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On average, women in the U.S. are expected to live four years longer than men. According to a report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, that gap may be shrinking as men’s life spans are increasing each year more than women’s life spans are. In over 650 counties across the U.S., women’s life expectancy has not improved since 1999 and in some cases it has worsened especially in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia.

Nationally, men’s life expectancy increased by 4.6 years and women’s by only 2.7 years from 1989 to 2009. The article attributes the differences mainly to tobacco, obesity and alcohol – all preventable causes of death. More women are not addressing high blood pressure and cholesterol health issues while men’s symptoms are actively treated by a physician more often than women’s symptoms.

In 1989 there was a 8.7-year gap between the life expectancies of women and men. Now there is a 12-year gap. The article suggests improvements can be made through healthy lifestyle choices, education and improved health care.

Read the full USA Today article.