Updated: Nov 8, 2018
How long do you want to live? When people tell me that they plan to live to be 100, I am, frankly, unimpressed! It actually terrifies me to think about living that long based on the people that I have known that lived that long. Nevertheless, there have been exceptions including a patient that I lovingly called “Amazing Amy.” This darling lady lived vibrantly until just the last month of her life after she had her 100th birthday party. Her lifespan was almost equal to her healthspan. While the average lifespan in the United States is approximately 79, the average healthspan is a mere 63. We can each START SOMEWHERE today making small changes to close the gap between your healthspan and lifespan.
Healthspan is defined as, “the period of one’s life that one is healthy.” The problem is, being “healthy” can mean different things to different people. I think a better definition might include being free from a serious disease that is a leading cause of death and living with purpose and vitality. When you think about it, it seems like it would be intuitive and that most people would agree that expanding their healthspan is key. While I believe in the sanctity of life from conception to death and that our days are numbered, I believe that we have lots of choices in how we actually feel and how we are able to interact during those days.
Your chronological age is really not the important number. It is your physiological and functional age (or “biological age”) that makes the real difference. In my dental practice, which I term my “front row seat of life,” I know 60-year olds with older biological ages than 80-year olds who look forward to many more good years because they are fit and active. One common denominator that I have observed among the vibrant people is that they intentionally maintain a strong social network and sense of purpose.
It is never too late to work toward having a healthier life, no matter what your age. Among the top ten causes of death each year in the United States, all have some proven lifestyle components and most can be improved with simple lifestyle strategies. According to the Center for Disease Control, simple lifestyle changes such as eating healthy food, increasing physical activity, and avoiding tobacco could greatly reduce death and disability from the top five culprits.
Social, physical, and intellectual activities are huge determinants of vitality. The latest research on the value of social interaction and its strong physiological effect cannot be ignored. Here are some general ways to START SOMEWHERE increasing your healthspan:
- Find activities that you enjoy that get you moving
- Expect change
- Develop a social network
- Prioritize sleep
- Give your body real food
- Learn new skills
- Know your blood numbers and why they matter for you.
I’ll be writing in depth about strategies to help you increase your vitality and zest for life. START SOMEWHERE today making small changes that will pay big dividends in time, money, and relationships both today and years from now. You can do it. I will help you.