Have you ever wondered if there are ways to realistically lengthen your life? Who hasn’t? But in this age of high-tech everything and miracle cures, it seems like there should be some sure-fire ways for an “average” person to add a few extra years onto his or her life.
In fact, there are several rather simple things we can all do to add more than a few years to our life expectancy (as researchers and statisticians refer to our life span). As a relatively healthy adult, non-smoker approaching the age of 60, I take a keen interest in anything that might add a few days or weeks to my allotted time on this planet.
But seriously, who would ignore a giant, well-funded research study that proclaims a longer life awaits those who simply maintain a normal body weight? And how can you not listen to a doctor who says that proper blood pressure readings, moderate exercise, and a smoke-free lifestyle can add as much as a decade onto your life?
The correct answer is that you can’t ignore the research, hard science, medical studies and reams of evidence that shows us how to prevent premature death, to put it bluntly. Anyone over the age of 30 has probably wondered about life expectancy and what they can do to prolong their own lives.
Here’s the good news: You can learn a lot by examining the leading causes of death. In fact, you can live ten more years by simply living “smart,” and avoiding high-risk practices and following unanimous medical advice about how to eat, exercise, sleep and spend your leisure time.
If you’re like me, and most people, you’ll want to see what those top causes of death are and what medical professionals and scientists have to say about how to add a few extra candles to that final birthday cake.
Here’s the gist of what I found out while researching this important topic. Under each heading, you’ll find a brief explanation of the “cause,” how many people die from it each year, and what you can do to avoid falling victim to it too soon. Yes, we’ll all go sometime, but why rush things?
The “Big 8” Causes of Death, and How to Avoid Them
Hypertension (high blood pressure): [see stat in photo]
This is the preventable cause that is as the top of everyone’s list. Many professionals call it the “silent killer” because most of the symptoms of HBP don’t show up for years, if at all. Unfortunately, many people who suffer with hypertension have an inherited form of the disease that is rather hard to treat with conventional methods, and tend to require drug programs.
In any case, for the average person who suffers or is at risk of suffering from HBP, there are som things you can do right now to reduce the risk: Moderate exercise, losing excess weight, avoiding salt, controlling stress, and making sure to eat a diet that is balanced and healthful. Many people with HBP/hypertension learn to meditate as a way to decrease stress. Others take up things like tai chi and yoga in order to learn to relax deeply and naturally.
Unlike many of the other listings here, this one is highly addictive. There’s no question that smoking is one of the very worst things you can voluntarily do to your body. It not only causes a number of diseases but damages nearly every organ in your body, causes severe lung problems, heart disorders and is quite possibly the one preventable cause of death that has the potential to be wiped out within the next twenty years.Smoking: [see stat in photo below]
Top smoking cessation experts point to the START method as a good way to begin quitting. The letters simply stand for Setting a date to quit, Telling everyone you know that you are trying to quit, Anticipating that it will be a tough challenge, Removing all tobacco-related items from your home and workplace, and Talking to a professional about doing it the right way.
This leading cause of death doesn’t apply to the so-called First World nations as much as to poorer countries, where food supply and distribution channels are lacking. United Nations sources point out that about 2 billion people suffer from malnutrition worldwide, and the problem is considered the number one health challenge in modern times.
Sexually transmitted diseases:
A new member of the top causes of premature death, STDs, now more commonly called STIs (sexually transmitted infections) because many are not in fact diseases by definition, have arrived into the top of this listing primarily due to the spread of global HIV cases. Primarily centered in African nations, STIs are difficult to treat because they affect some of the poorest places on earth, where healthcare options are limited and even basic necessities like food and water are often scarce.
In developed nations where STIs are an increasing cause of death, experts point to a range of “safe sex” practices like using condoms and getting regular checkups as ways to stem the tide of this pernicious cause of premature death.
Obesity and being generally overweight:
In developed nations this is a growing problem, quite the opposite of malnutrition. Where food and healthcare are abundant, there seems to be a modern-day surge in death from obesity-related illnesses. Experts link this problem directly to another leading cause of premature death, namely “physical inactivity,” discussed below.
For those who suffer from creeping obesity and weight gain, there are plenty of non-drug options like clinically-supervised dieting, doctor-directed food regimens to get rid of excess weight at the rate of no more than two pounds per week. Studies have shown that slow, sensible weight loss is the key to keeping weight off after the “diet” is over.
