Monday, March 7, 2011

Study Finds Smoking is Holding Back US Life Expectancy

Desire long life and quality in your years?  A recent report released by the National Research Council shows that smoking and obesity are shortening Americans potential life spans. Though life expectancy in the US is indeed increasing, it is increasing at much slower rates than other areas in the world. The study showed that within the last five years the average life expectancy of women is 80.4 years and 75.3 years for men in the United States, contrasting with the Japanese, whose women live for an average of 86 years and men live around 79.2 years.

These statistics are directly related to smoking, according to the report, as people who smoke, or used to smoke, have a decreased life expectancy.  While smoking isn't as prevalent now as it used to be, the damage of the past still leaves an impression on the present and future.  Each person’s smoking history makes a difference as every inhale leaves a lasting mark on their health.  This is why every day of choosing whether or not to quit smoking counts. 

Smoking can shorten your days, but obesity also plays a factor in future health, not just temporarily, but in the long term.  Generally speaking, the United States does not adequately prevent obesity, and many people who become obese gain chronic illnesses (such as hypertension and diabetes).  It is, too often, only after getting a disease that our health care system steps in to treat chronic illness. This is why the prevention work that Health First Wisconsin and other organizations around the state and country do, pursuing health before the onset of disease, is so important. Let's step in and promote health before we have to treat it. 

The results of this study also show how critical it is that we keep funding programs like the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. Despite the great steps forward Wisconsin and the United States have made to curb tobacco use, there is much more work to be done.

The study goes on to remind us we need to remember that there are many different social contexts in which smoking and obesity are more likely, but if we try to promote prevention of smoking among youth as well as cessation, we can hope for longer lives which mirror our global counterparts.  If we look to prevent obesity through healthier eating and frequent exercise we can curb our likelihood of gaining chronic illnesses that hold us back and look to live longer and better quality lives.

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