Living Longer But Unhealthier: Why Our Extra Years Might Not Be So Golden

Kudos to us! We are potentially going to live longer than our parents. However, don’t get too excited just yet, because our unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles will most likely ensure that those extra years are filled with health concerns.

Recent research in the Netherlands has revealed that adults today might have a higher life expectancy, but they are also less metabolically healthy than the generations before them. The study found that the most recent generations are faring worse in terms of health trends, as the prevalence of metabolic risk factors is on the rise and shows no sign of stopping. So, what are the main health concerns that could be impacting our newfound extended life expectancy?

Overweight and Obesity on the Rise

One of the most notable findings of the study was that many more adults nowadays are overweight or obese compared to past generations. This is a direct result of unhealthy food choices and the increasing prevalence of sedentary lifestyles. In fact, a significant portion of our daily lives are now spent engaging in activities that require little to no physical exertion, such as working on a computer, watching television, and using smartphones or tablets.

Being overweight or obese can lead to a host of health issues like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, and in 2016, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight, and 13% were obese.

Hypertension: A Growing Concern

Another alarming health trend uncovered by the study is the skyrocketing rate of hypertension, or high blood pressure. Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming 17.9 million lives each year.

The prevalence of hypertension increases with age, but it has been found to be higher in each succeeding generation, even when compared to cohorts born just ten years prior. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that nearly half of all American adults have high blood pressure. Stress, unhealthy diets high in salt, and excessive alcohol consumption are some of the known factors contributing to the rise in hypertension.

Diabetes: A Modern-Day Epidemic

The ongoing epidemic of diabetes can also be traced back to the unhealthy lifestyles practiced by contemporary adults. The prevalence of diabetes has been steadily rising over the years, with current estimates suggesting that 1 in 11 people worldwide have diabetes, or 463 million people, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and is largely attributed to excess body weight and physical inactivity.

Diabetes can lead to serious health complications, including heart disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, and even limb amputations. The WHO has projected that diabetes will become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030.

Taking Charge: Simple Steps to Improve Our Health

The key to combating these health concerns is to take charge of our own well-being by adopting healthier lifestyles. Although it might seem overwhelming to revamp your entire life, starting with small incremental changes can make a significant impact. Some simple steps you can implement are:

  • Adopting a healthier diet: Incorporate more whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, into your meals, while avoiding highly processed, sugary, and fried foods. Don’t forget to also watch your portion sizes and listen to your body’s hunger cues.

  • Becoming more active: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week, coupled with two or more days of strength training. Choose activities that you enjoy, such as walking, cycling, swimming, or dance classes, to increase your likelihood of sticking with a routine.

  • Reducing stress and fostering emotional well-being: Incorporate stress-reducing techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation into your daily life. Don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or other emotional issues.

Yes, we might live longer than our parents, but the quality of those extra years matters just as much as the quantity. By making smarter lifestyle choices and addressing health concerns early on, we can improve our chances of enjoying a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life well into our golden years.