In the future, chronic health problems like cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are likely to have a bigger impact on longevity.

By 2050, life expectancy will be 80.5 years for women and 76 years for men, with gains concentrated in countries with the lowest current life expectancy, according to study results published in the Lancet.

These gains in life expectancy are being driven by a decline in deaths from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, malnutrition, and childbirth, as well as better prevention, detection, and treatment of heart disease, according to the study.

This means that things like smoking, drinking, unhealthy eating habits, and inactivity will have a bigger impact on longevity than they had in the past – and so will things like high blood pressure and obesity.

Already, the typical number of years lost to poor health and premature death from these lifestyle and metabolic risk factors has surged by 50 percent since the start of this century, the study found.

Rising Metabolic and Dietary Risk Factors

“There is an immense opportunity ahead for us to influence the future of global health by getting ahead of these rising metabolic and dietary risk factors, particularly those related to behavioural and lifestyle factors like high blood sugar, high body mass index, and high blood pressure,” said the senior study author, Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, a professor and the chair of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, in a statement.

Deaths from infectious diseases, pregnancy, and infant mortality are becoming much less common due to medical advances like vaccines, as well as public health measures to reduce the spread of communicable diseases, says Brandon Yan, MD, MPH, of the School of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco.

“As nations develop, access to services like clean running water and sewage [treatment] improves, which reduces the spread of infections that can cause pneumonia, diarrhoea, and other conditions,” says Dr. Yan, who wasn’t involved in the new study. “Access to food and healthcare improves as well, preventing many deaths from malnutrition and treatable conditions.”



Lifestyle Choices Can Improve Longevity

Even though the study found that increased life expectancy was associated with more years of living with disability and chronic health problems, this can be attributed to old age, Yan says.

“Quality of life declines with advanced age on average, from loss of mobility and independence, and more chronic medical conditions,” Yan adds.

“When researchers accounted for age differences, the years of poor health and/or disability did not change much over time.”

Beyond this, the study findings are good news for people who want to take charge of their own health, because longevity will be increasingly linked to lifestyle choices that people can make to improve their health.

“Diet changes to reduce salt, sugar, and animal fats can make a huge difference in preventing or controlling chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol,” Yan says. “Remaining active in daily life helps improve both physical and mental health and is linked to longer survival.”

SOURCE: Everyday Health