Americans are living longer but living with more physical and mental disabilities, according to findings in the Global Burden of Disease study which took five years and 486 researchers from 50 countries. According to the 2012 America’s Health Rankings, troubling levels of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and lack of healthy lifestyle activities continue to increase as we age.
The life expectancy in the U.S is now 78.5 percent and also increasing around the world. Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times writes, “A sharp decline in deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases like measles and tuberculosis has caused a shift in global mortality patterns over the past 20 years, according to a report published on Thursday, with far more of the world’s population now living into old age and dying from diseases mostly associated with rich countries, like cancer and heart disease.”
As cited in USA Today:
- More than a quarter (26.2%) of all Americans are sedentary, defined as not doing any physical activity outside of work for 30 days. But it’s 36% in Mississippi, and 35.1% in both Tennessee and West Virginia.
- 27.8% of U.S. adults are obese, defined as being roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight. That’s 66 million people — more than the entire population of the United Kingdom. In even the least obese state, Colorado, more than 20% of the population is obese.
- The percentage of adults with diabetes is 9.5% nationally, but it’s 12% or higher in West Virginia, South Carolina and Mississippi.
- 30.8% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, but that ranges from a low of 22.9% in Utah to a high of 40.1% in Alabama. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a primary risk for cardiovascular disease — problems related to the heart and the blood vessels
The research shows evidence that many of these diseases we are managing are preventable with an active and healthy lifestyle. The U.S. currently spends $190 billion each year to treat obesity, $313 billion to treat heart disease and $228 billion to treat cancer.
“Yes, people are living longer with heart disease, but we need to make sure we prolong their years of being free of illness,” said epidemiologist Donna Arnett, president of the American Heart Association, to the Boston Globe. “That involves individuals taking matters into their own hands by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, avoiding smoking, and following a good diet.”