance hurtling toward the hospital? I was thinking about how grateful I was that my wife, Emma, was a genetic female with two X chromosomes.”

He goes on to say,

“I knew from my clinical work and research that even if my wife’s injuries were the same as mine, given the odds, she was likely to make a better and faster recovery than I was. Her wounds would heal faster, and she would have less of a chance of subsequent infections because of her superior immune system. All in all, her prognosis was almost assured to be better than mine.”

Melvin Konner, MD, PhD, applies science to human nature and experience, exploring the links between biology and behavior, medicine and society, nature and culture. In his book, Women After All: Sex, Evolution and the End of Male Supremacy, he says,

“Women are not equal to men; they are superior in many ways, and in the most ways that will count in the future. It is not just a matter of culture or upbringing, although both play their roles. It is a matter of biology and of the domains of our thoughts and feelings influenced by biology. It is because of chromosomes, genes, hormones, and nerve circuits. It is not mainly because of what your mother taught you or how experience shaped you. It is mainly because of intrinsic differences in the body and the brain.”

In their book, Gender Gap: The Biology of Male-Female Differences, evolutionary psychologist David P. Barash, PhD. and his wife, Judith Eve Lipton, MD, who is a medical doctor and psychiatrist, offer similar conclusions based on their extensive experience.

“When it comes to human nature, the differences between males and females must be acknowledged as real, important, and downright fascinating. Moreover, when it comes to understanding those differences, there is no better guide than evolution.

The Telomere Effect: Living Younger, Healthier, Longer

            Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2009 alongside two colleagues for the discovery of the molecular nature of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that serve as protective caps, and for discovering telomerase, the enzyme that maintains telomeres.

            Dr. Elisa Epel, PhD, is a leading psychologist who studies stress, aging, and obesity. She is a professor in the  Department of Psychiatry and the University of California San Francisco, and directs UCSF’s Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions (AME) Center.

            In their book, The Telomere Effect: Living Younger, Healthier, Longer, they say,

“We now have a comprehensive understanding of human telomere maintenance, from cell to society, and what it can mean in human lives and communities.”

            In a research study “Sex Differences in Telomeres and Lifespan,” published in the journal, Aging Cell, Emma L B Barrett and David S. Richardson, say,

“Males and females often age at different rates resulting in longevity ‘gender gaps’, where one sex outlives the other. Why the sexes have different lifespans is an age-old question, still fiercely debated today. One cellular process related to lifespan, which is known to differ according to sex, is the rate at which the protective telomere chromosome caps are lost. In humans, men have shorter lifespans and greater telomere shortening. This has led to speculation in the medical literature that sex-specific telomere shortening is one cause of sex-specific mortality.”

            In a 2022 research paper by Ericka Méndez-Chacón, “Gender Differences in Perceived Stress and Its Relationship to Telomere Length in Costa Rican Adults,” she says,

“Telomere length differs by sex, with women having longer telomeres on average. It is believed that estrogen has antioxidant properties that can protect the telomeres and that testosterone lacks these properties.”

            The good news, as Drs. Blackburn and Epel point out, is that we can actually change the length of our telomeres.

“You can make simple changes to keep your chromosomes and cells healthy. You can use telomere science to support your cells. Begin with changes that you can make to your mental habits and then to your body—to the kinds of exercise, food, and sleep routines that are best for your telomeres.”

            In Part 3, I will explore the evolutionary basis of our differences and describe our Moonshot for Mankind mission to improve the lives of men and the families who love them. If you’d like to continue to receive articles that can help you live a more fully healthy and joyful life, please consider subscribing to our weekly newsletter. It’s free and full of information you can use to improve the health and wellbeing of yourself and your family.

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