Longevity is a balance of both healthspan (living better) and lifespan (living longer). Increasing both lifespan and healthspan will lead to living a longer life and being able to make more out of the life you live due to being healthy. To be healthy usually constitutes of having a fit body, sharp mind and being nourished with the proper nutrients you require for optimum health. Here I’ll dive into the link between longevity, healthspan and lifespan.
Longevity, Healthspan And Lifespan
For some funny reason, I’m going to list these in a different order to how I’ve put them in the title. It’s just I think they link better together this way.
Essentially, increasing lifespan comes down to delaying the inevitability of death. For most, that means doing whatever is necessary to prevent the onset of age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, accidental deaths and falling (a major cause of death in the elderly). These causes of death account for 80% of deaths in a non-smoking population.
When it comes to healthspan, really you’re just trying to avoid three categories of decline for as long as you can in order to stay as fit, mentally sharp and emotionally resilient for as long as possible.
- Cognitive decline – relating to a reduction in executive function (the mental skills you use to solve problems), processing speed and memory capacity. This also concerns cognitive degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but many forms of cognitive decline are much less severe than these three diseases.
- Physical decline – relating to a decline in factors related to physical fitness such as flexibility, muscular endurance, muscular strength, stability, balance, mobility, aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, muscle mass, bone density, functional movement, freedom from pain and sexual function.
- Emotional decline – relating to a decreased ability to be mindful of others, provide social support, have a reduced sense of purpose, lack of fulfilment in life and being unable to empathise, sympathise or relate to others.
These three categories of decline will decrease at different rates depending on the person and how they interact with their environment and live their life to prevent the onset of decline. Being active consistently will help prevent physical decline, doing brain-stimulating activities such as puzzles, learning a new language or playing an instrument will help prevent cognitive decline whilst socialising with a range of individuals on a regular basis will help to stave off emotional decline.
If you happen to die, but you remain fit cognitively, physically and mentally, I think you’ve done a pretty damn good job of staying healthy.
Longevity looks at inter-relation between both healthspan and lifespan. If you have a good healthspan and you stay fit cognitive, physically and emotionally, you’re likely to live longer. If you have a longer lifespan, then maintaining a good healthspan becomes more important so you can stay sharp throughout your life as you get older. They are all intertwined.
I think it’s best to focus on healthspan when it comes to longevity because lifespan and longevity will subsequently follow. Having a good healthspan will allow you to remain functional as you get older so you can stay sharp and interact with others when you’re 80 the same way you did when you were 60. It’s possible, but you need to place an emphasis on looking after your body and mind to prevent decline. I think the best way to do this is through proper nutrition (less processed food) through a meat-based nutrient-dense diet which includes plants.
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