Chile now ranks 27th worldwide with a life expectancy of 78.3 years, according to a U.N. report on average ages in 177 countries. The figure represents a four-year increase since 2000. Chile has also moved past the United States, which fell to number 29 with an average life expectancy of 77.9.
Japan has the highest life expectancy with an average age of 82.3, while Zambia's figure is less than half that, only 40 years. For countries with a high human development index the average is 76.2. The Latin American average is 72.8. Chile is ranked second for Latin American nations, behind Costa Rica's 78.5. Carlos Garcia, a geriatrician at the Clinica Las Condes, said Chile's increased life expectancy is due to a combination of factors: a decrease in infant mortality, a declining birthrate and enhanced access to better medical services. Still, living longer does not necessarily translate into a better quality of life, said Garcia. Presently 80% of illnesses that affect the population correspond to cardiovascular problems, diabetes, hypertension and cancers. These are illnesses that develop over a long period of time, are debilitating and are very costly to treat. The principal causes of these diseases are poor eating habits, obesity and a lack of exercise. In Japan, for example, the typical male consumes roughly 2,300 calories per day. Proteins represent 12% of that figure, fats 25% and carbohydrates 63%. Also, the Japanese perform plenty of physical activity, which is often included in their workplaces. In the United States, by contrast, men consume on average 2,700 calories per day, according to a 2004 report by the Centers for Disease Control. "It is important for people to eat well-balanced meals, whatever their diet: Japanese, Mediterranean or vegetarian" said Garcia. "Physical activity is also important. An adult needs to exercise 20 minutes a day, at least three times a week. The Santiago Times