In recent years, a puzzling medical situation has emerged: Americans are living longer than ever before. However, while our years are on a continuous uptick, our health during those years has been steadily declining. Because of the interventions of modern medicine, conditions that in prior generations were responsible for many deaths can now be survived.
But it’s more than just the miraculous workings of modern medicine that has shifted the balance when it comes to our increased lifespan. Rather, one of the biggest contributors to our long, yet unhealthy lives is today’s obesity epidemic. Obesity is responsible for many health-diminishing conditions that are sapping the health from our longer lives.
Living With Years Of Lost Health
One common metric used to understand the impact of disease and disability is the idea of years of life lost. In some ways this metric is misleading; many of those lost years of life are indeed lived, but they are lived in a less healthy state and with a lower quality of life. The idea is that these are years of life lost to the limitations of disability or alternatively to premature death.
According to doctors, the effects of obesity are the greatest factors when it comes to assessing the underlying cause of years of life lost to disability and ill health in Americans today. This is unfortunate, but the upside is that for many individuals, better dietary habits can improve the odds of living a long and healthy life.
A National Crisis
As of 2010, Americans were living to an average age of 78, three years longer than we were living in 1990. That’s certainly not a number to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, other countries are rapidly outliving us, and now America ranks 27th in lifespan out of the 35 developed nations compared in 2010. This is a metric in which we used to be global leaders, ranking among the top few countries because of our excellent medical care. But great doctors can only do so much in the face of a national obesity crisis.
Making A Change
In the face of skyrocketing obesity rates, responsibility falls on the individuals to make better dietary choices in order to better enjoy the later years. This means choosing foods that will help keep us healthy from head to toe.
One of the most important dietary changes Americans can make to foster better health is to decrease the amount of sugar in our diets. Sugar sneaks in from all corners, particularly from highly processed foods, but even some of what we consider healthier choices can come with major sugar baggage.
Breakfast cereals, for example, can be total sugar bombs, and in most cases, they’re the wrong food to start your day with. You don’t want to wake up in the morning and put yourself in a sugar coma, but the reality is that a vast majority of breakfast cereals are packed with the stuff. Even cautious consumers are highly likely to make the wrong choices in this category.
Another food that’s less healthy than most of us realize is soymilk. Not only are American soy crops heavily modified and dripping with pesticides, soymilk isn’t especially delicious. In order to convince consumers that this should be their milk of choice, manufacturers pack most varieties full of sweeteners and additives.
In addition to cutting sugar from our diets, another step Americans should be taking to enjoy those added years of later life involves boosting Vitamin D and calcium intake from healthy foods. Low fat dairy is particularly good for getting both of these things into your diet, so swap the soymilk for 2% fat regular milk instead. Getting more of these nutrients will help build strong bones and teeth, decreasing problems like osteoporosis later in life so you can get out and do the things you love.
Something most people don’t think of as important to health is gelatin, but when it comes to keeping joints healthy as you age, gelatin, with an added boost from vitamin C, is actually vital. These two nutrients contribute to collagen production, and collagen is necessary for warding off the joint pain that often accompanies old age.
In the face of our longer, yet less healthy lives, the best solution is a diet full of vitamins and minerals. The more nutrients you can get from making the right food choices early on, the better your health will be in your later years. Building positive dietary habits young will set the stage for lifelong success.