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DICK BAYNTON: Life Expectancy

Dick Baynton

For babies born in the USA this year, they can expect to live on average 79.5 years. In order of life expectancy of world countries; longest life expectancies are (in order) Hong Kong 84.9, Japan 84, Italy 83.7, Singapore 83.6 and Switzerland 83.5 years of life. The shortest-lived citizens are mostly from Africa where life expectancy in Swaziland is just 48 years on up to a little over 66 years in Tanzania.

In our neighborhood of North America, Canada comes in at 13th in the world with survival of over 82.5 years while the USA is #45 with life expectancy of 79.5 years; Mexico’s average life expectancy is 77 years. Most European nations average from 81 to 83 years. Other large nations have life expectancy as follows: Russia #130, 70.5 years; UK #29 at 81.2 years and China is #69 with life expectancy of 76.4 years.

Here’s some late-breaking news about life expectancy in the US: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published some statistics that may be a little disturbing. Our life expectancy has slipped to 78.6 years which is less than the statistic in the prior paragraph. This new number was reduced by a sudden increase in suicides and deaths by opioid drugs and deaths from influenza, diabetes and pneumonia.

But why do we have to read about these prosaic statistics to find out about life expectancy? The reason is this; when we were young and energetic we didn’t think about the long-term effects of some of the things we were doing. For example many young people like to display their handsome bodies at the beach, playing sports and other outdoor activities.

We have found that damage to the skin from sunburn often accumulates and creates damaging effects such as skin cancer later in life. Smoking to excess over long periods of time can be linked to lung cancer while heavy drinking can have pernicious effects on kidney, liver and bladder cancer. Most of us start thinking about life-style changes such as exercise, diet, sleep and other personal changes as we get older. One change we think about is our weight.

The WHO (World Health Organization) calls obesity an epidemic; it is estimated that about 2.8 million people die each year from overweight or obesity. According to WHO, 44% of diabetes, 41% of certain cancers and 23% of ischemic heart disease (reduced blood flow and oxygen to the heart) result from obesity. WHO has also determined that about 40 million preschool children in the world are obese and likely will take the obesity into adulthood.

Obesity is usually defined as over a BMI (Body Mass Index) of more than 30 and morbid obesity is a BMI of over 40. Normal BMI is considered between 18.5 and 24.9. Wanna compute your BMI? Here’s how it is done: take your height squared (let’s say you’re 5’-10” tall) = 702 = 4,900. Divide your weight of 170# by 4,900 = .03469. Multiply that number by 703 (the magic #) and the answer is that your BMI is 23.49 showing that you are ‘normal.’ The formula in short is simply weight# divided by height” squared X 703.

Economic as well as public-health experts think in terms of the prosperity of a nation as an index of life expectancy. Poor nations of the world especially in remote locations in Africa, Asia and other continents are often victims of inadequate healthcare and thus life expectancy is reduced as shown in the first paragraph of this article.

While deaths from heart disease and cancer have declined over the past few years, murders, deaths from use of synthetic opioids and fentanyl have skyrocketed from 2015 to 2017. Suicides have increased by 3.7%  in 2017 according to the CDC and has shifted heavily from urban areas to rural areas. This information may help explain why we need information about life expectancy. Now we need to figure out ways of digging deep into our mores to determine how to reduce death by murder and death by suicide and make progress in disease control.

We’re all part of the solution to create longer healthier lives… because we’re all a part of the statistics.

Now you know; do something about it!

Dick Baynton

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