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Are men more likely to develop a chronic disease?

Does gender matter when it comes to assessing the risk of developing certain chronic diseases?

June 17, 2021

Are men more likely to develop a chronic disease?

Chronic disease is defined as a condition that lasts a year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living or both, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the U.S., heart disease, cancer, and diabetes — all chronic diseases — are the leading causes of death and disability, as well as the leading drivers of the nation’s $3.8 trillion in annual health care costs.

When it comes to chronic diseases, are you more or less likely to develop a condition based on whether you’re a man or woman? Does gender matter? Statistics show U.S. men are 1.5 times more likely than women to die from heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases, and on average, they die five years earlier than women. 

Consider these facts:

Heart Disease

  • The average age at which men experience their first heart attack is about 65, while the average age for women is 72.
  • Not as many men die from heart disease each year as women. According to the American Heart Association, 26% of women will die within a year of a heart attack compared with 19% of men.



  • According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more men (37%) than women (29%) have prediabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is more frequently found in men, especially at 35-54, where men are twice as likely to develop diabetes, with onset at a much lower average BMI.
  • If not correctly managed, diabetes can lead to serious health complications. Women have a much greater chance of heart disease, kidney disease, and depression. Overall, this makes having diabetes far more life-threatening for women than men.

While there are certainly gender differences in how chronic diseases affect men and women, many chronic diseases are caused by specific risk factors. Below are risk factors outlined by the CDC:

  • Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
    Quitting smoking (or never starting) lowers the risk of serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and lung disease, as well as premature death — even if you’ve smoked for a long time.
  • Poor nutrition, including diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats
    Healthy eating helps prevent, delay and manage heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Aim for a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Lack of physical activity
    Regular exercise can help prevent, delay or manage chronic diseases. Aim for moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking or gardening) for at least 150 minutes every week.
  • Excessive alcohol use
    Over time, excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, various cancers, heart disease, stroke, and liver disease. Limit your alcohol intake to reduce these health risks.
  • Not enough sleep
    Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and poor management of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Be sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep each day.
  • Family history
    If you have a family history of chronic disease, you may be at higher risk of developing that disease. Please talk with a doctor about your health history so he/she can help you take steps to prevent these conditions or catch them early.

Mom's Meals® can help

Many chronic conditions can be positively impacted with the right nutrition. Mom’s Meals can help better to manage specific chronic conditions with our home-delivered meals. We offer nine health-condition menus — including diabetes-friendly, cancer support, heart-friendly, and lower sodium. Our registered dietitians are available to discuss any questions about nutrition and/or ingredients, and our customer care team can help you find the right fit for your needs. Learn more.