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Healthspan vs. Lifespan

LIFESPAN: Just a number

Our lifespan is often thought of as the maximum number of years that we live. And I'm sure you've all thought "how long/what age do i want to live to?". When we think of living as lifespan, or the average number of years a person will live, we don't take into consideration HOW we will live those years. 

In the US, the current average lifespan was 81.1 years for women and 76.1 for men. The United States is actually ranked 43rd in the world for life expectancy! You can see the countries list here.

HEALTHSPAN: Quality of Life

Yes, the number of years a person can live is very important but how you live those years, healthspan, is more important! Healthspan is the number of healthy, functional years a person lives. This directly correlates with our quality of life. Just because the average lifespan may be 81/76, it doesn't mean we live those years as FUNCTIONAL years. 

It's not about adding years to your life, it's about adding life to your years!

Here are some tips for starting to improve our lifestyle to improve our healthspan!

1) Maintain your lean muscle: Experts recently discovered one of the most important markers for healthy aging to be your amount of lean muscle. That’s right, a recent study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that lean muscle mass was inversely correlated with mortality in over 1,000 men with an average age of 82.1 Maintaining muscle seems to be your best bet to tapping into the proverbial “fountain or youth” and aging healthily. The study didn’t find the same correlation in women, however lean muscle has anti-aging benefits for everyone.

2) Keep Moving:  As we age, we become more susceptible to infections, falls and traumatic injuries, nutrient deficiencies, diminishing cardiac capacity, and loss of muscle mass that leads to worsening health.

The most common condition in hospital wards across the country in elderly patients over-65 is congestive heart failure (CHF), where the heart is no longer capable of pumping enough blood throughout the body to match the body’s needs. This leads to dangerous reductions in sodium and hemoglobin levels, weakness, fatigue and risk of seizure, coma, and death.

Maintaining an active lifestyle and good cardiovascular health is the best prevention. Be sure to include 20-30 minutes of activity daily, in the form of walking, strength training (e.g. squats, lunges, push-ups, etc.), or stretching.

Strength training is a powerful weapon for keeping your heart strong and healthy. It also helps to increase your concentration of fast-twitch type-IIb muscle fibers. While we mostly think of these fibers as crucial for helping us jump higher, run faster, or lift heavier weights, they are also critical for another important task.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers help you “catch yourself” before falling over. Hip fractures are account for over 250,000 hospital visits amongst the 65-over population. By maintaining an active lifestyle – and supporting your muscles with adequate protein intake – you’ll help prevent falls and hip fractures from taking place.

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3) Maintain Positive Mood & Discover Gratitude:  Sometimes life can be challenging. When it is, try to focus on the small things with a “glass half full” mentality. Write down what you're grateful for and don’t be afraid to express your feelings.  

4) Have fun: Take up a new hobby or find more time to enjoy an activity you love. Sign up for a class or learn a new skill (like cooking or a foreign language).  

5) Maintain your brain: Keep your mind sharp with simple mental exercises like crossword puzzles and reading. Anyone familiar with Sudoku? 

6) Get checked and ADJUSTED: It is so important to maintain good spinal health. This will help with mobility, maintaining a good relationship between the brain & body, and allow you to live at your bodies best potential!