It’s time to Break It Down!
So yesterday, I did a thing.
Our time on this orb called earth is limited. One Biblical proclamation asserts that “The days of our years are threescore years and ten (70 years), and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years (80 years), yet is their strength labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10.
Anthropological historians and demographers have noted that human lifespans have increased, primarily due to numerous factors, including, but not limited to, improvements in environment, food/food preservation, medication, labor saving devices, refrigeration, science, and living in an age of relative peace.
Over the course of the last few decades, life expectancy has increased around the globe. The average person born in 1960, the earliest year the United Nations began tracking global data, could reasonably have expected to live to be 52.5 years of age. Today the average is 72. In the UK, where records have been kept longer, the trend is even greater. In 1841, a baby girl was expected to live to just 42 years of age, a boy to 40. In 2016, a baby girl could expect to reach 83, a boy, 79. In the U.S., life expectancy decreased from 78.86 years in 2019 to 76.99 years in 2020, and 76.60 years in 2021, a net loss of 2.26 years. While these changes in the U.S. and 19 peer countries have been published online by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), the study has not yet been peer reviewed. However, the trend highlighted by these results are significantly attributable to the death toll from COVID-19.
Laying COVID-19 to one side, the natural conclusion is that both the miracles of modern medicine and public health initiatives have helped us live longer than ever before – so much so that we may be running out of innovations to extend life further. The fact is, while medical advancements have improved many aspects of healthcare, the assumption that human lifespan has increased in some dramatic fashion over the centuries is, in a word, misleading. As always, the devil is in the details. Overall life expectancy hasn’t increased so much because we’re living far longer than we used to as a species. It has increased because more of us, as individuals, are making it that far.
I could go way more in depth about the differences and distinctions between life expectancy (which is an average), and life span of humans. Don’t worry; I won’t. In fact, this is where I shift gears.
I have written before about the importance of attending to one’s individual health. In a previous paragraph, I noted that the point that drives people to notice how much longer we live, is the fact that, more of us are living longer. Moreover, a key reason more of us live longer is more of us have and take advantage of better available healthcare. But let’s not get it twisted. None of us is here on permanent assignment. Nothing we do will alter that fact.
If there were only two people in the world, and one died of pneumonia, due to lack of available healthcare, at two years old, and the other lived to 80, the average lifespan of earth’s population would have been 41. Yet, if those same two people, instead, both lived to be 50, the average lifespan would be 50 years. Even though one of the two lived 30 years less than in the previous example, the average age increased by nearly a decade. Doing right by oneself matters. Providing, accessing, and utilizing advanced healthcare options is a critical necessity. It directly affects each of us and our quality of life as individuals, but it also redounds to us in a macro sense, because the more of us who partake of this benefit, the longer more of us are likely to live.
I had my fourth Colonoscopy yesterday. My medical history also includes a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. Yesterday’s procedure was executed without incident, and the results were good. No polyps or other areas of concern revealed.
I am writing about this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I’m relieved and frankly delighted to have received a clean report. I’m happy for my wife and me, but also buoyant that my extended family and friends do not have to share the burden I would be carrying had I received a bad report.
Secondarily, I write to caution and encourage every single person who reads this post to act proactively when it comes to your health. In Invictus, William Ernest Henley asserted,
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
I submit that every adult among us has a responsibility to him or herself to be the best person he or she can possibly be. When it comes to our health, just as with our finances, it behooves us to be our own personal fiduciary. Some folks are reticent to consult medical professionals. Many of us know someone who received devastating news after a consultation with their physician. In too many cases, due to reluctance, hesitancy, fear, and sometimes just being too busy, we put off visiting a doctor, when there were troubling signs or symptoms that we could and should have shared with a physician much sooner, and as a result, received a more favorable diagnosis, or have had an opportunity to a get a more effective regimen prescribed. Stop playing. “Your Personal Health: It’s A Serious Matter!”
I’m done; holla back!
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