Longevity Declines as Healthcare Expenditures Rise

Dr. Sears' Blog: Longevity Declines as Healthcare Expenditures Rise

Current health costs in America account for nearly 18% of our total domestic economic activity. This dwarfs any other activity in our economy.1 For the $3.2 trillion dollars we spend annually on health care you would expect better health outcomes. The easiest outcome to measure is death rates. Unfortunately, new data from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) indicates the life span of Americans is beginning to decline.2

It’s Been More Than Two Decades since U.S. Longevity Decreased

The last time U.S. longevity decreased was nearly 25 years ago, and that decline in overall life span could be directly attributed to the rapid increase in mortality from AIDS-related causes. This new decline in overall life span is totally different, as 8 out the 10 top causes of death were all significantly increasing in 2015 compared to 2014. This mortality increase was led by Alzheimer ’s whose death rate increased by more than 15% in only one year. In fact, the only chronic disease that decreased in 2015 compared to 2014 was cancer, and that was only by 1.7%

The experts at the CDC say they are puzzled.3 Frankly, I am not. The more inflamed the average American becomes, the more likely they will die at an earlier age. The best way for an individual to measure their levels of inflammation is the Cellular Inflammation Test. Once they know how they score, they can take action to improve it.

Stop Waiting for New Breakthroughs to Increase Lifespan

Are there any drugs on the horizon that will reverse this trend? No, because the type of inflammation that accelerates chronic disease is primary diet-induced. This means our best longevity “drug” will be an anti-inflammatory diet. However, there is no need to wait for a biotechnology discovery to access this new “drug.” All you have to do is the follow the Zone Diet and supplement it with high-dose omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols to further reduce diet-induced inflammation.

If you don’t improve your inflammation, then as the lead author of the CDC study stated to the New York Times, “If a year from now this situation continues, it’s definitely a problem for public health.”3

This is no time for sugar coating the results from the CDC. If the situation continues it will be the destruction of the American economy, as health care costs will continue to escalate at even faster rates as even the crudest measure of health care (i.e., death) also increases.

How To Measure Real Health Care Progress

Measuring death rates is relatively easy. However, the real hallmark of any country’s health care system is the ability to extend the health span (i.e., longevity minus years of disability), as I said in my prior article, Healthspan is the New Lifespan. Healthspan has decreased even faster than is our overall lifespan.


  1. Martin AB et al. “National health care spending: Faster growth in 2015 as coverage expands and utilization increases.” Health Affairs 36:1-11 (2017).
  2. Xu J et al. “Mortality in the United States, 2015”. Centers for Disease Control. NCHS Data Brief 267 (2016).
  3. Rogers K. “U.S. life expectancy declines, and researchers are puzzled.” New York Times. December 8, 2016.

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About Dr. Barry Sears

Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on the impact of the diet on hormonal response, genetic expression, and inflammation. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his research efforts over the past 45 years to the study of lipids. He has published 40 scientific articles and holds 14 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. He has also written 14 books, including the New York Times #1 best-seller, The Zone, which have sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 22 different languages.


  1. Marilyn P. Anderson

    My husband and I were on the Zone Diet several years ago while we were both still working. We were the healthiest we’d ever been while on it. Then … we “forgot what made us feel good” — For the last 5 years we have floundered with our diet and wandered off of it.

    My husband has been diagnosed with Parkinsonism…(whatever the “ism” means) and my Osteopenia and Osteoarthritis of knees and shoulders make it difficult for me to help him as well as exercise. Obviously, the Zone may be a remedy of some sort.

  2. Viv Oskvarek

    Dr. Sears, I have taken the inflammation blood test on 5/19/2016 and my ratio was 3.6. I have increased the consistency of taking Omega 3 oil from 1 tbsp to 1 1/2 tbsp a day. Is there a better time of day to take Omega 3 oil and should I take another test to see if my ratio is 3.0 or less?

    • Barry Sears

      I would recommend taking the Cellular Inflammation Test on an annual basis just to monitor your progress in reducing diet-induced inflammation and increasing pro-resolution The closer to you get to 1.5, the better your long-term healthy outcomes. As you age, your EPA and DHA requrements will usually increase to keep pace will increasing inflammation induced by aging.

      I find taking the fish oil in the morning is the easiest.

  3. Cappi

    Took your polyphenol for 2 years and my bloodwork returned with a 5.2 potassium! Scary. Last year it was 4.7.
    I canceled my monthly Polyphenol. Any thoughts Dr. sears? Thank you.

    • Barry Sears

      Normal potassium levels are from 3.5 to 5 mmoles/l. There is nothing in the medical literature that links polyphenols to increased potassium levels. There are usually two reasons for increased potassium levels; (1) eating more fruits and vegetables, or (2) kidney dysfunction. I suspect your diet may be the cause because any blood testing that includes potassium testing would have also indicated kidney problems. Since the one capsule of the PolyphenolRx contains 80 mg of polyphenols, this is not much more than the 60 mg of polyphenols found in one cup of green tea. Nonetheless, I suggest stopping the polyphenols and make no change in your diet to see if the potassium are lowered.

    • Barry Sears

      Fish simply accumulate the omega-3 fatty acids found in algae. The levels of EPA and DHA in algae are generally very low. This is why fish oil is much richer in EPA and DHA compared to algae extracts. There are some genetically engineered strains of algae that can make higher levels of DHA, but usually with very low EPA levels. It’s not the source, but the absolute amounts of EPA and DHA that determine their anti-inflammatory and pro-resolution effects.

  4. Theodore Pedersen

    Hi guys very happy within your quick reply least time. Wondering if Dr. Sears book, Enter the Zone still applies today. Kinda scares me about increasing mortality rates.

    • Barry Sears

      The basic concepts outlined in The Zone more than 20 years ago have not changed. New research supports additional supplementation with EPA and DHA as well as polyphenols to provide maximum control of diet-induced inflammation.

  5. Dick Creek

    I am 72 years old have been on statins for 4 or 5 years. I want to get off these. So for the last 3 or 4 months I have not taken my statin but adhered to an excellent diet of mostly vegetables, high quality protein, almost no sugar or processed food. And I’ve been on the Zone’s fish oil & polyphenols. Latest blood test results are: Cholesterol 252, LDL 164, Triglycerides 69. Should I go back on the statins?

    • Barry Sears

      You should be able to get the HDL cholesterol levels from your blood test. You have low TG so that it is likely you will also have a low TG/HDL ratio. A low ratio is indicative that your LDL particles are non-atherogenic. If your physician insists on the statins I would suggest a lower dose coupled with a more strict Zone Diet in terms of calorie restriction. If you have no history of heart disease, then the recent data suggests at your age the side effects (including potential increase in diabetes) may outweigh the benefits.

  6. susan l. osgood

    this is the 2nd time i have been on the zone diet. the 1st time was for three years, i was 126, i fell off under severe personal death. now 5 months later i’m down 30lbs and only gained 2 lbs at christmas. my cheese and cracker snacks keep on me line there is nothing unforseen that can deregulate me, again/ thank you dr sears


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