Lifespan vs. Healthspan: Why Not Both?

Hello again everyone:

This newsletter is a from one year ago, and it still very pertinent, and this is the time of year where we take stock of the past 12 months and make resolutions/plans for the coming year. This newsletter is centered around an intriguing concept of Lifespan vs. Healthspan. This concept was first brought to my attention in 1992 when I read this book:

Biomarkers: The 10 Keys to Prolonging Vitality by Evans and Rosenberg. 1991 (Tufts University and USDA collaboration studies).

This important concept is simple: our lifespan is how long we live, and our healthspan is how long we live without any disability of any sort. Ideally, our healthspan should be only slightly shorter than our lifespan, and we should function well until just a few months before we move on. There is a lot of literature to support that this is not only possible, but if you want to avoid disease, suffering, pain and a decade or more of illness, then you want to adopt certain lifestyle activities. Typically, the average person will spend the last 12 to 15 years of their life suffering with 1 or more disabilities and 3 or more chronic health disorders. Yet it is entirely possible to add 7 or more years to your life and have the last 12 to 15 years disability free….it all depends on how you live your life…it all depends on your choices that you have completely under your control and what you choose to do now.

Here is what the publishers had to say in 1992 about the research that the book is based upon:

“Exciting new evidence from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University has demonstrated that the body’s decline is due not to the passing of years but to the combined effects of inactivity, poor nutrition, and illness — much of which can be controlled. This breakthrough study shows that regardless of your age or present physical condition, the aging process can be slowed — or even reversed!”

Furthermore: Biomarkers (Simon & Schuster, 1991) has stood the test of time impressively, says Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter (May 2006). “While research has of course added to our knowledge about all 10 of the biomarkers described in the book, the basic lessons still hold true today.”

This research explored the negative health effects of sarcopenia, which means age-related pathological muscle loss. It turns out that muscles do more than lift us, and have significant multi-system effects, thus as part of plan to increase your healthspan, exercise that supports muscle metabolism is simply critical…especially when it comes to brain health and function….and it does not mean that just weight lifting will do it, as virtually any form of exercise will do, including aerobics.

“These theoretically important findings indicate that aerobic exercise training is effective at reversing hippocampal volume loss in late adulthood, which is accompanied by improved memory function.”

It turns out that while exercise is a significant component of protecting your memory and overall health, now recent research is shifting the focus toward understanding all of the components of what makes up a healthy lifestyle that reduces the years of disability down to several months.

Bottom Line: Start exercising and do not quit! You have heard me say this before, plus in previous newsletters I shared links to Dr. Mercola’s take on 9 minutes per day of exercise….exercise is ONE of several key strategies to making you resistant to the inevitable effects of aging. You can age well or not, it truly a choice for most of us. How we live our daily life will determine our future, so live it with some exercise every day…the rewards are really incredible.

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