US projected to have lowest longevity among high-income countries

Critics of conventional medicine point to the U.S. life expectancy decline as a wake-up call.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that the overall death rate of Americans has increased for the first time in more than a decade. Compared to 2014 data, the American death rate was 1.2-percent higher in 2015. Heart disease and cancer remain the two most prolific killers. Chronic lower respiratory disease, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide round off the remaining top 10 most common reasons for death in America.

The death rate rose from 724.6 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 733.1 in 2015, which was the first time the life expectancy rate fell in the United States since the AIDS epidemic in 1993.

“The decline in life expectancy, although slight, is significant,” says Dr. Terry Grossman of the Grossman Wellness Center, a Colorado-based medical center focused on longevity. “[The drop] represents a reversal in the increases that have been occurring for many years. Worsening in outcomes for eight of the 10 leading causes of death makes these results even more disturbing.”

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) as far back as 2002 reported that despite technological advances, the U.S. sucks when it comes to health:

“A medical system that allows physicians to refocus on the patient-centered, personal, and unique experience of ‘illness’ is an imperative for our time.”

Lower Life Expectancy: A Moronic Convergence

America’s health meltdown has a litany of villains including rushed doctors, Big Pharma’s pill-pushing profit motive, food manufacturers’ focus on flavor over nutrition, and the public’s apathy toward exercise and proper diet. Health care has hit the skids at the same time; people are sicker than ever.

In 2013, the Global Burden Of Disease Study, a massive investigation on the propagation of chronic disease, revealed for the first time that up to 95 percent of the population is sick from a spectrum of chronic conditions, some apparent, some not, but overall progressing for the worst. This is unexampled in human history and has taken place only in the last 80 years.

“The irony is that the more we advance in research treatment for common diseases, life expectancy decreases,” says naturopathic practitioner Dr. Kac Young. “I see in my patients an increased level of laziness toward their health maintenance and an increase in the ‘fix me syndrome.’”

Young says Big Pharma’s incessant advertising contributes mightily to this “take a pill and all is healed” mentality.

True health stems from balanced nutrition, exercise, and a positive outlook. Bad health results from the immediate gratification indulgence of unhealthy foods, a sedentary lifestyle, and ignoring personal responsibility for our physical bodies.

Dennis Kravetz, author and researcher in the areas of longevity and healthy living, says the writing was on the wall and that we shouldn’t be surprised that the U.S. is “going backward” in life expectancy. According to Kravetz, in the 1970s the U.S. ranked 15th in longevity. Today the U.S. ranks 45th of the 170 nations where data is available.

“We have been passed by many nations, who simply are doing better on the key areas,” Kravetz says.

Those key areas, according to Kravetz, are regular exercise, cognitive enrichment, psychological states of mind (avoiding frequent anxiety, stress, and depression), and nutrition.

“Americans simply do not rate highly in these four areas,” says Kravetz. “I have been assessing them for many years.”

The Fat American And Heart Disease

Grossman believes that conventional treatments for heart disease, the leading causes of death in America, has plateaued in recent years, hence the negative longevity change.

“Advances in conventional medical therapies for cardiovascular disease, has reached its peak effectiveness and have leveled off,” he says.

For heart-disease related deaths in America to continue to decrease, treatment must improve.

“Continued innovation is essential in our efforts to address the ongoing challenge of cardiovascular disease prevention,” says lead author Stephen Sidney, M.D., MPH, director of research clinics at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.

From 2000 to 2011, Sidney and his team found that heart disease related deaths dropped by 3.7 percent per year. But after 2011, the decreases dropped to only about 1 percent per year.

Obesity, which is reversible with changes in lifestyle including diet and exercise, leads to increased risk of many of the common causes of death in America, especially heart disease.

Senior author, Jamal S. Rana, M.D., Ph.D., Kaiser Permanente cardiologist, cites the increase in obesity and diabetes rates as a leading reason heart disease deaths have stopped going down because traditional treatment cannot keep up with the increased demand.

“Despite significant improvements in heart health over the past century, the increase in these chronic health conditions in epidemic proportions may be driving the recent slowdown,” says Rana.

If more people seek alternative treatments, like these herbs and plants that help prevent cancer, and heart-healthy foods, these statistics on American deaths could change, the National Institute of Health suggests.

In America “more than two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight, which has significant adverse health consequences,” says Grossman, which means weight loss is a vital issue for the nation to tackle.

Dehydration is an oft overlooked key factor in obesity. Weight gain comes from eating more than the body burns, and thirst can lead to feelings of hunger, which causes people to eat more. In a 2016 study, the NIH confirmed that dehydration correlated to obesity and an elevated body mass index.

Big Pharma Sells Band-Aids And Worse

“Modern medicine has absolutely become a universal Band-Aid,” says Greg Ux, a Boston certified strength and conditioning specialist. “We’re getting more obese, we’re spending more on healthcare than ever before, and we’re dying younger.”

Ux also blames Big Pharma and its nefarious control over doctors, patients, and the healthcare system in general. Says Ux:

It was Bill Maher who correctly pointed out there’s no money in healthy people or dead people — the money is in the middle. Keeping us alive and pumping us full of expensive drugs is about the most lucrative business there is. It’s time we switch from a 100 percent reactive disease-based focus to a much more proactive focus. We can’t continue to let lobbyists stall science.

