Life Expectancy in America is Starting to Go Down!

April 08, 2009

Life Expectancy in America is Starting to Go Down! 

Competency # 20  Lifestyles of the Long Lived.            Reference: PLOS Medicine,  April 22, 2008 Ezzati et al, Harvard School of Public Health Answering Reference:  Arch Internal Medicine: April 14th, 2008 DASH Diet and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease. 

 This is very sad.  Yesterday’s headline!  For the first time in American history, we have a decline in mortality starting to show in America, particularly for women and particularly in the south.  Mortality increases have been starting to show because of increased smoking in women, increased obesity in everybody and the subsequent increases in high blood pressure and diabetes.  

America has now slipped into 47th internationally, not a very impressive track record.  Rather than living longer than our parents, we are now in the potential early stages of children not living as long as their parents.  This phenomenon has been noted in other societies when they have had sudden increases in obesity.  Notably, Okinawa was one small laboratory example when the population of young Okinawans that started working on the American navy base adopted American eating habits and started getting obese, having heart disease, and dying younger than their parents. 

 And the answer is right before us.  Just this week too, in the prestigious journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, is the result of a 24-year prospective study, also from Harvard following the results of the DASH diet.  Using data from the Nurses study, and prospectively following the 89,000 nurses that they followed at that point (they are up to some 130,000 now), Dr. Hu and team showed pretty impressive results.  Their findings, after 7 separate data collection points for each person over those 24 years, showed that women who followed the DASH diet the most closely, had about a 34 % reduction in fatal heart attack and 17 % reduction for stroke.  

They also had the ability to look at markers of inflammation in their blood.  Interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein correlated directly with improvement in cardiac outcome.  The lower the level of inflammation, the better off participants were. This is a fancy way of saying more fruits and vegetables really make a difference.  Let me say that again.  This is the strongest evidence to date in the medical literature.  MORE fruits and vegetables really make a difference.  The DASH Diet and its subsequent advances (OMNI Heart) should be the foundation of what we make as our nutrition lifestyle choices.  Of 89,000 American women, these are the ones living longer.  Not smoking, exercising more, eating better food, controlling weight. (One glass of wine.) 

 WWW:  What will Work for Me?  DASH is Dietary Alternatives to Suppress Hypertension.  Or, if you want to sound learned and scientific, reduce your C-reactive protein and interleukin 6.  It’s simple:  7-9 servings a day of fruits and vegetables is the core.  ½ cup equals a serving, so a banana counts for two.  I’m up to 5 so far today.  I need four for supper.  How about a beautiful apple while I watch CSI tonight.   Count, count, count.   Every day counts.  Put in one good day at a time and talk to me in 24 years.  We’ll still be here.

The column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262784-5300)