Thursday, March 01, 2007

Life Expectancy and Health

I ran into a friend whose mother recently died at the ripe old age of 62. Young. Too young.

After holding his hand and offering my love and support, we got into a conversation about life expectancy and health.

His mother had been sick for quite a while, and he was finding comfort that she finally escaped the suffering. As he pondered the idea, he was drawn into a thought about life expectancy. Without any statistics, he concluded this from his gut:

"If you can live to the age of 55 and still be healthy, you can expect to live out your life expectancy feeling great. If you're sick and on pills by 35 and 45 years old, what do you have to look forward to?"

Something about his statement rang true with me. The television is loaded with drug ads directed at patients. People in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are choosing drugs over healthier alternatives, and the rate seems alarming. So now I am terribly curious: "Is there truth to the need to stay healthy at younger and younger ages? Should we be more concerned about eating junk food and ruining our bodies before we're threatened by our approaching 40s?"

I visited the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and followed the stats to the NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics). As it turns out, my friend wasn't far off regarding the importance of having good health earlier in life. The NCHS reports the following life expectancy stats (figures updated in 2004):

Life Expectancy at Birth (for all races):
Women: 80.4 years
Men: 75.2 years

BUT, if you manage to live to the age of 65, expectancy changes as follows:

Life Expectancy at Age 65 (for all races):
Women: 85.0
Men: 82.1

The trend continues upwards if you live another decade:

Life Expectancy at Age 75 (for all races):
Women: 85.7
Men: 87.8

In other words, the longer you live, the longer you are expected to live. Sounds crazy, but making it to the next decade is the mark of a healthy person who can expect extended years.

And to add my own spice, the sooner you can get and stay healthy, the better life you will have.
Who wants to carry a health fight into old age? And why run the risk that your increased age will make the fight much harder?

This reminds me of what a treasured mentor told me years ago.

"If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken care of myself."
The sentiment behind his comment was regret. I pray that you, my readers, will never have to live those words.

Here's to living a cleansed and healthy life, so you can enjoy more vibrant years!

[You can download a PDF of the CDC statistics here.]
The link goes directly to the PDF and not another landing page...

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