An additional problem: There is a drug epidemic in America right now. People are getting hooked on legal drugs being pushed by Western medicine at a faster rate than ever before, and drug overdose is at an all-time high in America.

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) data, in the 13 years between 2002 and 2015, America experienced a 220-percent increase in the number of overdose-related deaths.

And from 2014 to 2015, the number of cumulative American deaths from drugs increased from about 45,000 to over 50,000.

Grossman suggests that one prescription medication is leading the charge – hydrocodone. Prescriptions for hydrocodone and oxycodone products have risen from about 76 million in 1991 to over 207 million in 2013, reports the NIDA. This painkiller, sold by brand names such as Vicodin, is prescribed to manage mild to moderate pain. Although this drug is common, it changes how the brain interacts with the body’s central nervous system. As a result, these painkillers are addictive and a gateway drug to harder opioids like heroin, the New York Times reports.

“A narcotic pain reliever (hydrocodone with acetaminophen) has been the most widely prescribed drug in the U.S. leading to significant accidental overdoses,” Grossman says.

NIH data backs up Dr. Grossman’s claims. Their study found that opioid related deaths increased by 280 percent from 2002 to 2015.

In 2015 alone, about 32,500 people died from opioid abuse.

How Long Can Americans Expect to Live?

At birth, life expectancy for the total U.S. population was 78.8 in 2015, which is 0.1 years lower than data from 2014. For males, life expectancy decreased 0.2 years at birth from 76.5 years in 2014 to 76.3 years in 2015. Females also saw a decline of 0.1 years from 81.3 years in 2014 to 81.2 years in 2015.

Compare this to South Koreans who could see a life expectancy of 90 years by the year 2030 according to a study by scientists from Imperial College London (ICL) in the UK and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The study also revealed that the U.S. is likely to have the lowest life expectancy at birth in 2030 among high-income countries. The nation’s average life expectancy at birth of men and women in 2030 (79.5 years and 83.3 years), will be similar to that of middle-income countries like Croatia and Mexico.

Researchers said that this may be due to a number of factors including a lack of universal healthcare, as well as the highest child and maternal mortality rate, homicide rate, and obesity among high-income countries.

The life expectancy drop in the U.S. most profoundly impacts blacks and whites. Non-Hispanic black males, non-Hispanic white males, and non-Hispanic white females experienced an increased death rate of 0.9-percent, 1.0-percent, and 1.6-percent respectively. In other words, about 70 percent of the United States population is at risk of dying earlier and this change happened in only one year.

The fact that Hispanics are living longer compared to their black and white counterparts, despite low-income and poverty rates similar to blacks, is called the “Hispanic Mortality Paradox,” reports the American Heart Association.

“Surprising they have lower mortality and, then in turn higher life expectancy, than the majority population,” adds Elizabeth Arias, Ph.D., and demographer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

One reason Hispanics might live longer is their reluctance to smoke. Only about 10 in 100 Hispanics smoke compared to 16 in 100 non-Hispanic whites, and 17 in 100 non-Hispanic blacks, CDC data confirms. Additionally, many Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 64 have physically demanding jobs that could decrease their risk of common ailments. It is unclear if their nutrition plays a part in their longevity, the American Hospital Association (AHA) reports.

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The Changing Nutritional Landscape

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the real nutritional value of today’s food supply is just 2 percent of what it was about a century ago. Since food production has become an industry, soil erosion, processing methods, and commercialization have turned our supply of nutrients into “food products.” These items are engineered for taste at the cost of genuine nutrition.

Food products that populate grocery stores are low in nutrition, high in sugar content, and loaded with more than 80,000 industrial chemicals, including pesticides and industrial preservatives. These additives tax our biochemistry and threaten our life expectancy.

The chronic lack of nutrients, increase in environmental toxins, and other stress factors have depleted our well-being and increased our toxic body burden.

The Shift Away From Conventional Medicine

It’s not like there aren’t choices. Preventative medicine with its emphasis on whole body/mind health is practiced by holistic doctors, naturopaths, and even some conventional medicine doctors if you can find them.

However, critics of conventional Western medicine believe totally new approaches are necessary. One of those radical approaches is Functional Medicine, which focuses on the underlying causes of health problems through careful history taking, physical examination, and laboratory testing. Patients are at the center of this modality and spend a lot of time talking because a major component of Functional Medicine is exploring detailed personal and family history as well as the circumstances around initial symptoms.

Another one of those new modalities is metabolomics, an innovative branch of medicine that takes the guesswork out of diagnosis and is the leading definitive test for helping pinpointing autoimmune and chronic diseases through blood and urine samples.

“Instead of thinking disease, we would be well advised to focus on staying healthy,” says Young.

She points to Chinese medicine where Chinese doctors are paid to keep their patients healthy. When the patient gets sick, the doctor takes no payment. Says Young:

“What a reversal of focus this would be if we thought about and worked to increase our vibrancy instead of our aches and pains. We would live longer and have more energetic and enjoyable lives.”

Alexander Smith is a writer, drummer, and yogi living with his wife in Providence, RI. He is the creator of the Creative Writing Outloud podcast and the author of For Poets Must Love. Visit Facebook.com/AlexanderSmithAuthor for updates on his new fiction and poetry projects.

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