Life Expectancy in U.S. Decreasing

A report from the National Institute of Health's National Institute on Aging reports that America's Life Expectancy could be decreasing:

Over the next few decades, life expectancy for the average American could decline by as much as 5 years unless aggressive efforts are made to slow rising rates of obesity, according to a team of scientists supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The U.S. could be facing its first sustained drop in life expectancy in the modern era, the researchers say, but this decline is not inevitable if Americans—particularly younger ones—trim their waistlines or if other improvements outweigh the impact of obesity. The new report in the March 17, 2005 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine appears little more than a year after the HHS unveiled a new national education campaign and research strategy to combat obesity and excessive weight.


“This work paints a disturbing portrait of the potential effect that life styles of baby boomers and the next generation could have on life expectancy,” says Richard M. Suzman, Ph.D., Associate Director of the NIA for Behavioral and Social Research. Indeed, Suzman notes, obesity may already have had an effect. The sharp increase of obesity among people now in their 60s, he suggests, may be one explanation why the gains in U.S. life expectancy at older ages have been less than those of other developed countries in recent years.
Yet another area where America is trailing the rest of the industrialized world.

The article mentions a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggests "two out of three American adults are overweight (having a body mass index—BMI—of 25 or more) or obese (having a BMI of 30 or more)."

I went to the Center for Disease Control's website to calculate my BMI. My BMI falls just barely within the 'normal' range. I'm just a little over one point away from being over weight. To get my BMI to the middle of the 'normal' range (21.7) I would have to lose 13 pounds - 8% of my total body weight! To make it to the upper reaches of 'underweight' (18.5) I'd have to drop 36 pounds. That's more than 22% of my total body weight.

I run a few miles three times a week and lift at least twice a week. I eat pretty well. I wear a size small shirt and 32-30 pants. How fucking small do they want me to be?

I accept that there is a growing weight problem in the United States. It's important for people to maintain a healthy weight, but really! I look at my grandparents - they're in their eighties, reasonably healthy and certainly not slender. They're not fat, mind you, but I can't imagine that they would fall into the 'normal' range on the CDC's BMI calculator.

I wonder if the reason two thirds of Americans are overweight is because the definition is a bit too stringent...

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