Living Larger May Mean Living Less

csquires Blogger



You hear a lot about how important retirement savings are, especially as Americans are living longer — and adding more years in retirement.


But while advances in nutrition, workplace safety, and medicine have been increasing the odds you will live a long, healthy retirement, Americans may be actively engaged in cutting their own lives shorter, according to a recent Stanford study.


Going backward?


Without a focus on health at every stage, the continued extension of American life spans could grind to a halt. In fact, today’s youth may be among the first generations to see health decline and life expectancies drop, according to researchers at the Stanford Center on Longevity.


Transamerica recognizes the importance of healthy aging and has made a long-term commitment to supporting the Stanford research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab.


The Stanford Center’s study, “Optimizing Health in Aging Societies,” published in “Public Policy & Aging Report,” spotlights breathtaking gains in health and longevity over the past century. Sickness is down and long life is the norm, not the exception. But those gains are at risk without attention to the effects of today’s sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets.


“All told, nearly 30 years were added to the average life expectancy in a single century. Increases continue today, with 3 months added to life expectancy at 65 every year,” the study reports. “We have every reason to celebrate these historical accomplishments, yet in critical areas, our successes have led to unintended consequences.”


Dangers of obesity

While more Americans are living long enough to suffer from common infirmities of old age — Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, osteoporosis, arthritis, and heart disease — one of the biggest killers, obesity, gets its start in childhood and progresses through middle age.


Give in to those extra helpings and unhealthy temptations and you could be risking years of healthy retirement living and time with loved ones while surrendering retirement savings to unexpected medical expenses. The study reports:


  • Life expectancy for the average American could decline by as much as five years unless aggressive efforts are made to slow rising rates of obesity.
  • The consequences of obesity are sufficiently serious that in 2013, the American Medical Association classified it as a disease in its own right.
  • Obesity is associated with a 40% increase in duration of disability and thousands of dollars in increased health care costs.


“The bottom line is that we need to change the way we live,” the study reports. 


Changes needed


The fix may well be a lifelong effort to modify behavior at every age, starting with childhood lessons on nutrition and exercise. Incorporating technology can help, including health monitoring through our smartphones and “wearables,” the study finds. And while the focus in the past has been on individual responsibility, the way forward may lie in population-wide strategies to improve health and fitness.


“The near doubling of life expectancy is among the greatest achievements in history,” the study concludes. “The sobering news at this point in history is that gains to fitness have not only ceased, they are reversing.”


The full study is available for download at the Stanford Center on Longevity’s website.


It’s not too late to take charge. The American Heart Association has some simple tips about exercise and some healthy recipes to try.


Have you made it a point to squeeze some healthier habits into your day? We know it’s not easy, so we’d love to hear how you did it.




Transamerica does not provide you with personalized medical advice, diagnosis or treatment (collectively “Advice”) and you should not rely on any it for such.  You should consult your own doctor for personalized Advice.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.




Recently I started using a calorie counting app that has been easy to use. As a result I am watching my calories much more closely, and the weight is coming off. In the past awareness of what I was eating was critical to losing weight, and this time is no different. What matters most is not the specific app but being accountable for keeping track of what you eat and recognizing quickly dieting mistakes before they put on too many pounds!


I couldn't agree with you more, @john_garrett! So important!


"The fix may well be a lifelong effort to modify behavior at every age,"


this is the quote from the article that resonates with me to most because growing up healthy and active I have not lost any of my good habits, but they are just not as effective anymore. "Healthy" and "portion size" change at every age stage but no one preps you for them before they arrive.