The Shrinking American Lifespan: We're Not Expected to Live as Long Anymore

A few lifestyle changes could lengthen Americans' lives

Every morning on my way to work, I walk past McDonald's. The smells of freshly fried hash browns and Egg McMuffins seep into my nostrils as I watch people eagerly unwrap their breakfasts like it's Christmas morning.

Unfortunately, if Americans continue to eat like this, there may be fewer tomorrows, fewer Christmas's and fewer breakfasts. According to a recent study published in Population Health Metrics, the gap between the average life expectancy of Americans compared to those in other developed nations such as Japan, Sweden, Australia, and Canada, is windening.

Who is to blame for Americans' shrinking life span? Ronald McDonald? Joe Camel? Jack Daniels?

It may just be all of the above. Being in the wrong car at the wrong time can contribute to a shorter life, but overall it's a diet of unhealthy foods, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol that shortens your life expectancy. Research has continued to show that race is also a factor. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Black Americans get fewer operations, medical tests and other health treatments than White Americans. Black men have the lowest life expectancy of American men, living to an average age of 70, while White women live an average of 81 years, and Asian-American women can expect a life span of 85.7 years.

Your hometown matters, too. Residents of areas with fewer job and educational opportunities tend to have shorter lifespans. In several counties in Mississippi the life expectancy is lower than 67 years. Holmes County, Mississippi has the loweset life expectancy in the entire country. About 11 percent of residents have at a bachelor's degree and nearly half live below the poverty line. Meanwhile, women in Collier County, Florida live to the average age of 86. In that county, only 12.6 percent of residents live below poverty level and 30.7 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, according to US Census Data.

Above all, the researchers emphasized the impact that practicing (or not practicing) healthy behaviors has on lifespan. That being said, it's not too late for those of us who want to beat the statistics and celebrate more birthdays. Eating more vegetables, opting for the stairs over elevators and quitting smoking (while encouraging loved ones to do the same) can help put Americans to a ripe old age.

Living a healthier lifestyle makes me feel on top of the world. Sure, waking up at 6 a.m. to grind away on the elliptical machine isn't as easy as rolling out of bed at 8 a.m. to enjoy an Egg McMuffin, but I feel less sluggish and better about myself when I do.

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