Women’s Brains Age Better
Probably every woman we know will say they knew this already. Research from Washington University in St. Louis indicates that women’s brains appear almost four years younger than men’s. We’ve known for decades or more that women live longer than men. According to the most recent CDC data, average lifespan for men in the U.S. is 76.1 years while for women it is 81.1. We can speculate on causes: riskier behavior, alcohol consumption, smoking tobacco, working in riskier jobs such as construction, oilfield and coal mines. Or perhaps it has something to do with our brains.
The human brain runs on sugar, specifically, glucose. The body is adept at converting carbohydrates from white bread to vegetables into simple sugars such as glucose. The brain uses that glucose in a couple of different ways in different regions of the brain. And the pattern of usage changes as we age. For example, children, with rapidly developing brains, use it in a way to support brain growth. Doctors Manu Goyal, Marcus Raichle and Andrei Vlassenko of Washington University performed PET scans on the brains of 205 individuals (a few more women than men in the test group) to determine if there are differences by sex in the metabolism of glucose in the brain. Goyal is the Assistant Professor of Radiology at Washington University, while Vlassenko is the associate professor. Raichle is the Professor of Medicine and of Radiology.
The scans observed blood flow in the various regions of the brain and the uptake of glucose. To evaluate the results of the scans, they developed a computer program to compare results with chronological age. Results mirrored our projected lifespan. Women’s brains were judged to be about 3.8 years younger than their real age, while men’s were 2.4 years older. Link to the research here.
The obvious question is can guys do anything about this? Not clear. But we encourage everyone to take the steps that have scientific support for brain health. Here’s a link to the list of brain-building activities we published at the start of the year in our Grow Your Brain Challenge. (BTW: how are you doing on that? No better time than today to get on track).