Healthy Life Expectancy
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | September 17, 2002

We're living longer! Says who? The National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control, announced the news recently (1). A baby born today can expect to live an average of 76.9 years--a little longer for women (79.5 years), a little less for men (74.1 years).

Some other statistics of note:

  • If you are a woman who is already 65 years old, you can expect to live another 19.2 years.
  • If you are a man who is 65 years old, you can expect to live another 16.3 years.
While these numbers are great, here are some other numbers that are a little more sobering. The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates the Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy (DALE) (2). DALE estimates not just how long a population can be expected to live but how long they can expect to have "full health." In other words, DALE is the difference between just being alive and living life to the fullest.

The United States ranks number 24 in healthy life expectancy. Translated to numbers that are more meaningful, while we live to be almost 77 years old, we will live healthy for 70 years. That means for 10% of our lives, our health, and therefore our ability to enjoy life, will be limited in some way.

Is there anything we can do about it? Absolutely! Most of the causes for the decreased health life expectancy are related to lifestyle choices that result in increased rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other diseases. That means if you change your lifestyle--especially earlier in life--you may be able to live healthy all your life. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and low in saturated fat. Exercise every day. Drink filtered water. Don't use tobacco. Manage stress. Supplement your diet with a quality multivitamin-multimineral. Get regular check-ups with your healthcare professional.

The most important finding is that in North America, your health is primarily in your hands. Be proactive and be sure to do all you can to live healthy every day you're alive!

References:

  1. Visit this webpage for the Life Expectancy Statistics: www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lifexpec.htm
  2. For the WHO Report on healthy life expectancy, visit the World Health Organization Home page (www.who.int) and type "DALE" in the Search engine.
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