Why people are living longer
In the developed countries at least, the life expectancy of people has increased quite considerably over recent decades. More and more people are living into their eighties and even their nineties and there are various reasons for this.
Medical advances have done much to prolong people’s lives. Improved diagnostic techniques have made it possible for doctors to detect the signs of disease much earlier than before. This enables them to treat conditions at a much earlier stage and early intervention, particularly in the case of some cancers, can do much to save lives.
Many countries have developed screening programmes to enable doctors to identify certain diseases. An early example of this was the introduction of mass screening by chest X-ray for tuberculosis. More recently, in several countries, women over a certain age are asked to have a mammogram, an X-ray of the breasts taken every two years or so as a means of detecting breast cancer.
Some governments have introduced health education programmes. This has been done to make people more aware of their bodies and of any changes which may occur. People are thus much better informed and are more likely to visit their doctors early enough to prevent diseases from becoming fatal.
There have been major advances in medical treatment as well as in medical diagnosis in recent decades. More and more sophisticated drugs are used to treat cardiac disease, hypertension and strokes, more technically known as cerebrovascular accidents. These drugs prevent people from dying of such conditions at an early age. Meanwhile, chemotherapy and improved forms of radiotherapy are saving the lives of many cancer patients.
Advances in surgical techniques also prevent many people from dying at a relatively young age. One of the most major advances was the introduction of transplant surgery by Dr. Christiaan Barnard that has saved so many lives.
There is no doubt that better medical care has done much to keep people alive longer. However, it is not the only reason for increased lifespans. Better living conditions have also played a part. More people in the developed world now live in warm, dry accommodation and are much healthier because of this.
Then there is the fact that more people are now better informed about nutrition and are more able to afford the ingredients of a healthy diet. Eating the right foods, such as fruits and vegetables can, for example, do much to prevent people from developing high levels of cholesterol, thought to be a factor in the Occurrence of heart diseases and strokes. In addition, more people are also better informed about what represents a danger to their health, such as smoking, and are actively trying to avoid such dangers.
The tendency towards longer lifespans looks set to continue as medicine introduces more and more life-saving techniques. However, with people in the developed world dying nowadays from the effects of obesity instead of, as before, from malnutrition, there are signs that our modern lifestyle may, in fact, shorten some lifespans.