Q: My grandmother has a lot of health problems that make it difficult for her to enjoy life. It makes me wonder if all the fancy drugs and treatments she takes to keep her going are really worth it. We want her around as long as possible, but we’d like her to be happier. Any suggestions? – Sally Q., Bethesda, Maryland
A: Yes, we do have some suggestions, and we understand where you’re coming from. Life expectancy in the U.S. today is at an all-time high of around 76 for men and 81 for women; in Canada it’s 80 for men and 84 for women. And a lot of folks are living much longer than that: Around 55,000 folks in the U.S. are 100 or older, an almost a 66 percent increase since 1980.
In part, the increased longevity results from better prevention of heart-disease-related deaths and of some cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer. These cancers, along with some other potentially fatal diseases, are now often considered chronic conditions to be managed. Plus, we have effective ways to repair and replace arthritis-damaged joints so that people can stay active longer.
But according to new data from The Global Burden of Disease Study, while people are living longer, they often have to contend with troubling disabilities or illnesses. And that’s as true in the U.S. as anywhere. HEALTHY life expectancy is only 67 for guys and 72 for gals. And the main causes of this discrepancy are obesity, smoking, dietary risks and alcohol.
We don’t know what your grandmother’s specific health issues are, but we do know that the elderly can reap huge health benefits from upgrading their diet, getting more physical activity, learning to manage stress and taking their medications as prescribed. Ask if you can come along to her next doctor’s appointment, and talk with her and her doc about these issues. And remember, you have her DNA, so there’s a good chance you’ll live even longer. Make sure you get the exercise and the good diet you need for a longer, healthy life, too!
© 2015 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.