Move to the U.S. Die Younger.

Did you know that moving to the U.S. may kill you younger?  It's the truth.  The New York Times reports today that immigrating to this country makes people die earlier than they would if they had remained in their own country.

"The longer they live in this country, the worse their rates of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. And while their American-born children may have more money, they tend to live shorter lives than the(ir) parents," according to Sabrina Tavernise.

Sadly, once they're in this country, many immigrants lose their healthy diets, exchanging their traditional meals of corn and peppers and beans for Big Macs and KFC.  Even worse, they take up smoking (though smoking is popular in many European countries, too).

“There’s something about life in the United States that is not conducive to good health across generations,”  Robert A. Hummer, a social demographer at the University of Texas at Austin, told Tavernise.

Foreign-born Hispanics live three years longer than their American counterparts, studies say, Tarvernise notes.  But that is starting to change, too, as immigrants take advantage of super-sized portions -- twice the French fries!  double the burgers! -- for little money, convenient and easy for a family juggling jobs, school and life.

What's probably most disturbing about this picture is that the offspring of immigrants do worse.  (We've already seen it happening in our country, where obesity, and the illnesses it brings on, have brought about a prediction that our children will die earlier than previous generations.)

Still, and surprisingly, immigrants have better health outcomes than most Americans, with death from heart disease about 16% lower than those born in the U.S.; kidney failure, 18% lower, and cirrhosis of the liver occurring 24% less of the time.

What helps these families is the community and kinship they can join or develop, Tarvernise asserts, often missing in Americans' own lives. Frequently whole families -- and several generations -- come to the U.S. together to make a new home, providing the support and care that, while it does not compensate for poor eating habits, nonetheless makes it easier for immigrants to assimilate here.

But many immigrants are learning well the flaws of our way of life.  Hispanics are 14% more likely to have diabetes than whites in this country, and their children, a shocking 51% likelihood of developing the disease over their white counterparts.

We have many good things in this country and no one would dispute that.  But for all our diets and exercise and nutrition advice, our ways of living could use a real health boost that we'd do well to pass on to others.


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