Dr Manny's Notes

Female life span decreasing: Some possible reasons for the bizarre trend

New research published Tuesday has revealed a disturbing and baffling trend: Women aged 75 and under are dying at higher rates than they have in previous years, while male life expectancy has either stayed the same or improved.

Even more bizarre is that the trends seem to be happening in nearly half of the nation’s counties – most notably rural areas and in the South and West.

Many physicians do not know why this phenomenon is occurring, especially since women have long outlived men for many years.  The average life expectancy for a baby girl born today is approximately 81 years, while a baby boy’s is 76 years – but that gap is narrowing.

RELATED: Study shows declining life span for some US women

I think this is a very alarming trend, which should be scrutinized and better understood.  As a physician who deals with women’s health, there are several factors I think can be contributing to this decreasing life expectancy.

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1. Obesity: Current obesity rates among women are quite prevalent. We tend to see obesity more and more in younger women who have children, and then they have a difficult time shedding off those pregnancy pounds.

2. Heart Disease: Heart disease continues to be a major problem, as it is still the leading cause of death in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Better and earlier screening should be implemented, which includes identifying risk factors for heart disease and eliminating those risk factors as much as possible.

3. Stress: Many women have to deal with an overwhelming amount of stress.  They often have to balance their lives between work and raising a family, which could potentially create a lot of undue stress that can carry significant risk later in life. We need to give women time to have children and raise them without the added pressure of choosing between their careers and their families.

Also, we clearly need to educate women in regards to lifestyle, risk factors, as well as providing them better access to health care.  This can only improve the chances of women having healthier and longer lives.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.