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Why Men's Lives Are Shorter Than Women's

A new book called "Why Men Die First" explains how men can close the longevity gap.

How Men Can Live Longer continued...

"It's a part of the body and should be examined," Legato says.

She encourages men to perform testicular self-exams in the way women are taught to check their breasts for irregularities. Although men may cringe at getting a prostate check, they are far less uncomfortable than experiencing the pain of cancer treatment.

2. Check testosterone levels: Beginning at age 30, testosterone begins to dip by 1% each year, says Legato. Lowered testosterone levels can lead to a decrease in vitality, muscle mass, ability to perform prolonged exercise, memory, concentration, and libido. Not only does this impair quality of life, it can contribute to depression, which can have a significant effect on male health, potentially increasing the risk of coronary disease. There are several treatments available -- including gels, patches, and injections -- that can help restore this vital hormone to proper levels.

Robert Ruxin, MD, an endocrinologist from Ridgefield, Conn., says normal testosterone loss has little correlative effect on vitality or sexuality. But there are instances when dramatic loss -- more likely between the ages between of 60 and 80 -- can impede quality of life.

"When it drops normally, probably not, but very low, yes," Ruxin says. "A level that drops from 800 to 500 has not been shown to have a clinical effect. Maybe from 800 to 400 can be too low."

Diabetes patients, for example, may have a greater risk of significant testosterone loss. Conversely, pituitary hormones, he says, can balance out the effects of the difference in individuals who are losing testosterone at a typical rate.

"There's a wide variation of normal."

3. Immune systems: The male immune system is not as vigorous as those of females, and men die from seven of the 10 most common infections at a higher rate, Legato says, particularly tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases. Sanitary sexual practices are essential, beginning with use of a condom. Men should check for updated vaccinations with their doctor when traveling to foreign countries. A tetanus shot should be administered every 10 years.

"Immunization is not finished after the second year of life," Legato says.

Proper nutrition and supplementation can also be beneficial. Despite the gender-focused attention it receives, osteoporosis also strikes men.

4.Recognize and treat depression: Male depression may be much more common than has been previously estimated. Symptoms aren't always obvious.

"We glibly state that women are twice as often depressed as men throughout the world," she says. "What they do is turn to behaviors that are semi-socially acceptable: drinking alcohol, TV watching, greater sexual exploits."

Legato is convinced the vulnerability of depression can compromise men's health in other ways, leading to increased instance of disease and greater male mortality from such conditions. It's also a common symptom of "andropause," which is marked by a decrease of testosterone in males that is similar, if less dramatic, than the effect of menopause in females. Indeed, males are also susceptible to the notorious hot flashes that have often marked the change of life for women, albeit years later.

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