Entries in Life Expectancy (20)


Wrong Zip Code Can Mean Shorter Life Expectancy 

Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation(NEW ORLEANS) -- The Treme neighborhood is only a few miles from the Lakeview neighborhood in New Orleans, but in terms of life expectancy those few miles might as well be worlds away.

While residents in Lakeview have a life expectancy of approximately 80 years, which is slightly more than the U.S. average of 79 years, the life expectancy for Treme residents is only 54.5 years, which is lower than the life expectancy in Cambodia, Gabon or Guinea.

A series of maps recently released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest U.S. philanthropy organization devoted to public health, was designed to draw attention to the fact that, in many cities, different neighborhoods can have vastly different life expectancies, some on par with the life expectancies of developing countries.

In addition to New Orleans, the foundation also released maps for Washington, D.C., San Joaquin Valley, Calif., Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., and Kansas City, Mo.

For Washington, different metro stops corresponded to the different life expectancies, while in San Joaquin, living off the right exit meant getting a few extra years.

However, New Orleans had the most significant difference in life expectancies.

Andrew Perry, dean of urban education at Davenport University, compiled data on the social factors that determine health in New Orleans neighborhoods as the team leader of the Orleans Parish Place Matters team. The team was part of an initiative created by the Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies.
Perry said the team looked a variety of factors including poverty, education and violence, and how they affect life outcomes.

"I always say people are not genetically disposed to live 25 years less," said Perry. "You should not live a mile away and have a 20-something-year advantage on your life."

However, Perry said the team found no one factor that was the main reason for lower life expectancy in some neighborhoods.

"It's the constant exposure to crime, to processed foods, to low-performing schools, to stress, to violence, to all of these factors. [They] compound and have a dramatic effect on your body," said Perry. "There's a physiological response to these sociological issues."

According to calculations from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Human Needs, residents in the 70112 zip code, which includes the Treme neighborhood, had the highest rates of cardiovascular mortality, stroke mortality, and diabetes mortality. It was also the poorest zip code in the city, with the third largest population of people over 25 without a high school diploma.

Dr. Steve Woof, a physician and director of the Virginia Commonwealth University's Center on Society and Health, helped with research for the different maps. Woof said that the staggering differentiations in life expectancy were not limited to New Orleans, but all large American cities.

"[There are] many cities around the country where life expectancy is comparable to developing countries," said Woof. "The New Orleans example is very dramatic but it's happening all across the country."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Major Study Gives Smokers New Reasons to Quit

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- Quit smoking early on in life and you'll have more life later on, reveals a new study from the Center for Global Health Research at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

However, Dr. Prabhat Jha, a director at the center, warns that smokers need to do it by age 35 if they want to make sure of not lopping a decade off their life expectancy.

In another finding based on research of over 200,000 American men and women, Jha says that the death rate of people who are addicted to cigarettes is three times higher than people who've never picked up the habit.

Generally, smokers have a greater prevalence of potentially deadly conditions like cancer, heart disease, stroke and respiratory diseases

Jha says that if people can kick cigarettes by age 55, they can still improve their chances of a longer life than if they don't stop.

Need more evidence that smoking just isn't worth it?  Jha and her fellow researchers learned that people who don't smoke are twice more likely to survive to 80 than perpetual puffers.

Responding to the finding, Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association,  said Jha and his team "used a very large database, so the chance that this is accurate is really high...The numbers are very, very compelling, and it points out that smoking prevention and cessation is still the most important public health challenge we have in the United States."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Olympians Live Longer, Study Finds

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Not only does Michael Phelps have more gold medals than you, he’ll probably live longer, too.  A new study found Olympic medalists live an average of 2.8 years longer than their fellow countrymen.

“Olympic medalists live longer than the general population, irrespective of country, medal or sport,” study author Dr. David Studdert of the Melbourne School of Population Health in Australia wrote in the study of 15,000 medalists from nine countries, published Thursday in the journal BMJ.

Athletes who competed in cardiovascular-intense events such as cycling and rowing had the same survival advantage as those in less-intense sports such as golfing, according to a separate study of 9,000 athletes published in the same journal.  Athletes who participated in high-injury risk events such as boxing, rugby or ice hockey, on the other hand, had an increased risk of death compared with other Olympians.

