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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,985
August 29, 2019
Life Expectancy Falls - But You Can Live Longer
By Mike McManus

For the second time in three years, the average American life expectancy has fallen from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.6 years in 2017. By comparison, Europeans live to 81 - a big difference!.

There are two major causes of higher death rates, both of which are highly avoidable: "Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdoses and suicide," said Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Center for Disease Control.

In just one year, from 2016 to 2017, drug overdoses such as fentanyl and tramadol soared 45%. There were 70,237 deaths from drug overdoses - a number nearly equal to the entire population of Bismarck, North Dakota. In 2016, a fifth of all deaths among Americans aged 24 to 35 were due to opioids.

In both males and females, suicide rates for those aged 10-14, 15-24, 25-44, 45-64 and 65-74 were significantly higher in 2017 than in 1999.

What's particularly striking is that suicide has jumped 53% higher in 2017 than in 1999 in rural areas. The ten states with the highest probability of premature death among those aged 20-55 were West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina.

Why? Those living in rural areas are more likely to have guns, which, of course, are far more lethal for those attempting suicide than people without guns in urban states. The states with the lowest probability of premature death by suicide were such urban states as California, New York and New Jersey.

Though not an immediate cause of death, major depression increased by more than 27% across the country between 1990 and 2016 and anxiety rose by 31%. To confront these "diseases of despair" too many Americans are self-medicating their misery with alcohol and drugs.

However, it is also clear that part of the problem is the sugary diets of many Americans, which has led many to be overweight, obese or even diabetic. A poor diet was a leading cause of death, followed by tobacco use and high blood pressure.

That's enough bad news!

How about seven strategies you might consider to live longer?

  1. Keep Moving. A brisk 30-minute walk three times per week can "basically reverse your physiological age by about ten years!" say the experts. Such exercise also leads to a 12% increase in aerobic power and a 10% increase in strength.
  2. Reduce Calorie Intake. Eating less can help you live longer, at least for women! This is a strategy that can add five years to your life.
  3. Work Longer. Working hard into your later years will help you extend your lifespan. Early retirement may actually raise your risk of dying prematurely. An Oregon State study suggests that working past the age of 65 could mean a longer life.
  4. Partner Up. Men's Journal reports that research proves that married men in particular, "are both mentally and physically healthier than single men and as a result tend to outlive them." A Harvard study reports that married men were far more likely to detect deadly cancers in earlier (more treatable) stages than unwed counterparts. Married men are 46% less likely to die from heart disease than single guys.
  5. Have Children Later. Forbes magazine reports that research from the New England Centenarian Study shows that women who wait till age 33 to have children have "a greater chance of living longer than women who had their last child before the age of 30." In fact women who had their last child after age 33 doubled their chance of making to age 95 compared to women who had children before hitting 30.
  6. Remain Connected. TIME magazine reports, "A healthy social life may be as good for your long-term health as avoiding cigarettes." The article says it is not yet fully understood why being social has a positive impact on lifespan. Aside from having people that care about you who keep tabs on your well-being, "lab studies have shown that in a stressful situation, blood pressure and heart rate will increase less when people are accompanied by a person who is close to them."
  7. Smile More Often. Researchers at Wayne State University looked at the "intensity" of smiles from 230 baseball card photos (who began their careers before the 1950s.) Apparently, those who smiled the biggest in their photos averaged a lifespan of 79.9 years compared to 75 years for players who a partial smile and 72.9 years for players that don't smile at all.

I will try these strategies to live longer!


Copyright (c) 2019 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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