While Congress debates healthcare reform, there is no debating the results of recent studies on Americans’ health. In the last few weeks studies have shown that Americans are not living as long as they should be, our health continues to be undermined by our bad habits and new cases of Alzheimer’s are being reported in record numbers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last month that the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years, an increase of 1.4 years over the last ten years. However, this is actually one of the lowest numbers among developed nations; even people in Cuba live longer on average. Yet, Americans have the highest healthcare spending per capita in the world (LiveScience).
There are also indications that this number may be the peak for American life expectancy if trends in childhood obesity continue. Not to mention Americans’ bad habits with eating, smoking and exercise that persist despite all the information out there about the benefits of healthy living. Another recent study from Oxford University showed that middle-aged male smokers who also have high blood pressure and cholesterol died a decade sooner on average than their peers without these factors for heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, in the U.S. high blood pressure has fallen since 1999 by only 16 percent, high cholesterol by 19 percent, and tobacco use by just over 15 percent. “People exercise no more than 10 years ago, while rates of obesity have climbed sharply, especially among children.”
As the healthcare debate in Congress gets increasingly more heated and the debaters seem mired down in semantics and politics, the bigger picture of how to make Americans healthier is getting buried under the mudslinging. President Obama has said that the present healthcare system is focused on “excessive defensive medicine.” But even the majority of his proposals have to do with health insurance reform, not necessarily health reform. Again, it might seem like just semantics, but there is a difference.
NBC Nightly News reported recently that cases of Alzheimer’s are rising at an alarming rate around the world. Every 70 seconds in the United States, a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the number of cases is expected to increase 77 percent over the next 40 years. Again the studies showing the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise to help prevent this disease are largely ignored.
Perhaps if there was more emphasis on preventative medicine rather than the defensive medicine the President was bemoaning, health insurance and healthcare would cost a lot less. The cost of dealing with all the new cases of Alzheimer’s will be “staggering,” according to Dr. Nancy Snyderman of NBC. If more Americans have access to health insurance then they should receive better healthcare, including listening to doctors when they advise more exercise, healthier foods and less bad habits.