U.S. Ranks 49th in Life Expectancy, First in Health Care Costs Posted By Dr. Mercola

| October 2010

America ranks 49th in life expectancy worldwide, putting it lower than a dozen other developed nations.

However, researchers determined that obesity, traffic accidents and a high murder rate may not be the main causes — the U.S. didn’t stand out as doing any worse in these areas than any of the other countries studied.

Instead, poor health care may be to blame. Factors such as costly specialized and fragmented care are likely playing a large role in the nation’s poor performance.

Commenting on the study in Salon, Glenn Greenwald noted:

“It’s easy to say and easy to document, but quite difficult to really internalize, that the United States is in the process of imperial collapse. Every now and then, however, one encounters certain facts which compellingly and viscerally highlight how real that is.”

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

The U.S. health care system is in a downward spiral and showing no indications of slowing down or reversing. I’ve been warning people about this tragic state of affairs for more than two decades, and now the evidence is becoming even more obvious.

Virtually every measurable index indicates that despite the ever-increasing amounts of money invested, if you live in the US, your chances of achieving optimal health through the medical system is only getting worse.

Americans Spend More for Health Care to Live Shorter Lives

The latest study published in Health Affairs revealed that the United States now ranks 49th for male and female life expectancy worldwide, a ranking that has fallen sharply from fifth place in 1950. At the same time that life expectancy has been declining at faster rates than many other industrialized nations, per capita health spending has been on the rise.

Specifically, U.S. per capita health spending rose at nearly twice the rate of other developed countries between 1970 and 2002, which means the U.S. spends more than twice the amount on health care as other developed nations.

What’s more, three of the “big killers” — obesity, traffic accidents and murder — cannot explain the United States’ dismal life expectancy data, as other countries have similar death rates from these factors.

What they may not have, however, is a health care system as poor as the one in the United States … as the study researchers told MSNBC:

“The U.S. doesn’t stand out as doing any worse in these areas [obesity, traffic accidents and murder] than any of the other countries we studied, leading us to believe that failings in the U.S. health care system, such as costly specialized and fragmented care, are likely playing a large role in this relatively poor performance on improvements in life expectancy.”

Among the most likely suspects for Americans’ declining health, the researchers noted in Health Affairs, were unnecessary medical procedures and an uncoordinated system with fragmented care, where patients rely on numerous providers to treat various bits and pieces of a problem, rather than seeking out one provider who will treat them as a whole:

” … unregulated fee-for-service reimbursement and an emphasis on specialty care may contribute to high US health spending, while leading to unneeded procedures and fragmentation of care. Unneeded procedures may be associated with secondary complications.

Fragmentation of care leads to poor communication between providers, sometimes conflicting instructions for patients, and higher rates of medical errors. For example, two separate physicians are probably more likely than a single primary care provider to prescribe two incompatible drugs to a single patient.”

This system, as you may have experienced first-hand, is becoming known throughout the world not for its technology or advances but for its alarming rates of medical errors and poor results in relation to its astronomical costs.

The U.S. Medical System is Responsible for Countless Deaths Every Year

That other countries manage to achieve longer life expectancies than the United States while paying a mere fraction of the U.S. health care cost per capita is a major clue that something is sorely amiss in the United States, and that something comes down to the very fundamental core of the system, which relies on drugs and surgery to treat illness, rather than focusing on prevention and wellness.

The U.S. now ranks LAST out of 19 countries for unnecessary deaths — deaths that could have been avoided through timely and effective medical care.

For example, more than 2 million Americans are now affected by hospital-acquired infections every year, and 100,000 people die as a result. It is all too common for people to go into the hospital for a “routine” surgery or medical procedure, only to contract a severe hospital-acquired infection or succumb to an adverse drug reaction or other completely preventable medication mishap.

According to one study, “patient safety incidents,” which is a nice way of saying “preventable medical mistakes,” are so common in U.S. hospitals that over the years 2006-2008 there were nearly 1 million incidents among Medicare patients, and one in 10 of them were deadly.

A HealthGrades report also pointed out that “the incidence rate of medical harm occurring is estimated to be over 40,000 each and EVERY day according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement!”

