US life expectancy falls below that of most wealthy nations

By Darrel Crain, D.C.

Long may you live!

American medicine was publicly flogged recently because life expectancy in our country falls below that of most wealthy nations. This is totally unfair. “The wise man lives as long as he ought, not so long as he can,” according to Montaigne, and he was French! The French, of course, rank above everyone except the Japanese and the Australians for life expectancy. Anyway, I don’t think we should blame the medical industry for our lifespan. Medicine in the United States is doing everything in its power to fight death. Heck, we spend twice as much per person on medical care than any other country. Take that, Japan!

Here in America we have a solid tradition of treating old age as a disease and recognizing death as the ultimate enemy. “We can! We must! We will fight death, to the uh, to the death!” Isn’t it amazing that roughly 80 percent of the money spent on all medical care occurs in the last few weeks of life?

“Congratulations Mrs. Jones, your 87-year-old husband has a new heart, one new lung and a couple of new kidneys. The procedure was difficult but 100 percent successful. We did a great job!”

“But my husband died!”

“Yeah, we’re truly sorry about that, we did everything we could think of. Anyway, that’ll be $178,542 please. Will that be cash, check or charge?”

Art Linkletter said, “The four stages of life are infancy, childhood, adolescence and obsolescence.” He was joking, of course, but people who believe old age means feebleness and disability will likely end up that way. If good health and long life are our goals, we might be wise to study people who live long, healthy lives.

“The man who has lived the longest is not he who has spent the greatest number of years, but he who has had the greatest sensibility of life,” according to Rousseau. At times, the world is enriched with an individual who achieves both a long life and great sensibility. I was nine when just such a man moved in next door, Grandpa Bert.

Starting at a young age, Bert climbed the ladder of success one rung at a time, rising from office boy to become vice president of a farm implement company in St. Paul, Minnesota. Then the depression hit and he lost everything. The resilient optimist that he was, Bert declared, “We might starve, but we won’t freeze!” and he and Grandma Isabel moved the family west to California.

Bert joked and laughed right up to the last day of his 99 years. “It’s a terrible thing getting old, but it beats the alternative!” That was the closest thing to a complaint Bert ever uttered about growing old. Ask how he was doing and he would tell you, “I’ve still got all my marbles, but they may be rattling around a bit in there!”

Of course, Bert’s excellent health during his long life did not necessarily stem from ten decades of strictly eating only health foods. He explained to me when I was ten how to balance your meals, “Hold a hot dog in one hand and a glass of root beer in the other.” Significantly though, he loved describing what he ate in his early years: farm-fresh food free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and herbicides.

Bert was able to get around and do the things he enjoyed up to the very end of his days, better than loads of people twenty and thirty years his junior. He never seemed preoccupied with old age. He advised us to “stay on the sunny side of life,” and “take life one day at a time.” He loved walking and walked nearly every day. Before the housing development bulldozed its way into our valley, a very long dirt road connected our old ranch to the main road. Bert used to walk down in the morning to pick up the newspaper and drop outgoing mail in the mailbox. Later he would walk down again and carry a large bundle of mail up the hill.

Bert was full of practical advice, including, “Sleep when you’re tired, and get up when you’re hungry!” He often told us, “Stay away from doctors!” meaning medical doctors, of course. He followed his own advice and was prescribed drugs only a handful of times in all his years. How many seniors do you know who swallow a handful of drugs every day?

I hate to be critical, but is it possible modern American medicine is missing something? Medical doctors seem to think our senior citizens are all terribly sick, probably because the healthy ones are staying away in droves. There is a pervasive myth that as we grow old we must deteriorate, we must take drugs and we will probably need major surgery. Survival is granted greater importance than quality of life.

Which brings up the topic of how seniors are supposed to pay for all this medical stuff. Do you suppose it is just a coincidence that the new Medicare rules are proving profitable for our poor drug companies, while proving to be confusing and unfair to seniors? I think it is time we change the name of the whole program from Medicare to “Medi-doesn’t-care-one-little-bit.”

Seriously though, if you are interested in staying young and healthy while growing old, you should make a point to talk to some of the healthy senior citizens walking all around your town. Find out what their secret is to long life. Chances are they know Mark Twain’s secret just as Bert did, “Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

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Dr. Darrel Crain
Family Chiropractor
Natural Health Writer
President, CCA San Diego County District
619-445-0100 @ 1:04 pm | Article ID: 1145304255