But you don’t have to be an Olympian to benefit from physical activity.  A 2012 study published in The Lancet suggests simply eliminating inactivity could add nearly a year to your lifespan.

“Although the evidence points to a small survival benefit of being an Olympian, careful reflection suggests that similar health benefits and longevity could be achieved by all of us through regular physical activity,” Dr. Adrian Bauman of Sydney University’s School of Public Health and Dr. Steven N. Blair of the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health wrote in an editorial accompanying the studies.  “We could and should all award ourselves that personal gold medal.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity -- such as brisk walking -- weekly for adults ages 18 to 64.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Shows Women Can Extend Life Up to 10 Years by Quitting Smoking

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stop smoking now. That's the take-away from a new study of over a million women conducted over a five-year period.  The study finds that those who give up smoking can extend their life by ten years.  

Epidemiologist Rachel Huxley, an Associate Professor at the School of Public Health, the University of Minnesota, says the women studied were between ages 50 & 65.  The study is significant because while it was known that smoking had an impact on men's health, women started smoking later than men and extensive studies had not been available.
"For the first time we have been able to fully evaluate the full impact of smoking when we haven't been able to do this previously because women simply hadn't been smoking long enough," Huxley says.

For the study, the women were required to complete a questionnaire about lifestyle, medical and social factors and were surveyed again in three years. When any participant died, the researchers were notified and given the participant's cause of death.

Twenty percent of the study's participants were smokers, 28 percent were ex-smokers, and 52 had not smoke.  At the three-year survey, those who were still smokers were three times as likely as non-smokers to to over the next nine years, even though some had stopped smoking for a time during this period.

“If women smoke like men, they die like men – but, whether they are men or women, smokers who stop before reaching middle age will on average gain about an extra ten years of life," says study co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto, at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
The study, which is the largest to date examining the hazards of smoking and the benefits associated with quitting smoking among women, will appear online first in the medical journal The Lancet on Saturday.  

"Everybody can benefit, every smoker, irrespective of age can benefit from quitting smoking," Huxley says, adding, "The sooner individuals stop smoking the better."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Says Cutting Couch and TV Time Could Bump Up Life Expectancy

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Getting regular exercise is obviously an important part of staying healthy. But what about what we do with the rest of our time? A new study suggests that the time we all spend sitting is taking years off life expectancy in the U.S.

Scientists are just beginning to investigate how sitting affects health, and early evidence has linked an excess of sitting time to all kinds of chronic maladies, particularly heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Now, a new analysis published in the British Medical Journal suggests that the life expectancy of the entire U.S. population could increase if Americans simply reduce the time they reduce channel-surfing on the sofa.

Researchers looked at the results of five studies that explored the effects on nearly 167,000 people of sitting and watching television. Then they turned to national data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how much time Americans report sitting and watching TV.

Based on all this data, the researchers calculated that limiting the time Americans spend sitting to three hours or fewer each day would increase the life expectancy of the U.S. population by two years. Cutting down TV watching to fewer than two hours each day would bump life expectancy up by another 1.4 years.

Exercise is a good thing, and getting the amount recommended by groups like the CDC, the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute -- 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise five times each week -- is a vital part of staying healthy. But Peter Katzmarzyk, the study's lead author and a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., said it's becoming clearer that people need to do more.

"It is true that meeting the physical activity guidelines is one of the best things you can do for your health. But on the other hand, there are 23 and a half other hours of the day that we can't ignore," he said.

Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, agreed that the physical activity guidelines are important, but she said they are based on research conducted over the last 60 years.

"In that time, a lot of what we do in our daily lives has changed," she said. "We've replaced much of what we used to do with sedentary behavior, and we have to understand the implications of that."

It's difficult for scientists to say that your recliner or your television will kill you, and Katzmarzyk said the study doesn't establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between sitting, TV watching and death. But the evidence suggesting an association between shortened lives and sedentary activities, like TV watching and driving, is piling up. For example, a 2010 study found that the mortality rates were 25 percent lower for people reporting the most physical activity compared with those reporting the least.

But what drives that association is unclear. Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said one possible explanation is that the health effects come not so much from TV watching or driving themselves, but the other things people do during those activities, such as binging on unhealthy snacks or being stressed.

