According to statistics, the lifespan of this generation’s general population has increased, and the health status has also improved mainly because of the new drugs and medical innovations. These are both amazing news, but what do we really mean when we say lifespan and healthspan? Is there a difference between the two and is one more important than the other?
Lifespan And Healthspan
Lifespan is the number of years in life; how long we live, whereas healthspan is the quality of life; how well we live, in simple terms. Beyond this, it’s more complex than just long life and poor health or short life and rich in health because we want to live longer and better.
When we talk further about lifespan, it’s how long we can delay the onset of life-threatening diseases. In healthspan, we dive deeper into how long we can preserve cognitive functions, maintain physical form and motor functions, and sustain our purpose and social functions. Now that we get the framework of this topic, evolution tells us how we can live longer and better, that’s by meeting our biological needs such as food and sleep sustenance, survival instincts such as stress responses and reproduction. As millennials, centuries, and decades pass, thanks to civilization and technology, we hacked our way into resolving our acute problems, such as war, famine, trauma, lethal infections, and brutality. Chronic problems, on the other hand, were left such as heart diseases, lower back pain, type-2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Once we acquire these problems, it’s harder for us to achieve longevity, meaning long and better life. One way of making sure we achieve longevity is by improving our physical capabilities. Regular exercises and intense training, diet and fasting, supplementation, meditation, sleep, and hygiene are some of the hacks we can do to increase our life and health spans.
Which Is More Important?
We oftentimes take interest in lifespan or aging and only some are aware of healthspan. Being healthy means different things to different people. It’s not only the state of being free from serious illnesses and is physically healthy, but taking into consideration the mental, emotional, spiritual, economic, and social statuses. Keep in mind that aside from how long we will live, we should also be concerned about how well we live our lives. Staying within our healthspan is desirable as we move away from it, it means we’re extremely sick, eventually affecting our lifespan.
WHO (World Health Organization) has determined the markers of healthspan, which they called HALE (healthy life expectancy). In here, they need to find out the average age of the first incidence of each common serious illnesses and know their occurrences. They found that on average, Americans live up to 20% of their lives unhealthy. Improving on the statistics is possible by biological treatments and medications, lifestyle change, balanced diet, regular exercise, physical and social activities, meditation, socio-economic and intellectual improvements. Needless to say, it’s much better to focus on healthspan than on lifespan.
How To Increase Our Healthspan?
Fatigue, poor sleep, and painful joints are some of the symptoms of natural aging process, that’s not entirely true, though. We don’t want to just learn to live with our discomforts as we get older, but we want to make the most of our “remaining” time. Good news is we can somehow reverse these “aging symptoms”. According to a medical journal, 85% of chronic diseases are because of lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and lifestyle factors.
Here are ways to increase our healthspan and bring back the vigor of our old pals out there.
- Maintaining Our Lean Muscle Mass – It is inversely correlated to immortality and has anti-aging benefits.
- Increasing Our Protein Intake – Animal protein, poultry, fish, and
seafoodsare best sources of protein, which doesn’t only increase lean muscle mass but also improves blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and cancer risk.
- Controlling Our Blood Sugar Levels – Ages 65 and up with high blood sugar levels are seven times at greater risk of having dementia. To prevent this, turn to low-carb diet and emphasize on healthy fats, lean meats, and vegetables.
- Having An Active Lifestyle – We become susceptible to illnesses as we age, affecting our heart and body functions. We can have good cardiovascular health and vitality by stretching, walking, running and strength training.
- Maintaining Positive Outlook – Motivation and mood diminishes as we get older, though mostly they’re caused by high insulin and blood sugar levels and low vitamin D. Lighten the mood by exercising and fixing our eating habit by going back to traditional foods.
- Getting Daily Dose of Antioxidant – Coffee can do the trick!
Further Into Healthspan For Aging
We are so fortunate to be living in this century, that’s because of the huge successes in biomedical industry, which increased our life expectancy. Increase in lifespan, though, doesn’t mean free from serious diseases. Health care systems is challenged on how to improve the quality of life and increase the healthspan of the elderly. These days, there have been scientific modifications that can delay aging and increase longevity by diving deep into genetic and environmental manipulations. Lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise help in improving healthspan. Intermittent fasting and calorie restrictions seems to increase regenerative process and reduce age-related morbidities. Pharmacological field has been up to improving health in aging humans by continuous clinical studies on FDA-approved mTOR inhibitor drugs.
This shift from improving lifespan to healthspan in growing elderly population has been the main focus of recent aging studies. Longer life seems to be the effect of a healthier life.
Improving our healthspan is within our control, according to Dr. Peter Attia. It is a qualitative measure so we can really do something about it. The mind, body, stress tolerance, and freedom from pain are the four factors of healthspan. Cognitive functions are important and as we age, we lose some of them, especially for others who experience neurodegerative diseases, which over time can lead to death. Physical capacity is an issue where muscle maintenance and body movement functions need to be addressed. Chronic pain and discomfort can bring even more illnesses and hopelessness. Different people have different coping mechanisms to distress. Those who are easily stressed are more tormented physically, mentally, emotionally, which can aggravate their existing conditions. A person’s social support and life purpose are also related to long term health.
As per Dr. Attia, longevity can be achieved by:
- Delaying the onset of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases, and accidental deaths
- Having common genetic differences seen in long-lived people such as Hypoactive PCS K9, Hypoactive C3, ApoE2 > ApoE3 or ApoE4, Less IGF-1, and Less GHR
- 3 Anti-Aging Pillars such as caloric or dietary restriction, Rapamycin and genetic insights, and molecular insights.
Our lifestyle, diet, exercise, stress management, and outlook in life are the main s