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February 29, 2024

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Why aren’t we taking care of our hearts?

Out of the seven Darwin Award winners for 2007, four were Americans.

Add this next to America’s love affair with fast food and the mob of teenagers imitating stunts from “Jackass: The Movie” on YouTube and I begin to think the life expectancy for Americans is in rough shape.

Last Wednesday, I stumbled across a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics that said the life expectancy for Americans is on the rise.

Apparently, this trend continues the steady increase in life expectancy over the previous 50 years.

In 1955, life expectancy for a newborn child was 69.6 years. By 1995, it had increased to 75.8 years. In 2004 it grew to 78.4 years.

The report released on Sept. 12 shows that the latest data, collected in 2005, points to a rise in American life expectancy to its highest point yet: 78.9 years.

The report attributes the half-year increase to a decline in death rates from the three leading killers of Americans – heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Could this mean that heart disease, the number one killer of Americans, is finally starting to subside?

Heart disease, unlike the 2007 Wolverine football team, is not so easily beaten.

Despite the rise in life expectancy, the American Heart Association says that one in every three Americans is living with some form of heart disease and a key ingredient is being overweight or obese.

The AHA Web site mentions that those who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for heart disease because they have a better chance of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

While life expectancy is on the rise in the United States, so is obesity.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s records, the percentage of Americans that are overweight or obese has risen from 56 percent in 1988 to 66.3 percent in 2004.

The CIA World Factbook says that there are about 219 million adults in the U.S.

That means there are 145 million Americans considered to be overweight or obese.

In 2006, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released an obesity study of 30 countries. The results show that 30.6 percent of the U.S. population is obese. This crowned Americans as the kings of calories. The U.S. was a whole 6.2 percent higher than the next most obese country, Mexico.

Is it possible that more people could be developing heart disease while fewer are dying from it?

There is no question that over the years treatment for heart disease has advanced drastically. In recent years, advancements in health care such as heart medications and the artificial heart have extended many lives in the face of heart disease.

The Aspirin Foundation of America’s Web site says, “In June 1996, FDA proposed new rules that would expand aspirin’s professional labeling to include the use of aspirin during a suspected heart attack. Studies indicate that one-half of a regular strength aspirin tablet [162.5 mg] taken at the onset of a suspected heart attack and continued for 30 days reduces the risk of death by 23 percent.

The American Heart Association estimates that 5,000 to 10,000 lives could be saved each year if people take aspirin when they experience chest pain or other symptoms of a severe heart attack.”

With an over-the-counter solution to weakening the effects of heart disease, it is no wonder more people are able to live with this ailment.

As is, obesity and all, the CIA World Factbook ranks the United States at 45th place in the world for life expectancy.

Imagine if the majority of Americans could exercise from time to time and occasionally tell Ronald McDonald to go to hell in favor of some fruits and veggies.

It wouldn’t be an easy task, habits are hard to break and weight isn’t easily lost. But if Americans could combine the recent advancements in medicine with even a semi-healthy lifestyle, then there is no reason why the U.S. couldn’t dethrone Andorra, who has a 83.52 year life expectancy.

Of course, if life expectancy goes any higher, we can kiss Social Security good-bye for sure.

Send responses to this column to [email protected].

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