In especially pernicious cases of hormone-related weight problems, doctors often recommend fad-reduction surgery. Sadly, it is estimated that more than half of such procedures are unnecessary and result from poor medical advice and lack of patient education.
Closely related to obesity, physical inactivity has many other symptoms and is more widespread than typical weight-related problems. For older people, inactivity can lead to a long list of physical problems like arthritis, heart disease, dementia, and muscular atrophy. For younger people and those still in the “prime” of their lives, inactivity can lead to hypertension, the “silent killer,” as well as poor cardiovascular health, depression, and weak bones.
The primary suggestion for sufferers is to get moderate amounts of regular exercise. There is no end to the ways one can go about increasing basic fitness levels, but it is best to speak with a physician before attempting to begin an exercise program of any kind.
Alcohol (overuse and abuse):
Alcohol-related diseases are on the upswing, as more people in developed nations consume alcohol at increasing rates. For non-problem drinkers (those who are not yet addicted to alcohol) doctors suggest no more than 1 or 2 drinks per day, usually one for women and two for men. Preferably, just one or two drinks per week seems to do the body a lot of good, based on a several studies that tried to find an optimum level of alcohol consumption for otherwise healthy adults.
For problem drinkers, the outlook is much worse because they need to get professional help or risk ending up dead or severely diseased within just a few years. In clinical alcohol-cessation programs, it typically takes 30 to 60 days before addicted drinkers are able to maintain lifestyle that, with plenty of support, can be alcohol free.
Problems associated with alcohol overuse and abuse include liver and kidney disease, heart problems of all kinds, early dementia, lymph disorders and psychological damage ranging from moderate to severe. Some results of excessive alcohol use are permanent and can never be reversed even if the person stops drinking completely. Data on addictive drinking is nearly impossible to pin down because so many people stop drinking on their own without medical help. But, estimates about U.S. alcohol-related deaths put the annual number at 88,000 lives lost, and most of those people die approximately 30 years prematurely.
Recent U.S. Data on Causes of Premature Death
A number of research studies recently conducted list the 8 top causes of premature death in the U.S., with smoking , obesity, alcohol, infectious diseases, poisons/pollutants, vehicle accidents, STDs, and drug abuse, in that order. The annual numbers were sobering: Smoking with more than 400,000 deaths, followed by obesity with about 300,000, and the rest somewhere in the 25,000 to 75,000 range. As anyone can deduce from those statistics, smoking is the biggest killer of U.S. citizens by a long shot, with obesity almost alone in second place. Everything else hovers within a range that has been pretty stable over the years with very few exceptions.
When people talk about smoking and obesity as the top health problems in the U.S., they’re deadly serious, and the statistics back them up.
Live Long and Prosper
One of the joys in learning about prevetable causes of death is the feeling of empowerment it brings. If you’d like to delve more deeply into the details about the topic, and learn even more ways to lengthen your life, check out some of the videos and books listed below.
You’ll see a graphic clip about what cigarette smoking does to human lungs. If you have already quit smoking, or never smoked, maybe you can skip this one. But you smokers need to see this one. It’s a real eye-opening and may be just the extra little incentive you need to get going on your pledge to “someday” quit. Sometimes the facts are hard to take, but if you want to know the truth, here it is in full color, high-definiton video. If lungs have one man-made enemy besides air pollution, it is tobacco smoke. Just watch. You’ll see.
Next up is a wonderfully informative clip about hypertension (high blood pressure). If you are wondering whehter you might be a candidate for HBP, follow the suggestions in the video and you might be surprised at the results. This is one of the best short vids on the subject.
Book selections range from informative entries on hypertension, smoking, obesity, alcohol problems and a general discussion about preventable causes of death and real ways to avoid premature death.
Many smokers who watch this short video quit the same day. Viewers should be warned about the graphic medical depictions of what smokers’ lungs look like, up close, with real film and real doctors discussing the causes of lung disease.
Here’s a fast way to know whether you might have hypertension. Watch this video and then speak with your doctor is you think you might be one of the millions who suffer from high blood pressure, aka hypertension.
This is one of the better and more authoritative books in its field, offering simple explanations about the top preventable causes of death alongside actionable plans for consumers. This nearly 300-page tome gives both traditional and alternative ways to approach disease and related causes of early death. The lengthy lists of reasons, all of which are meticulously backed with sources, represent the single best source for information of this kind. No doubt, each reader will be focused on one or two “causes,” but it pays to read this one from cover to cover, even though it feels more like a reference book. If you want to learn how to extend your life with realistic, achievable lifestyle changes, this is the book for you.
For smokers who want to quit, this is the single most successful book of all time. It’s still a worldwide bestseller years after the author’s death (from lung cancer), and outsells all other similar books combined. Carr’s stop-smoking method is simple, direct, and drugless. He relies on several pieces of older techniques that proved successful for generations of people who were heavy and light smokers. Carr himself used to put away five packs of smokes each day while working as an accountant, but gave it all up one day and wrote this book. Never in his wildest dreams could he have known the book, and his clinics, would be so massively successful.
If you want to quit smoking, add years to your life, and enjoy the time you have left in a smoke-free, healthy way, then Carr’s book is the way to go. It has more positive reviews than most books listed at any online bookstore, which says a lot about its effectiveness.
Author Samuel Mann is a savior to millions of hypertension sufferers who are confused about what medications, if any, to take. In this highly-rated book on a challenging subject, Mann takes readers through the entire story of high-blood-pressure (HBP) drug therapies, non-drug treatments, and explains how to navigate through it all.
The problem he focuses on is the current practice of prescribing expensive, new HBP drugs when many of the older ones work quite well and cost very little. In addition, there are more than 100 HPB/hypertension drugs on the market, each one with its own list of pros and cons. Doctors often don’t know which one is best for a particular patient and end up doing a trial-and-error system that can be costly in both time and money.
Mann’s ingenious book will help any HBP sufferer figure out which drugs might work best for them, whether any drugs are needed at all, and how to fight hypertension with a smarter lifestyle and diet. There’s so much worthwhile information in this book that anyone who’s been diagnosed with HBP should turn to Mann’s sage advice and get treatment started off on the right foot.
Dr. Jason Fung’s weight loss theories are somewhat controversial, but his book on the subject has brought relief to millions of readers. Fung’s central thesis has to do with the role insulin and insulin-resistance plays in long-term weight loss.
He describes how the insulin system works in the human body and how anyone can take advantage of proper eating and occasional fasting to achieve their goal weight. Fung has no use for fad diets and short-term solutions to weight control, and advocates a range of sensible, science-backed advice for those who are obese or very close to being so.
Obesity and its related conditions are typically listed as one of the top preventable causes of death, which is why Fung’s book is so timely. With all the media seeming to focus on smoking and high blood pressure, it’s good to have an authoritative reminder that not only is obesity unpleasant and unhealthy, but it can and does lead to premature death in millions of people each year. This book is a good first read for those who want to approach their weight problem with honesty, solid science, and an actionable plan.
This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life
Here is a commonsense approach to alcohol addiction by someone who takes no side on the “quit completely or die” argument so common in 12-Step program discussions these days. Annie Grace is a former advertising executive who knows well the power of media when it comes to alcohol.
After delivering an interesting and detailed history of alcohol in human culture, the author gets right to her central point, which suggests that quitting or cutting down on alcohol consumption need not be a lifelong fight. Many 12-Step advocates take issue with this book because it lays out a plan for living an alcohol-free life that does not include joining any groups or taking any oaths.
Grace’s non-mainstream approach to dealing with a person alcohol problem offers a refreshing look at what it really means to be “addicted” and why not everyone with a “drinking problem” is a hard-core alcoholic. Because the results of alcohol addiction cause so many millions of deaths worldwide each year, it helps to hear both sides of the story about how to deal with this aggressively debilitating social problem. You’ll be glad you read this book, and will notice how different it is from the majority of titles on the topic, all which seem to “preach” the 12-Step philosophy.
Extend the End
Life extension is slowly becoming a medical sub-category in itself. By focusing on the negative side of the equation, we can get motivated to do everything possible to live to a ripe old age.
When it comes to adding years to your life, education and lifestyle are the two keys, according to experts in the field. That’s why self-knowledge is vitally important. Knowing the true state of your physical health is the first step to a long, happy life. As doctors are fond of saying, “If you have a disease, it’s much better to find out about it as soon as possible.” Early detection is the key to a happy outcome with so many physical and mental problems.
We aren’t equipped to offer medical advice, so if you have a concern about your state of health, be sure to speak with a physician or other medical professional. This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be any kind of official medical guidance.
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