A new study has found that Americans are living healthier longer lives, and in fact, researchers have said that most seniors are actually doing quite well until their last year or two. That means that Americans aren’t just increasing their life expectancy, but they are able to enjoy better health for most of their lives.
The author of the study, David Cutler, a Harvard University professor of applied economics, has said that except for the last year or two just before seniors die, most of them are much healthier than they have been in the past. This means that the amount of time that people are in poor health is being pushed back until the very end of life. In the past, people used to be very, very ill for the last six to seven years of life, but now that’s just not that common.
For this study, Cutler and researchers studied health information that was collected from almost 90,000 Medicare patients between the years of 1991 and 2009. They then compared this information against survey responses on how able people were to take care of themselves; could they cook, bathe, clean, walk, dress and manage money. The answers were used to determine how healthy the participants were when compared to how close they might be to dying.
Improvements in health care options, as well as an increase in access to health care, are likely reasons that people are staying healthier longer, but it isn’t clear, and research might be needed to determine exactly what contributes to the longer life.
Cutler has also said that he believes there is a definite relationship between certain illnesses that are more treatable, and not as debilitating as they used to be. There are also clearly many aspects of medicine that have improved. He says that the most obvious condition that is more easily treatable is cardiovascular disease. Early detection helps to prevent many heart attacks, and since people are now taking medications to lower cholesterol, and recovery from heart attacks and strokes is much better than in previous years. In the past, a person that had a stroke would be fully disabled, but now many not only live, but continue living for quite some time. The same can be said for those that suffer heart attacks.
Another factor is that many people are better educated when it comes to how to live healthier lifestyles.
Since people have better access to personal health education, it is helping them to take steps to live longer, and prevent the slow decline. While there is no way to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, many other health problems are treatable.