Living Longer … and Paying a Steep Price

Alexa Pugh
Posted

older sickerAmericans’ golden years are longer, but they’ve lost some of their glitter.

According to a new study by JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Americans are living 3 years longer than they were 20 years ago, with an average lifespan of 78.2 years. But they’re also spending 10.1 years living with a disability, up from an average of 9.4 years in the 1990s.

Common ailments range from lower-back pain, muscle, joint and nerve disorders to depression and anxiety, and can cost sufferers a pretty penny in health care costs.

“Despite a level of health expenditures that would have seemed unthinkable a generation ago, the health of the U.S. population has improved only gradually and has fallen behind the pace of progress in many other wealthy nations,” said Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, in an editorial connected with the report.

Causes of Chronic Aliments

Relative to other countries, America has made progress on diseases like stroke, colon and breast cancer and HIV. But deaths related to obesity, diabetes, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s are on the rise.

And the most frequent causes of death haven’t changed—more early deaths are due to heart disease, lung cancer and stroke than any other cause.

According to the study, poor eating habits have outpaced smoking as the leading contributor to chronic ailments and shortened lifespan.

Choosing healthier foods, reducing portion sizes, upping exercise and learning how to better cope with stress—along with stopping smoking—will be key to solving America’s health problems, Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, told The Wall Street Journal.

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