Skip to main content
Back to The Full Scoop

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 11, 2024

Are men more likely to develop a chronic disease?

When it comes to chronic diseases, is there a higher probability of developing a condition based on whether you’re a man or woman? Does gender matter?

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 $4.1 trillion in annual health care costs.

Gender differences in health

Chronic diseases can affect men and women differently, where a variety of biological, behavioral and social factors are at play. Statistics show U.S. men are more likely than women to die from heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, and on average, they die nearly six years earlier than women.

Heart disease

  • The average age at which men experience their first heart attack is about 65, while the average age for women is 72.
  • While cardiovascular conditions are more common in men than women, women are two to three times more likely to die following a heart attack than men.


  • According to the American Cancer Society, men have a 41% — or approximately one in two — chance of developing cancer in their lifetime. For women, the odds are slightly lower at 39%, or a one in three chance.
  • Prostate, lung and colorectal cancers are the most common cancers diagnosed in men. For women, the three most common cancers are breast, lung and colorectal.


  • According to the CDC, more men (41%) than women (32%) have prediabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is more frequently found in men, where men are twice as likely to develop diabetes, with onset at a much lower average BMI.
  • More men develop diabetes before puberty, whereas more women develop diabetes after menopause and in later life.
  • 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.

Common risk factors

While there are certainly gender differences in how chronic diseases affect men and women, many conditions 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 seven 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 to help you take steps to prevent these conditions or catch them early.

Mom's Meals® can help

We help take the guesswork out of eating right with ready-to-heat-and-eat meals conveniently delivered direct to your home. We offer nine condition-specific menus — including diabetes-friendly, heart-friendly and lower sodium options — that are designed by registered dietitians and crafted by professional chefs in USDA-inspected kitchens.