To be honest, this is not really a topic I wanted to write about. Most of the time, I like to stay positive and focus on how each of us can work to become healthier individuals, inside and out. But sometimes, it is important to bring the bad to light so we can strive to do our part to make things better.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that spurred comments about how Nigeria has a better life expectancy than most of the world. Well, if you are lucky enough to have all four grandparents, two healthy parents, and barely any dead friends or relatives, you probably don’t know that the rest of the country is not exactly like you. No, we don’t have a better life expectancy than most of the world. To be frank, we are actually one of the lowest, down in the bottom thirty percent. Now, I know that I didn’t think we were at the top, but that was a little bit of a shocker.
Where did this information come from? There are many sources out there for life expectancy, from how long we are expected to live when we are born based on trends, to how long people are actually living. But these various sources seem to have a matching theory: We are not doing very well. Here’s a little information gathered from the CIA and the UN:
CIA: Well, the CIA knows everything, right? I always say “They are watching you even when you are not watching yourself.” Their estimate as of 2010 is that our life expectancy rate at birth is 46.94 years. For males, it is a little lower at 46.16 years, and for females, it is a little higher at 47.76 years. Considering that this number includes AIDS victims too, and we are among the highest in the world.
UN: According to the United Nations Development Program, the numbers are very similar at 47 years for men, and 48 years for women, and about 47.7 years overall.
Just to put these numbers into perspective a little, here are the life expectancy rates of a few other countries.
Japan – 82.6 (UN) and 82.1 (CIA)
UK – 79.4 (UN) and 79 (CIA)
US – 78.2 (UN) and 78.11 (CIA)
China – 73 (UN) and 73.47 (CIA)
India – 64.7 (UN) and 69.89 (CIA)
I put the statement out this week on twitter, and this was the most shocking response I got: “My grandmother lived till 103. Those numbers are not right.” Well, I guess you’re lucky then.
When I sat down to think about it, I realized that it doesn’t really matter how they came up with these numbers. Looking through all the people I know that die of strange diseases every year, it seems about right to me. And what other country do we know where people go to bed and pray to wake up in the morning? I have known or heard of so many people that die in their sleep for reasons that are probably health-related. So ignoring the numbers in front of us is not really a good way to look at the complete picture.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we are bad just to say we are bad. There is no point recognizing we have a problem if we are not going to try to fix it. Yes, we can’t immediately fix the poverty and AIDS issues that are already rampant in our country, but we can try to work on our own bodies and spread the knowledge we have. Knowledge is power, and so if we can all educate ourselves, we can change these numbers even slightly for our own generation. If one person can try to eat right and exercise to reduce his/her own health risks and infect his/her family with the determination and knowledge in the process, we are one step closer to achieving some sort of effect.
When you see that the numbers above are not true only for Nigeria, but for African Americans too, you’ll realize that it does have a lot to do with our diet and lack of physical activity.
I am well aware that if an individual does not have food to eat in the first place, his first concern is not about how he can exercise. But for those of us that do have food and clothing and shelter, we can do what we can to change the outlook of our future.
For questions, feedback, suggestions, and opinions, please leave a comment or catch me on twitter @eightsnweights.