Although most of us know that bad health habits can shorten your life, two recent studies quantify the effect of obesity, smoking and too much time in front of the TV.
According to the first study, published in the journal Population Health Metrics, women in many parts of the country are dying at a younger age than a generation ago – a dramatic change from decades of increasing life expectancies.
Although both men and women in some places are still doing well, life expectancies for women in 737 out of 3,000 U.S. counties dropped between 1997 and 2007 – rare in an industrialized nation like ours. Population experts blame obesity, high blood pressure and smoking. The drop was mostly in Appalachia, the Deep South and the lower Midwest.
Areas of the country that have affluent populations did well, as did communities with many immigrants (who may not have yet adjusted to the bad eating habits here).
The other study also highlighted the impact of lifestyle on health. According to the report, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, every additional two hours spent daily in front of the TV raises the diabetes risk by a fifth and heart disease risk by 15 percent.
The message is clear: if you want to live a long and healthy life, stop smoking, eat less and exercise more. And turn off the TV.