Life expectancy in Arkansas

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the average life expectancy for a resident of Garland County is 75.1 years. That falls pretty much right in the middle as far as the state of Arkansas goes. Washington County has the highest life expectancy at 78.5 years. Phillips County came in with the lowest life expectancy of 71.5 years.

Arkansas' average life expectancy has increased slightly during the past three years. The increase is very small, only 0.2 percent, but at least it is going up. That is much better than the alternative.

Strangely, the Internal Revenue Service put out life expectancy tables and determined that there were five main factors that have the greatest influence on how long you live. Those five factors are: when you were born, your gender, your race, personal medical conditions and family medical history.

Obviously, the first factor, when you were born, is a contributor because of the advances that have been made in medical science over the past few decades. Penicillin was discovered in 1928 and many other lifesaving drugs have followed suit over the years.

Next, your gender plays a major role in how long you live. Ladies' life expectancy is much higher than men. I could insert a joke here about things women do to contribute to the early death of the male of the species, but I will refrain. There is no clear-cut reason, but certain behaviors in men, such as consuming more tobacco, alcohol and drugs, play a part. Men typically die from injuries more often than females.

Minorities have shorter life expectancy overall. Lower birth weight seems to be the major cause of the lower life expectancy. U.S. News and World Report wrote a story stating, "It's difficult to isolate one factor as the cause of lower birth weight and higher infant mortality among black babies -- many correlating factors contribute to a perfect storm. Black babies are more likely to be born to younger, less-healthy, less-wealthy and less-educated mothers, who additionally are less likely to be married and less likely to receive prenatal care than white mothers."

Personal medical conditions definitely contribute to how long you live. This is in direct correlation to how well you take care of yourself and your diet. Researchers at McGill University determined that obesity could shorten life expectancy by up to eight years.

"The pattern is clear," Dr. Steven Grover, lead author and Professor of Medicine at McGill University, said in the published study. "The more an individual weighs and the younger their age, the greater the effect on their health, as they have many years ahead of them during which the increased health risks associated with obesity can negatively impact their lives."

Finally, family medical history has a dramatic impact on your life expectancy. Predisposition for many diseases such as cancer, heart disease and asthma can be passed along through heredity. This is a tough one and maybe the most difficult to detect. This is all the more reason to monitor your health closely and get regular medical check-ups.

So here's to hoping we all can beat the average and live to see 100 or maybe 110 years. Come on gang, I know we can do it. We can become No. 1 in life expectancy and show Washington County how it is done.

Editorial on 08/05/2018

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