Canadians with cystic fibrosis live 10 years longer than their American counterparts, new study finds.
Though the U.S. is often looked down upon for their approach to healthcare and medicine, when compared to other countries the life expectancy is still relatively comparable. The difference in care, of course, is the lack of affordability, but many American citizens often find some way to fund their insanely high medical bills.
Though the average life expectancy for Americans of both sexes is 79.3 years, this is not the case for those affected by cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a progressive genetic disease, which means babies are born with it and it only gets worse over time. The U.S. and Canada have both kept records regarding patients with cystic fibrosis since the early 1970s, but it wasn’t until recently that a study regarding the life expectancy in each nation revealed the shocking truth: Canadians with cystic fibrosis live, on average, 10 years longer than Americans with the disease.
According to the study, in most recent years Canadians with CF were seen to live for 50.9 on average, whereas in the U.S. they lived for 40.6 years.
Cystic fibrosis has come a long way in terms of treatment since the mid-twentieth century. In 1959, the median age of survival for those born with it was only 6 months. Today, those with the disease can live to be middle-aged and have a good quality of life. The disease is one that affects the lungs primary but can also affect several other organs. The long-term issues include difficulty breathing, coughing up mucus, and frequent lung infections. These and other symptoms related to the gastrointestinal tract and the pancreas worsen over time, eventually proving to be fatal for those born with the disease.
Those involved in the study found that there were a number of factors contributing to the huge difference in life expectancy, rather than there being one reason for the constant increase in median lifespan for Canadians.
“We hypothesize that three factors may be playing a role in the survival gap: lung transplantation; differences in the two health care systems; the differential approach to nutrition in the 1970s that started first in Canada,” Dr. Anne Stephenson, the lead author for the study, told CNN.
Thought these were the largest contributing factors, Stephenson maintained that there was no data to determine how much each factor impacted the life expectancy.
In Canada, patients in need of a lung transplant were more likely to get one, whereas in the U.S., a greater proportion of deaths occurred because a patient did not receive a transplant. Health insurance was also a huge factor, because the U.S. relies primarily on private insurance that varies in coverage while Canadians have universal, publicly funded insurance. Authors also believe that nutrition recommendations for high-fat diet and supplements for patients that were offered in Canada a decade before the U.S. introduced them has helped Canadians get a leg up on the disease. By following with these recommendations starting in the early 70s, the patients who are reaching the end of their life now may have had a prolonged life because they had the proper diet from the start.
Since there appears to be no difference with the severity of disease in patients from either nation, the factors are important to consider, especially for American citizens and their healthcare system.