"Those behaviors are very detrimental to our health independent of our physical activity levels," Hu said.

There also seems to be something about sitting itself that is bad for one's health. Studies in both animals and humans have found that sitting leads to changes in resting glucose levels and blood pressure, and that lots of sitting bumps up levels of certain biomarkers of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

"The take-home message is clear: we may not know exactly why sitting is bad for you, but if you reduce the amount of time spent sitting, there are real health benefits," Patel said.

Researchers say the overall message is to move beyond thinking about physical activity as something you do once a day for half an hour. That suggestion has enormous implications for how people currently work, commute and spend their free time.

Katzmarzyk said since many people spend at least eight hours each day sitting at a computer, the workplace is an ideal place to start looking for ways to reform behavior. Patel said changes don't have to be major -- people can get up to talk to colleagues instead of emailing them, or spend a few minutes of their lunch breaks taking a short walk.

And of course, a good place to start making changes is by squeezing the recommended 30 minutes of exercise into every day.

"We have to get folks to understand that doing anything is better than doing nothing," Patel said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


This Just In: Healthy People Live Longer, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Unhealthy habits, like smoking and being overweight, have long been linked to heart disease and cancer, America’s top killers.  The reverse of that coin -- the impact of healthy habits on preventing disease and death -- has been a mantra in the medical community. Now a new study adds weight to that, finding that healthful behaviors, like exercising and eating a balanced diet, can reduce the risk of early death by up to 76 percent.

“It’s common sense,” said study author Quanhe Yang, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Diseases and Stroke Prevention. “We know what increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. And if you can prevent or postpone those risk factors from developing, it will really reduce your risk long term.”

Yang and colleagues used surveys to probe seven measures of healthy living -- smoking, physical activity, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, diet and weight -- in nearly 45,000 adult men and women between 1988 and 2010. They found people who were “ideal” on six or more of the parameters were 76 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 51 percent less likely to die from other causes, including cancer.

“We can prevent cardiovascular disease by preventing the risk factors from occurring in the first place,” said Yang. The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 600,000 Americans each year, according to the CDC. While each healthy living parameter independently affected the risk of death due to heart disease, having an ideal blood pressure was the biggest contributor, reducing the risk by 40 percent.

“There are about 68 million people with hypertension in the U.S.,” said Yang. “If you could bring that down by 10 percent, you could prevent 14,000 cardiovascular events.”

Not smoking and eating an ideal diet reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 13 percent each, Yang said. But less than one percent of the U.S. study population ate an ideal diet consisting of fruits, veggies, fish, whole grains with limited sodium and sugar.

Although smoking has declined since 1988, blood sugar -- a marker of diabetes -- and weight have risen steadily. Only 2.1 percent of the study subjects were ideal on six or more parameters. They tended to be younger, female and more educated. The majority of subjects were healthy on three of the seven parameters.

Yang said he hopes to see smoking continue to decline, and weight and diabetes level off. He also hopes to see the proportion of people with ideal physical activity and diet increase.

“If we can shift the whole population towards ideal cardiovascular health metrics, we will really reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and death,” said Yang.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Presidents Often Live Longer Than Expected, Says Researcher

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- When President Obama celebrated his 50th birthday this year, there were the inevitable comments about how much he's aged only three years into his presidency.  The common assumption has always been that presidents age faster while in office -- and die younger as a result.
Now, a University of Illinois researcher has found that many U.S. presidents actually live longer than their peers.  In fact, 23 of 34 former presidents who died of natural causes lived several years longer than expected.  Among recent presidents, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford were both 93 when they died. Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush are both alive and well at 87.
There's no doubt that presidents appear to age faster while serving in office -- but graying hair and wrinkling of skin are normal for men their age.  And, as the researcher, Jay Olshansky, notes, "We don't die of gray hair and wrinkles."
There are some advantages most presidents have that contribute to a longer life:  They're usually college educated, wealthy and have the best medical care available.
So it should come as no surprise that of the last eight presidents, seven lived longer than expected.  The exception -- Lyndon Johnson who died of a heart attack at 64.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is 90 the New 85? Census Finds More Americans Living Longer

Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- There are two million people in the U.S. who are at least 90 years old, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.  That's three times the number than in 1980.

