Overall, life expectancy among Americans has risen by more than six years for women, and seven years for men, in the years from 1961 to 1999. But hidden in those statistics is a surprising fact: life expectancy for many women has actually declined. A joint study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington shows that beginning in the 1980s, nearly one in five women has had a decline in life expectancy.
The researchers believe the decline can be attributed to the problems of poverty, combined with unhealthy lifestyles, inadequate preventive care and the ever-rising cost of even mediocre health care. The study examined 2,000 county units. Approximately half those units were poor rural areas, and the falling life expectancy was blamed on chronic disease related to smoking, overweight and obesity, and high blood pressure. The areas most affected were the Appalachians, southern parts of the Midwest, and areas of Texas.
The study‘s co-author Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, says:
The fact that this is happening to a large number of Americans should be a sign that the US health system needs serious rethinking.
The lead author of the study, Majid Ezzati, added that there is now concrete evidence that large parts of the American population has been suffering a decline in health over the past two decades. There are financial reasons for the discrepancy, according to an article written by Dr. Joseph Mercola:
According to the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) — which tracks health care spending — the U.S. national health expenditure (NHE) grew 6.7 percent in 2006 to $2.1 trillion ($7,026 per person), and accounted for a whopping 16 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Private spending, i.e. people paying out of pocket, accounted for 54 percent of the total NHE, or $1.1 trillion. Prescription drug spending increased by 5.8 percent that same year.
If we look back, based on SMS’ historical data, the national health expenditure in 1980 was $253.4 billion, or $1,100 per person, accounting for 9.1 percent of the GDP at the time.
And, looking at the historical picture in its entirety, U.S. health care costs have leapfrogged: DOUBLING about every seven years ever since 1960.
These are profoundly discouraging statistics. They show that even as the country is spending more on health care, the life expectancy of a substantial number of people is going down. So what can you do, as an individual?
Take charge of your own health. Many of the diseases that are shortening lives are preventable and treatable through simple, low-cost lifestyle changes, like the following:
Eat a healthy diet of whole, natural foods. Pay careful attention to keeping your blood sugar and A1C levels low.
Drink lots of clean water.
Manage your stress through relaxation, physical activity and meditation.
Exercise daily for at least half an hour.
Expose yourself to natural sunlight at least 15 minutes a day.
Limit your exposure to toxins.
Consume healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil and olive oil.
Eat plenty of raw food; ideally half your daiy intake.
Optimize insulin and leptin levels.
Get plenty of sleep.
Maintain a healthy weight.