Live better longer; avoid medical debt from chronic conditions – Hometown Focus

Q: I heard that life expectancy is declining in the United States. What can I do to make sure I live as long and healthy as possible? —Mark R., Terra Haute, Indiana

A: You are right. Between COVID-19, opioids and fentanyl, Americans are dying younger. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that life expectancy fell nearly two years in all 50 states and DC in 2020, the biggest drop since World War II. Nationally in 2020, life expectancy at age 65 ranged from an additional 16.1 years in Mississippi to an additional 21.0 years in Hawaii. And New York has seen the biggest drop in life expectancy: in 2020, residents were expected to live three years less than in 2019.

The great irony is that at the same time, we are on the cusp of a revolution in our ability to significantly extend a high quality life. My new book, The reboot of old age is a plan to extend your life and your quality of life.

It brings together: 1. the steps you can take today; 2. the breakthrough science emerging on immunology, stem cells, cell reengineering, and 3. the importance of planning for a financially and emotionally extended future. To help you with this, there is a whole section on the “Science of Self Engineering” which helps you make good decisions about food, supplements, family, friends, your sex life, your future physical abilities (vision, hearing, balance, muscle strength), how you train and finance your future.

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

Q: My father is 61 years old, has heart failure and diabetes and is quite depressed because

his bills keep piling up. I’m doing what I can to make it easier for him and I want to make sure I don’t end up overwhelmed with illness and debt at his age. Ideas ? —Lloyd W., Birmingham, Alabama

A: There is a direct link between chronic illnesses and financial problems. This was revealed by a study of JAMA internal medicine which involved more than 2,800,000 adults, some of whom suffered from cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease, liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, severe mental illness, stroke and substance use disorders. The researchers found that the more chronic conditions a person had, the more likely they were to go into debt. In the study group, 17.7% suffered from one chronic disease, 14.8% had two to three, 5.4% had four to six and 0.7% suffered from seven to 13 chronic diseases. Overall, about one-third of people with the most chronic conditions had medical debt and nearly half had outstanding debt for various reasons.

The bottom line: If you want to avoid debt, make choices to stay healthy! And, since most chronic diseases are the result, at least in part, if not entirely, of lifestyle choices, you are in control! As I say in my new book, The reboot of old age, longevity and quality of life depend not only on smart health decisions, but also on smart financial decisions. This study shows how closely these two important steps are linked. As a young adult, you want to make sure your LDL cholesterol and blood pressure levels are healthy, your weight is under control, you get moderate to vigorous exercise, you don’t smoke, you don’t consume no or moderate alcohol, get seven hours of sleep every night, and save at least 3% of your annual income in a tax-sheltered account.

Health pioneer Michael Roizen, MD, is director emeritus of wellness at the Cleveland Clinic and four #1 author New York Times bestsellers. His next book is The Old Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Future. Do you have a topic that Dr. Mike should address in a future column? If so, please email

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, MD Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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