Jenice Armstrong: Fat & cigs: Double risk

An elderly couple enjoying an idyllic setting like this is getting rarer in the U.S.: A study shows that life expectancy in many places is dropping; poor health habits are blamed.
An elderly couple enjoying an idyllic setting like this is getting rarer in the U.S.: A study shows that life expectancy in many places is dropping; poor health habits are blamed.
Posted: June 16, 2011

I'VE ALWAYS ASSUMED that

women live longer than men, which is why I joke with female friends scattered across the country that we'll all meet up in nursing homes when we're little old ladies.

We tell each other that we're going to stick together and that one day we'll be taking bus trips to New York and to Atlantic City.

But now here comes new info saying that American women in many areas of the United States die at earlier ages than they did even a generation ago. And two of the leading reasons for why this is are things women can do something about: obesity and smoking.

Yes, too many of us are killing ourselves.

I hope that fitness columnist Kimberly Garrison, a Daily News colleague, will forgive me for straying into her area of expertise. But I can't help but jump on the health and fitness bandwagon from time to time, because obesity is an out-of-control epidemic in America. When you throw in smoking, it's like adding bacon grease to a kitchen fire.

You'd think that, as a nation, we'd be alarmed.

But all you have to do is go into a crowd and glance around to see people puffing on cigarettes and acting as if they could give a damn. And don't get me started on the issue of obesity.

Whenever first lady Michelle Obama addresses the issue, she is ridiculed by right-wingers who accuse her Let's Move agenda of being just another example of big government meddling in citizens' private lives.

Meanwhile, Republican presidential wannabes are vowing to roll back national health-care legislation.

As a nation, we should be hanging our fat heads.

Because even though there are huge swaths of this nation where people live as long as anybody else in the world, there also are large sections where the average lifespan is less than it is for residents of countries such as Vietnam and Syria.

It's not supposed to be this way.

I'd always assumed that our average life expectancy would continue to increase. But according to a new study by Washington University's Institute

of Health Metrics and Evaluation,

we've been backsliding.

Between 2000 and 2007, more than 80 percent of U.S. counties fell in terms of average life expectancy as compared with 10 nations with the longest life-expectancy rates.

And U.S. women fared more poorly than men.

Researchers found that females in 1,373 U.S. counties fell more than five years behind nations with the best life- expectancy rates. Men's life expectancies fell, too, but the problem was only about half as widespread as it was for women.

Like a lot of urban areas, Philadelphia County is in the bottom half of all U.S. counties in terms of average life expectancy.

In 2007, the average man in Philadelphia lived 69.2 years and the average woman 77.6 years.

In comparison, in 2007, female residents of countries with the longest life expectancies lived 84.1 years, men 78.9.

And here's something to really leave you shaking your head: That same year, women in Croatia lived to age 79.4. Men in Syria lived to an average age of 72.2.

If this isn't a warning to get people to stop smoking and get their weight under control, I don't know what is.

Send email to heyjen@phillynews.com. My blog: www.philly.com/HeyJen.

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