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Seniors are living longer, but managing more chronic conditions

December 18, 2012

An extensive new study from the United Health Foundation revealed a bit of a mixed bag when it came to healthy aging. Researchers found that people in the United States are living longer than ever, but many are managing chronic conditions while they do so, according to USA Today.

Drawing on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association and Census Bureau, among others, researchers noted that the average life expectancy is currently 78.5 years. Not only that, but the number of premature deaths has dropped by 18 percent since 1990. Additionally, the number of people who have died from heart disease has fallen by 35 percent.

While these findings are encouraging, the number of people who have unhealthy behaviors or certain medical conditions is somewhat high. For instance, more than 26 percent of Americans live a sedentary lifestyle, and nearly 31 percent of people have high blood pressure. Experts say the results could mean trouble for the medical industry as the senior population continues to grow.

"There's no way that this country can possibly afford the medical care costs and consequences of these preventable chronic illnesses," Reed Tuckson, of the United Health Foundation, told the publication. "We have two freight trains headed directly into each other unless we take action now. People have to be successful at taking accountability for their own health-related decisions."

The findings echo previous research that highlights the number of older adults managing multiple chronic conditions. The CDC report revealed that from 2000 through 2010, the number of people aged 45 to 64 living with high blood pressure and heart disease rose from 18 to 21 percent.