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Health and Fitness News

Men, Read This!

Why are men more likely to suffer severe COVID-19 symptoms?

The longer the SARS-CoV-2 virus is around, the more scientists are learning about how it infects the body, who’s at highest risk, and how it’s best treated. While much is still unknown, it is understood that some people are at a greater risk for developing severe symptoms of the virus. You’ve probably heard that older age, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, kidney disease, and lung conditions all make it harder for your body to fight off COVID-19. But did you know that men are more likely to suffer a more serious infection and die from the virus compared to women?

While men and women are equally likely to be infected by the new coronavirus, men are more susceptible to severe COVID-19 complications. A study out of China found more than 70 percent of fatal COVID-19 cases to be men. In fact, in New York City, twice as many men have died from COVID-19 than women, and the World Health Organization stated that in Europe, 63 percent of deaths have been male.

Why is this the case? Two main reasons: biological differences and lifestyle choices.

1. Biological Factors

More research is needed, but several theories have been presented as to why men’s biological makeup puts them at a greater risk for severe COVID-19. For example, men may have more pre-existing medical conditions. Compared to older women, there are more older men who have heart disease, high blood pressure, and liver disease, three major risk factors for a severe infection.

Blood tests also show that men have more angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in their blood compared to women. This enzyme is what allows the new coronavirus to attack and invade healthy cells. The more ACE2 you have, the more healthy cells are infected.

Interestingly, women’s immune systems are stronger. Even into old age, women’s immune systems produce more T cells, which play an important role in fighting off invading viruses. As men age, they produce fewer and fewer T cells. The fewer the T cells, the greater the chance of a deadly infection.

Finally, higher testosterone levels may increase the risk of severe infection. Male hormones trigger the activity of TMPRSS2, a gene that’s used by the virus to enter human cells. Also, male hormones affect the immune system differently than female hormones.

2. Lifestyle Choices

Lifestyle choices also seem to affect your risk of a severe COVID-19 infection, and men are more likely than women to engage in unhealthy habits. These include:

• Smoking. Stronger lungs can better fight off COVID. Since smoking does extensive damage to the lungs, smokers are at higher risk for severe COVID symptoms. And more men use tobacco products than women, and in certain countries, men are much more likely to smoke.

• Carelessness. Women seem to be more concerned about safety measures that protect against infection. Research has found men to be more likely to attend crowded places, shake hands with others, not wear a mask, forget to wash their hands, and disregard social distancing recommendations. It is suspected men act in this way because they want to appear strong, believe they are invincible, resist being told what to do by the government, or don’t trust science.

• Doctor avoidance. For COVID and other health conditions, men are known for putting off going to see a doctor for as long as possible, ignoring or downplaying the severity of their symptoms. This means men may not seek treatment during the earlier stages when less invasive treatments may prevent severe respiratory problems. Instead, they come to the ER at a later stage in their illness, with more complications.

What can you do if you’re a man? Take precautions seriously, stop smoking, and seek medical attention as soon as you experience symptoms that may indicate COVID.