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Americans Are Living Longer but Sicker Lives

Though our life expectancy is improving, our health expectancy is not. In fact we are living fewer years without serious disease and disability.

July 23, 2012 |
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Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Old Shoe Woman.

Transcript

A disturbing analysis of mortality and morbidity was recently published in the Journal of Gerontology. Are we living longer? Yes. But are those extra healthy years? No, and it’s worse than that—we’re actually living fewer healthy years than we used to.
A 20 year old woman in 1998 could expect to live about 60 more years; whereas a 20 year old in 2006 could look forward to 61 more years, so we gained a year. Great—and same with men.
That 20 year old in the 90s, though, would only live about 10 or 11 of those years with a serious disease, whereas closer to now it’s more like 12 or 13. So we live a year longer, but we come down with a serious disease like a stroke, cancer, or diabetes 2 years earlier. So it's like one step forward, 2 steps back.
They also measured one’s ability to function. In the study you were considered disabled if you “couldn’t walk a quarter mile, couldn’t walk up 10 steps, couldn’t stand or sit for two hours without having to lie down, or couldn’t stand, bend, or kneel without using special equipment.” Using those criteria, we live one year longer, but in less than just one decade we now have more years with serious disease, and more years unable to function. So we’re living longer in sickness, not in health; a longer lifespan, but shorter healthspan.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

For more on diet and life expectancy see Research Into Reversing Aging and Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies plus 30 other videos. Disabling diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes can be prevented, treated, and even reversed with a healthy plant-based diet. Check out my videos on chronic disease and a thousand other topics. Tomorrow I'll illustrate how one might be able to mimic the life-extending Benefits of Caloric Restriction Without the Actual Restricting.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For more on diet and life expectancy see Research Into Reversing Aging and Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies plus 30 other videos. Disabling diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes can be prevented, treated, and even reversed with a healthy plant-based diet. Check out my videos on chronic disease and a thousand other topics. Tomorrow I’ll illustrate how one might be able to mimic the life-extending Benefits of Caloric Restriction Without the Actual Restricting.

    • SJ M.D.

      Health-span – I like that word……

  • Cyndy

    Can I just say, THANK YOU!!!!!?
    In my corner of the world, being a low fat vegan can be a lonely place…especially as I began just 2 years ago (now am 65 yo).  Today’s info speaks to the exact reason I started this way of eating; with the hope of avoiding my mother’s horrendous last 8 years of life experience. 

    Your daily information undergirds my resolve and enthusiasm!
    So…THANK YOU!!!!

    • Ellen

       Cyndy, my husband and I feel the same way about this daily dose of information! I am 68 and husband is 71. We have been “attempting” to be vegan all the way for many years and have occasional lapses but this daily booster always brings us back on track. Wish we had Dr. Greger years ago. Been Macdougall devotees for many years too plus all his cohorts!

    • Lucy

      I’m new to being low fat raw vegan.  I’m sure you already know about durianriders videos on youtube. That’s very cool you started at 63.  I’m 44 and have just started.  I’m trying to reverse 30 years of drugs, alcohol and bad food.  Let’s hope I can undo the damage! 

    • EJCNY

      HI CINDY,WHEN YOU SAY YOURE A LOW FAT VEGAN  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN… I THOUGHT FATS THAT VEGANS EAT ARE GOOD FATS…

  • Demonva1972

    This is music to the big drug companies ears.  Now they will be able to prescribe their toxic drugs longer.  Trying to convince more people that nutrition is the way to go!

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    I might be disabled?  According to this study I might be.  I have a hard time sitting for 2 hours! 
    So even though I rode over 50 miles this weekend Mountain Biking and went to the Gym twice, and swam with the kids multiple times, I guess it’s off to the Social Security Department today to file for disability ;-}

    Can I get one of those cool Handicap License plates too.  It sure is nice to park close.

    • Bouldercreeker

      It’s fine if you want to toot your horn about all of the fitness enhancing activities you enjoyed over the weekend. But please don’t do it at the expense of people with disabilities. I am post-polio, need the DP plates, and am grateful when I can park close. My placard isn’t ‘cool,’ it’s just a necessity. BTW, not all people who get SSDI have disabilities as a result of poor diets and lack of exercise. And all people with disabilities do not get SSDI. I have worked 2 professional jobs for the past 20 years. 

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        Sorry if I offended you.  That was not my intention.  I just thought it was interesting that they consider a person disabled for this study if they cannot sit for 2 hours!  I really cannot sit for two hours because I have two hips that sublux and it causes muscle spasms in my back, so I have to get up and walk around every hour or so.  It so happens that my hip subluxed after lifting a 350 pound patient up in bed with proper lifting technique with another nurse.

        Even though this happend I don’t consider myself disabled.

        • SJ M.D.

          Dr D,
          Didn`t you tell the fat patient to go vegan !?
          It`s America – didn`t you sue the patient for 5.000.000.000.000.000.000 dollars !?

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            Dr. SJ,
            That was back when I did Echocardiography.  I should have sued the hospital for exploiting me like that.
            Instead of suing though, I decided to try and become the doctor I never found.  One who listens and teaches patients how to get better.

          • SJ M.D.

            OK – Wise decision. Patients contain a lot of wisdom, therefore always listen to the patient, and freqent - in their story – they present the solution.

        • dar

          Osteopathy will fix what ails Thee, Dr HD
          Rolfing works great,as well, in re-aligning trauma/sports/vocation abused bodies
          cheers

  • Cyndy

    Lucy…good for you!!  I KNOW you will benefit in a big way from eating this way.  I don’t do all raw, but really do like it, so that’s what much of it is for me.  Although I will admit to being seriously hooked on short grain brown rice! :)   I wish you monumental success!

  • Jaron

    Your second source (Freeman KS) is a dead link. Looks like they moved the location.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Thank you–all fixed!