With the way things are going, the government predicts there will be about eight million people in the 90-plus category by 2050.

In its first-ever report on nonagenarians, the Census Bureau says this is the fastest growing segment of the population.  The government had to revise its findings because the "oldest old" used to be 85.

[Click here to read the full report]

As might be expected, these elderly folks are not without health complications.  Virtually all of the 90-plus crowd who live in nursing homes have at least one disability, while four out of five who live elsewhere also have to deal with one or more disabilities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cancer Survival: Longer Lives Bring Long-Term Issues

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- When Nicole Malato, a 34-year-old human resources manager from Toms River, N.J., was diagnosed with cancer of both breasts in May, she wondered not just about how quickly her surgeon could remove the tumors, but also what subsequent chemotherapy, radiation and hormone-blocking drugs would do to her heart, her bones and her brain decades from now.

As the mother of a 2-year-old boy, her goal was "to see him graduate," she said.

From the time she learned the lumps she felt were cancerous, Malato opted for a double-mastectomy.  But she also made sure her doctors knew she was thinking about the long-term physical, psychological and social consequences of her cancer and her treatment, and the risk of recurrence.

The so-called survivorship movement, with its focus on long-term treatment effects and helping patients' maintain a good quality of the life by addressing their fatigue, sexuality and stress, is an outgrowth of people living longer with cancer and after cancer treatment.

Malato was fortunate; she found understanding doctors, joined support groups providing camaraderie and some needed perspective and poured her feelings into a blog, which also has kept friends and relatives in the treatment loop.

But for many U.S. cancer patients, survivorship issues have yet to be fully incorporated into their care, according to a report based on 1,043 breast cancer survivors' experiences with the disease.  The survey from the nonprofit Cancer Support Community's Cancer Survivor Registry, while not scientific, offers a window into the unmet needs of the nation's 2.5 million breast cancer survivors, including younger patients such as Malato, who might be facing decades of treatment.

Doctors aren't screening cancer patients for signs of emotional and social distress, despite patients' frequent anxiety or depression about their diagnosis, treatments and ability to cope.  Nor are they discussing the long-term effects of treatment, said Joanne S. Buzaglo, senior director of the Cancer Support Community's Research and Training Institute in Philadelphia.

She said the survey also found that despite the Institute of Medicine's recommending in 2005 that all cancer patients receive a survivorship care plan that summarizes their treatment and informs them about needed future screenings, conditions for which they're at risk and recommendations about diet, exercise and finding social and emotional support, only 10 percent of the survey respondents had such a plan, "although practically all of them would have liked one."

Survivorship considerations begin the moment you get diagnosed," said Dr. Mary L. Hardy, medical director of the Simms/Mann UCLA Integrative Oncology Program in Los Angeles.  "From the very minute you hear those three horrible words, 'You have cancer,' you should start being empowered, because an empowered patient is much more likely to be a successful patient."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Grieving Parents Face Higher Risk of Early Death, Study Finds

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Parents who lose their children can suffer devastating, long-lasting health consequences, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom found that parents whose children died before their first birthday faced an increased risk of early death themselves.  Their study followed more than 1,000 bereaved parents from the U.K. and found that parents in Scotland were more than twice as likely to die in the first 15 years following their child's death as parents who had not lost a child.

Among bereaved mothers in England and Wales, the risk of early death was four times higher than nonbereaved parents.  The researchers included parents who had stillborn babies, as well as those who had children die within their first 12 months of life.

The study was particularly important to Dr. Mairi Harper, the report's lead author, because she herself had a child who died several years before.  She said she was surprised by what she and her colleagues found.

"There is evidence that bereavement is a risk factor for illness," she said.  "We did expect that bereaved parents would show a higher illness factor, but we did not expect their risk to be as great as it was."

The study, published Thursday in the British Journal of Medicine's Supportive and Palliative Care, suggests several reasons for the increased rates of death among bereaved parents, such as weakened immune systems or perhaps some long-lasting biological effects caused by the stress of their loss.  However, the authors noted that they could not rule out suicide as a frequent cause of death among bereaved parents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio