US life expectancy on the decline, but healthy habits could change that

Author: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

U.S. life expectancy is now the lowest in decades after dropping almost a full year in 2021.

Health experts say this should be a call to action because many of the dynamics that impact our longevity are within our control.

You would be hard-pressed to guess that both Deana Norris and Eric Drick are 60. They credit their age-defying bodies not to good fortune, but to good lifestyle choices.

“It’s healthy in the terms that we exercise versus sitting around. We don’t eat terribly. I eat one meal a day. Mostly chicken, salads, no high fat,” Norris said.

They’ve touched ons several metrics that help lengthen lifespan.

“What I’m most interested in, is the things that you can control about how long you live,” said Dr. Will Harper, a primary care doctor who focuses his concierge practice on well-being.

“The more fit you are, the longer you live,” Harper said. “We know that a number of studies have proven that fitness is probably the most important controllable risk factor.”

Activity, diet and social connection help people thrive. But what weighs many people down are the chronic conditions: things like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These are life-limiting and contribute to the drop in life expectancy.

The average lifespan in the U.S. plunged to just over 76 in 2021. The decline starting in 2020 is the biggest 2-year drop in a century.

“If we want to move the needle on, and we look at this data that says that say, you know, we’re not in a good place from a lifespan perspective as Americans, we need to think of it as big picture,” Harper said. “Like you know, how fit am I? You know, is my diet proper? Is it good? You know, what should I eat? What shouldn’t I eat?”

Norris and Drick are well on their road to wellness, playing life as a long game.

“I want to enjoy and walk around and enjoy life and that’s why we do it,” Drick said.

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