Ten years ago, Professor Bruce Pomerance of the University of Toronto also concluded that properly prescribed and correctly taken pharmaceutical drugs were the fourth leading cause of death in the US.

More recently, Johns Hopkins Medical School refined this research and discovered that medical errors and prescription drugs together may actually be the LEADING cause of death.

So the primary form of “health care” and treatment in the United States may actually prematurely kill more people than any disease plaguing our society!

Unthinkable Surgery Mix-Ups are All Too Common

Surgical errors, such as operating on the wrong patient or amputating the wrong limb, are unacceptably high in the United States. A new study in the Archives of Surgery found that Colorado doctors alone operated on the wrong patient 25 times and on the wrong body part 107 times!

These catastrophic “wrong patient” and “wrong site” procedures accounted for 0.5 percent of the medical mistakes analyzed in the study, which is a much higher percentage than expected.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Martin Makary, M.D., a professor of surgery and public health at Johns Hopkins University, went so far as to say that “almost every surgeon has seen one.”

These entirely preventable, and unacceptable, incidents were often the result of errors in diagnosis, judgment and communication — or in other words human error.

Surgical teams are also encouraged to have a “time out” prior to surgery to double check that they have the correct patient and surgical site — but in wrong-site errors, a time-out procedure was not performed 72 percent of the time.

U.S. Health Care Gets a Failing Grade

If you’re like most people, you probably have certain expectations about the quality of the products you buy. You probably expect your laptop computer to make it through at least a year or two before crashing, or your car to operate smoothly for a certain number of miles before needing to pay for additional repairs, for example.

So, what do you expect to get when you’re faced with an ailment or disease and your physician — or worse yet, a slick advertisement — “sells” you on a particular surgical procedure or drug treatment?

You probably expect it to solve your problem, improve your health, or, at the very least, live up to its advertised ideals. But in the United States this is, sadly, expecting too much.

American medical care is the most expensive in the world, and for this “price” Americans get:

A maternal mortality rate that is 13.3 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births — over four times the U.S. government’s 2010 goal of 3.3.
A premature birth rate that is higher than that of most other developed nations, and rose 36 percent between the early 1980s and 2006.
Ranked second-to-last out of rich countries for measures of child well-being.
Ranked 30th in global infant mortality rates, behind most European countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Israel.
Falling life expectancy rates relative to 12 other countries over the past 30 years.
So please understand that if you live in the United States, your health is not safe in the hands of the conventional medical system. The entire paradigm of conventional medicine is flawed, and finding health care providers that aren’t trapped within this paradigm will require effort on your part — but it can be done.

The Solution for Quality Health Care in the United States …

If you are suffering from a health problem or looking for a wellness guide, you’ll need to find a holistically minded physician who can teach you how to achieve and maintain good health rather than throwing one Band-Aid after the other your way.

Many cities in the United States now have thriving communities of people looking to break away from the conventional modes of care, and the more you get involved in that community — by visiting local health food stores, food coops, alternative health fairs and the like — the easier it will be to find a reliable referral. You can also search online for holistic practitioners in your area.

Breaking free of the conventional “drug for every symptom” paradigm is an essential step in your well-being, and ultimately this responsibility is yours. Even if you find a health care practitioner to guide you, which I recommend, ultimately you will still need to make the choices to better your health.

Please know that you and your family CAN take control of your health.

My site is chock full of free comprehensive recommendations that can serve as an excellent starting point. The tools I provide on this site will help you to reduce your reliance on the broken health care system.

The guidelines that follow are more basic strategies to live by; strategies that will boost your well-being naturally to keep you OUT of the hospital and away from the fatally flawed medical system so you can enjoy a healthful life!

Address your emotional traumas and manage your stress
Optimize your vitamin D levels
Drink plenty of clean water
Limit your exposure to toxins
Consume healthy fats
Eat a healthy diet that’s right for your nutritional type (paying very careful attention to keeping your insulin levels down)
Eat plenty of raw food
Optimize your insulin and leptin levels
Exercise – I also encourage you to incorporate Peak 8 exercises to really maximize your health benefits
Get plenty of good sleep

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