Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Declining Life Expectancy

A CBS News article online reports that overall, the life expectancy of Americans continues to edge upwards, according to studies. However, reports in the news this morning said part of the population has had a downturn in life expectancy, and this is

. . . a worrisome turn: Half of Americans in the 55-to-64 age group — including the oldest of the baby boomers — have high blood pressure, and two in five are obese. That means they are in worse shape in some respects than Americans born a decade earlier were when they were that age.

That means trouble, health-wise, for a very large segment of the population—the Baby Boomers. The studies show that health has been declining in both men and women for about the last twenty years in some areas, especially the South, where widespread poverty exists.

An AFP news article reports that women in 1,000 of the 2,000 counties studied nationwide have “chronic diseases related to smoking, overweight and obesity, and high blood pressure." In other words, the decline in health is mainly due to lifestyle choices.

What does this mean for me, as a member of the Baby Boomers? It means for many years, I didn’t pay much attention to my eating and couch potato habits. I have never smoked, thanks only to the fact that my father asked me not to when he and my mother took me down to the University of Texas as a freshman; out of a sense of duty, I remained true to my word on that issue. But last October, my doctor said I had high triglycerides, and therefore was at some risk for a heart attack.

She gave me a prescription for some cholesterol medication. But after reading the side effects, I decided to try other things first. I completely changed my eating habits. Following advice in a number of health information web sites, I started eating more fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts; more fish and poultry and very little beef; and sweets only once a week. I started riding my exercise bike, walking more, and lifting (not very heavy) weights.

The result is that I have lost sixteen pounds, and my triglycerides number has dropped by more than half. I feel much better, to say the least. Maybe my life expectancy has risen a little.

*The picture comes from the AFP web site linked here.

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