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U.S. Life Expectancy Lags: Obesity and Smoking Significant Cause for Concern

Posted Jun 16 2011 12:00am
Despite spending more on health care than any other country in the world, U.S. life expectancy is starting to lag. For the most part, we still boast an impressive life expectancy of 75.6 years for men and 80.8 years for women, but when the data are broken down by specific districts, huge discrepancies can be seen. Women in five different counties in Mississippi typically live six years less than the average American woman. While a lifespan of 74 years might still seem like an achievement, it is in fact worse than the predicted lifespan for women in both Peru and El Salvador among other countries.

So what factors set the U.S. back in terms of longevity? High rates of smoking and obesity. No surprise there. Americans continue to consume heavily processed, fattening foods in large portions without earning those calories in any significant way. Long commutes paired with sedentary office lives has created the perfect recipe for chronic disease and subsequently a decreased national life expectancy.

It’s simple. In populations where physical activity is frequent and diets are well-rounded and fresh, people live longer. If notoriously overweight states embraced preventative measures rather than treating symptoms of disease down the line, individual residents would reap the benefits and the national life expectancy rate could potentially creep up once again.

The Time Healthland Blog reports that residents of Washington, D.C., and San Francisco boast among the highest life expectancies in the world, owing primarily to their healthy lifestyle, eating habits, and high level of education.
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