I first came across this concept of healthspan vs. lifespan when I was reading an article by Dr. Tim Peterson in March of 2020. Yes, right when COVID-19 began to circle the globe.
Anti-aging techniques seem to have gotten a lot of traction as of late. Health, aging and wellness have never been more openly discussed. We have Tom Brady playing in his 10th Super Bowl at 43.
On the other end of the spectrum COVID has had the greatest impact on those who are not healthy or fit. More people are now beginning to take an interest in their health, aging and lifespan. It's also bringing more awareness to healthspan.
So what exactly is healthspan?
Healthspan is defined as the period of one's life that one is healthy.
Healthy can mean different things to different people. Researchers and medical professionals define healthspan as being free from serious disease. A disease is considered to be serious if it is a leading cause of death.
Why should you care about healthspan?
Think about it for a moment. If you're passed your healthspan than you are experiencing some level of a chronic disease. You are now sick with a degenerating condition.
Focusing on prolonging the well period of your life should be a priority.
The average lifespan in the United States is 79.3 years. However, there is no statistical data to mark the end of the average healthspan.
What is being done to address this?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed the HALE indicator healthy life expectancy.
HALE is calculated when the average age of the first serious disease occurrence is determine, and then take the average of those two numbers.
Humans, on average, live up to 20% of their lives unhealthy. That is a long time.
Here's how to improve your HALE
Making small but consistent lifestyle changes could delay the onset of most, if not all, of the serious diseases.
You've heard it before, maintaining a healthy balanced diet with moderate, regular exercise and eliminating smoking and drinking alcohol is the best insurance to increase your healthspan.
The Mediterranean diet has strong support in the literature.
There is growing evidence that micronutrients can improve our body's function and help ward off chronic disease. Micro-nutrients are essential elements required by a organism (humans in this case) in varying quantities to orchestrate a range of physiological functions to maintain health.
Fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin D, minerals just to name a few. Overall the human body needs about 30 vitamins, minerals and dietary components that it can't manufacture on it's own, to maintain healthy function.
Micronutrients are what quality multi-vitamins consist of. But how do I know which multi-vitamins are best for me? Great question and it's something that we can help you determine.
Intermittent fasting also has shown promise as longevity-promoting therapies.
Healthspan is a topic relevant to all people. The younger generation might benefit most in the long-term from an increased focus on healthspan. However, older adults might be first to see benefits. This is due to the simple fact that there is more research involving older adults where clinicians can the study outcome, either good or bad, faster.
It's never too early and it's never too late to focus on improving your overall healthspan.
Thank you Tim Peterson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington in St. Louis for the inspiration to help more people understand the importance of increasing their healthspan. For more information, visit his lab website.