While more people are celebrating triple-digit birthdays than ever before, many have to take their insulin shot before enjoying a piece of birthday cake. Older adults are the largest consumer of medications with more than 40 percent of people over age 65 taking five or more prescriptions. While new medical interventions have significantly improved longevity, in some cases Western medicine may be a crutch for living with chronic diseases rather than making lifestyle changes.
According to seven papers published recently by the Lancet, people worldwide are living longer but sicker. Advances in medical science and drastic improvements in sanitation have decreased the amount of premature deaths and allowed people to live into old age—but at what cost?
The report is the first expansive, global look at life expectancy and health threats involving more than 480 researchers in 50 countries. Based on the data they gathered from surveys, censuses, and studies, the greatest global contributors to the health burden are chronic disease, injuries, mental health conditions, and joint and bone diseases. To give perspective, take a look at some of the eye-opening statistics presented in the report:
- In people aged 15-49, diabetes is a bigger killer in Africa than in Western Europe (8.8 deaths vs. 1 death per 100,000).
- Globally, heart disease and stroke remain the top killers.
- Lung cancer moved to the 5th cause of death globally, while other cancers including those of the stomach, liver, and colon are also in the top 20.
This report begs the question, “Is living longer worth it if you are not living healthy?” Preventative medicine is a growing trend in which diet, exercise, and lifestyle play a major role. Instead of treating medical conditions when they arise, incorporating a healthy lifestyle may decrease your risk of health complications and increase your quality of life as you age.
With about four out of five seniors affected by a chronic condition such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, decreased quality of life is not the only consequence—medical care is extremely costly. According to the American Hospital Association, Medicare costs are skyrocketing. “People with chronic disease are more likely to be hospitalized than those without, and the resources required for each episode of care are greater. This translates into higher spending overall.”
Healthy Living does not just add years to your life, but adds life to your years. In the end, your health is your choice. Choose wisely.