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Despite the increase in life expectancy over the last 200 years, not all groups of people have the same chances of good health. What factors affect health?
It is deplorable to recognize, but man is mortal. A human being grows older, so ability to adapt to the environment has being slackened with the years by increasing probability of death. Mostly, this process has internal character and decease in advanced age is natural. Nevertheless, the modern science has cast light on the substantial effect of environmental factor, behaviour pattern and socio-economic status to life span in last two centuries.
It should be noted, that vast majority of people in the past were not died a natural death and it occurred much earlier owing to external natural causes. Epidemic, crop failure, act of God befell the human race constantly and took many lives. It is difficult to believe, but as the hard stat reports the influenza epidemic in 1918 infected half a billion people across the world and claimed the lives of almost 50 million earthmen1, more than died in World War I. It appeared in late spring without warning and scientists, doctors and health officials were unable to diagnose a problem which was spreading rapidly. Mercifully, the contemporary breakthroughs in immunization and vaccination have significantly decreased risk of its appearance in such scale. As an illustration, according to the data of the World Health Organization, if in 50th the quantity of victims of Cholera totaled 502 thousand, in the last decade the respective performance did not exceed 47 thousand fatal outcomes2.
Meanwhile, by the expert’s estimation of Sixty-first World Health Assembly participants in Geneva3, the chronic ailments as a heart condition, stroke and cancer are main cause of 60 percent of fatal cases in nowadays. The level of mortality from infectious disease will be declined at an early date whereas the figures of chronic illnesses will be grown. It is generally known that the risk of development of the above stated diseases directly depends on our nutrition and mode of life. The onrush of technology in 19th and 20th centuries has unavoidably changed the first as well as the second. For one thing, the agricultural industrialization led to dramatic reduction of nutritional value of many vegetables. Official U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrient data shows that the calcium content of broccoli averaged 12.9 milligrams per gram of dry weight in 1950, but only 4.4 mg. dry weight in 20034. So if at the turn of the 20th century an adult person took daily dose of iron from just two apples, at the close of the century it demands at least 50 apples. In this sense, as we can imagine, any discourse of use of apple per day becomes pointless. Secondly, there is no need to underestimate the importance of our lifestyle by relying on the existing preconception about genetic longevity of our ancestors. Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy has recently issued its research5, where the scientists assert that hereditary factor does not play the expected role in life interval than mode of life. The unique study has being conducted during almost half a century among 50-year-olds. By examining the results of check-up in this specific age group in different time intervals and comparing, they discovered in 2008 clear-cut correlation between smoking combined with cholesterol level and lower blood pressure and the number of heart attacks in the course of this four decades.
Last but not least matter is influence of social inequality. In this connection, note should be taken on the interesting data chart presented on TED Conference stage6 by Richard Wilkinson who is professor at the University of Nottingham.
1 Taubenberger and at al., 2006, 1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2 Cholera: Number of reported deaths by country, Global Health Observatory Data Repository, WOH
3 World Health Statistics, 2008, WOH
4 Nutrient data, USDA, 2003
5 Professor Lars Wilhelmsen, at al., University of Gothenburg, 2011, Journal of Internal medicine
6 Richard Wilkinson, TEDGlobal 2011