Americans are Living Longer but Sicker Lives

Americans are Living Longer but Sicker Lives
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Though our life expectancy is improving, our health expectancy is not. In fact we are living fewer years without serious disease and disability.

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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 with a serious disease. So we live a year longer, but we come down with a serious disease, like a stroke, cancer, or diabetes, two years earlier. So it’s like one step forward, two 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 not only 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 health span.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Old Shoe Woman / flickr

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 with a serious disease. So we live a year longer, but we come down with a serious disease, like a stroke, cancer, or diabetes, two years earlier. So it’s like one step forward, two 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 not only 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 health span.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Old Shoe Woman / flickr

Doctor's Note

For more on diet and life expectancy, see my videos Research Into Reversing Aging, and Harvard’s Meat and Mortality Studies, plus my other videos on lifespan. 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. Next, I’ll illustrate how one might be able to mimic the life-extending Benefits of Caloric Restriction Without the Actual Restricting.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

24 responses to “Americans are Living Longer but Sicker Lives

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  1. 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.

  2. 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!!!!

    1.  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!

    2. 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! 

      1. Life can be difficult being the minority hey! Show people these videos and stuff from McDougall? Try and watch movies about this stuff with them? It makes you realise how many people lead unconcscious lives or are unconcscious in areas of their lives just doing what their parents/families did or the media/food companies tell them!

        All else fails don’t worry and just keep living a healthy life and watch as you outlive everyone else? Since you’re hopefully eating a diet similar to those in the Blue Zones (longest living groups on the planet) – with their mostly plant based diets? Find some purpose, community, do some exercise, eat plant based and manage your stress and you too will hopefully stave off many diseases and live into your 90’s or 100’s?

        And use the extra time to lead a happier life + do more good in the world for people + the environment/planet? Let your life be a shining example of a live well lived? :)

    3. Life can be difficult being in the minority hey! Show people these videos and stuff from McDougall? Try and watch movies about this stuff with them? It makes you realise how many people lead unconcscious lives or are unconcscious in areas of their lives just doing what their parents/families did or the media/food companies tell them!

      All else fails don’t worry and just keep living a healthy life and watch as you outlive everyone else? Since you’re hopefully eating a diet similar to those in the Blue Zones (longest living groups on the planet) – with their mostly plant based diets? Find some purpose, community, do some exercise, eat plant based and manage your stress and you too will hopefully stave off many diseases and live into your 90’s or 100’s?

      And use the extra time to lead a happier life + do more good in the world for people + the environment/planet? Let your life be a shining example of a live well lived? :)

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

    1. 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. 

      1. 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.

        1. 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 !?

          1. 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.

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

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

  5. 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!

  6. Question: After having consumed the “Western Diet” for 62 years – without any serious problems – what improvement can I expect by switching to a vegan diet?
    After searching for healthier life-style options by the end of last year, I hit this web site and decided to switch to “hard core vegan” nutrition by Jan 1 this year. Total cholesterol has dropped by 20 units, blood pressure as well, weight went just 8 kilos down, but now got stuck – the new stuff just tastes far too good …! – But what would that mean in terms of numbers? Has there been any research on such converts?

    Greetings from Bavaria

    KRH

    PS: Keep up that great work.

    1. Klaus-Rudiger: Congratulations on making that change! You are a member of a small group of people who have changed their diet for the better based on good hard science and the will to do it. That’s impressive. Good for you.

      I am not personally aware of any research that has been specifically done on people over 60 who converted to healthy eating after not eating so well the previous decades. What I can say is that there are a bazillion favorable anecdotes of people reversing various health problems regardless of the age in which they start to eat a whole plant food based diet. And at the same time, it is important to remember that diet is not a magic pill. So, there are no guarantees that you can completely escape all the consequences of eating poorly for 60 years. On the plus side, there is plenty of reason to believe that you have lowered your risk for many problems. I hope you live a long healthy life!

      If your goal is to drop a few more kilos, I have some ideas for you:
      1) check out a free lecture available on line by Dr. Lisle. It will really help you get a handle on what types of plant foods will help you meet your goal:
      “How To Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind”
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAdqLB6bTuQ

      2) I don’t know if you would be able to get ahold of this talk, because it is only available for purchase on a DVD. But if you can get it, it is a wonderful compliment to the above talk:
      http://www.amazon.com/Calorie-Density-More-Weigh-Less/dp/B003ASP6JE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392424210&sr=8-1&keywords=calorie+density%3B+eat+more

      3) Consider going through the free 21 Day Kickstart program by PCRM. They will hold your hand for 21 days, including meal plans, recipes, videos, inspirational messages, and a forum where you can ask questions.
      http://www.pcrm.org/kickstartHome/
      (Click the green “Register Now” button.)

      4) Consider checking out the book: The Starch Solution by Dr. McDougall.
      http://www.amazon.com/Starch-Solution-Regain-Health-Weight/dp/1623360277/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414524493&sr=1-1&keywords=starch+solution+mcdougall

      I hope that helps. It is so fun to hear form Bavaria! Best of luck to you.

    2. I would think the ability to reverse/prevent many diseases and causes of disability including our biggest killers is big enough a reason in itself? Your BMI will probably head towards the optimal range if you’re vegan/plant based? Your chance of dying from food/diseases will go down and you’ll slow down the aging process, control your mood better and so on?

      If you’re eating a diet similar to those in the Blue Zones (longest living groups on the planet) – with their mostly plant based diets then it would make sense that it increase your chances of living to 80 – 100+? Find some purpose, community, do some exercise, eat plant based and manage your stress..

      And use the extra time to lead a happier life + do more good in the world for people + the environment/planet? Let your life be a shining example of a live well lived? :)

      Check these out! Good luck! :)
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/do-flexitarians-live-longer/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/mitochondrial-theory-of-aging
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-slow-brain-aging-by-two-years/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/reversing-cognitive-decline/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-prevention-of-age-related-macular-degeneration
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/longer-life-within-walking-distance/

  7. I use brownies thrice weekly for hemodialysis and it has relieved intense cramping that hinders the procedure.
    Its benefits and safety are well established but it is largely ignored by the dialysis community.

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