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Live longer better; avoiding medical debts from chronic illness

September 24, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.

Q: I heard that life expectancy is falling in the U.S. What can I do to make sure that I live as long and healthy as possible? -- Mark R., Terra Haute, Indiana

A: You're right. Between COVID-19, opioids and fentanyl, Americans are dying younger. A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that life expectancy fell for all 50 states and D.C. by almost two years in 2020 -- the biggest drop since WWII. Nationally in 2020, life expectancy at age 65 ranged from 16.1 additional years in Mississippi to 21.0 additional years in Hawaii. And New York saw the biggest decline in life expectancy: In 2020, residents were expected to live for three years less than they had been expected in 2019.

The great irony is that at the same time we are on the cusp of a revolution in our ability to extend high-quality life significantly. My new book, "The Great Age Reboot" is a blueprint for extending your life and your quality of life.

It brings together: 1. steps you can take today; 2. breakthrough science that is emerging about immunology, stem cells, cellular re-engineering, and 3. the importance of planning for an extended future financially and emotionally. To help you do that, there's a whole section on the "Science of Self-Engineering" that helps you make good decisions about food, nutritional supplements, family, friends, your sex life, your future physical abilities (vision, hearing, balance, muscle strength), how you exercise and financing your future.

With all the challenges that we are facing today, I remain confident that each one of you has the ability to shape the best future possible for yourself and your loved ones. Join me in the book on an exploration of your powers of genetic self-engineering by adopting a plant-based, red-meat-free diet; getting at least 300 minutes of physical activity a week (I think 60 minutes a day is a good goal); embracing friends, family and passions; and making future-protecting financial decisions.

Q: My dad is 61, has heart failure and diabetes and is pretty depressed because his bills just keep piling up. I do what I can to make it easier for him, and I want to make sure that I don't end up swamped by illness and debt when I'm his age. Ideas? -- Lloyd W., Birmingham, Alabama

A: There's a direct connection between chronic illness and financial problems. That's revealed in a study in JAMA Internal Medicine that looked at over 2,800,000 adults, some of whom had cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease, liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, serious mental illness, stroke, and substance-use disorders. The researchers found that the more chronic conditions a person was dealing with, the greater their risk of mounting debts. In the group studied, 17.7% had one chronic condition, 14.8% had two to three, 5.4% had four to six, and 0.7% were saddled with seven to 13 chronic conditions. Overall, about a third of those with the most chronic conditions had medical debt and almost half had delinquent debts for a variety of reasons.

The bottom line: If you want to stay out of debt, make choices to stay healthy! And, since most chronic conditions are a result, at least in part -- if not entirely -- of lifestyle choices, you are in the driver's seat! As I say in my new book, "The Great Age Reboot," longevity and quality of life depend not just on smart health decisions, but on smart financial ones, too. This study shows just how interrelated those two important steps are. As a young adult, you want to make sure your LDL cholesterol and blood pressure are healthy, weight is under control, you're getting moderate and intense exercise, you don't smoke, you consume alcohol not at all or moderately, get seven hours of sleep nightly, and you are saving at least 3% of your income annually in a tax protected account.

Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email [email protected]

King Features Syndicate

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