Healthspan is adding life to your years rather than just years to your life.
This is what the Spring Chicken Club is all about – for the forty fifty and sixty-somethings and beyond you want your life to be full of….well…living.
You survived your youth, the insanity of your 20’s and you made it through that adult-y-ness of your 30’s now you have what can be the best years.
You’ve arrived now you want to make sure you get to enjoy it.
Your free of all the insecurities – you have you’re life in order – you’re pretty much done with the obligations – the only thing now that can stop you is your health.
Add years to you life and life to your years – increase you lifespan and your healthspan, and have fun doing it.
(This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate we receive a commission at no cost to you if you make a qualifying purchase through our site. You can read more about that in our disclosures)
Healthspan vs. Lifespan
Life expectancy in 1960 was about 70 years
In 2016 it was right around 80.
So we have more time that we are – medically speaking – still alive but it’s the quality of that aliveness that matters.
Healthspan is defined as the time during your life that you’re healthy.
However, healthspan growth is lagging way behind lifespan.
In 1960 people lived to be about 70 and they were mostly healthy until they were in their sixties.
In 2016, people lived to be 80, but for many people the extra 10 years are not healthy years.
The average age at onset of COPD for instance is 45 years, and the for type II diabetes is 54 years.
Being healthy means different things to different people.
I know this is crazy, but there are people who don’t want to run a marathon when they’re 65.
But most people would rather not be attached to an oxygen hose and injecting themselves with insulin.
So let’s say that healthy for the purpose of “healthspan” is somewhere in the middle, where most people can do most of the things that want to do.
The WHO has developed HALE (Healthy Life Expectancy)
This is a pretty technical calculation but basically what it does is to take the average age of onset of a serious health issue like a heart attack or type 2 diabetes and subtract that from average life expectancy and that number is would be the average healthspan.
The bottom line here is the average person can expect about 20% of their life to be unhealthy (i.e. past their healthspan).
But don’t despair, you don’t have to be average.
What affects Your Healthspan
An average is great for understanding trends and public policy but averages and statistics are kind of a snooze when what you really are looking for is how to increase your lifespan and your healthspan.
Uncontrollable factors like gender and genetics affect both life expectancy and healthspan – obviously you’re just going to have to accept those things.
But there are many factors which you absolutely can and should control – you can reduce your risk and as a special bonus controlling those factors will improve quality of life right now.
I could write a whole book on this, but I don’t have time right now. If you have time to read a whole book here’s my recommendation.
In the meantime here are some things you control that can have an enormous effect on your healthspan.
Control Your Weight
Especially in the US, this is a huge and growing problem – excuse the pun.
Obesity causes or contributes to nearly all the other risk factors that can shorten you healthspan.
If you are among the 65% of Americans who are overweight or obese the first thing you should do is find a responsible healthy and sustainable way to lose weight.
If you would like to know the secret to lose weight, check out the Spring Chicken’s Secret to Weight Loss.
Type II Diabetes
Type II diabetes is when your pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to keep your blood sugar/glucose below critical levels.
There is a lower level of this problem called pre-diabetic – Blood sugar levels that are too high and cause damage, but not so high as to be called full blown type II diabetes.
Either of these is something that you can and should control with a better diet.
The Spring Chicken Club Weight Loss Diet is a great way that you can lose weight the reduce insulin resistance and possibly even reverse type II diabetes.
Add a little exercise and stress reduction to your weight loss and you can get your ticker ticking with ease.
Losing weight, especially in the form of visceral fat will reduce the actual pressure on your heart muscle.
Weight loss also reduces the amount of “body” your heart has to pump blood too.
AKA high Blood pressure goes hand-in-hand with heart disease and the solution is the same – lose some weight.
More Reasons to Lose Weight
Being over weight or obese has been linked with everything from gallstones to erectile dysfunction to joint deterioration and inflammation.
If you would like more info about check out 11 Scary Complications of Obesity.
Control Your Nutrition
There is a nutritional component to almost every health problem.
What you eat matters.
Eat more whole, fresh nutrient dense food.
Don’t eat highly processed foods that are full of chemicals and preservatives.
Be reasonable here. You don’t have to be some nut trying to eat the tree you just got done hugging, but processed cheeses and food products served on Wonder Bread should not be considered food.
The benefits of exercise include everything from managing stress to maintaining mobility, and that’s great.
But you have to actually take the walks, ride the bike and do the stretching.
The problem is that when there is some “important” thing that “needs” to get done but no time to do it, you just skip the exercise “just for today.”
Maybe you promise yourself that you will do extra tomorrow.
But tomorrow comes and there is yet another “important” task that “needs” your eminent attention.
Pick a time to exercise and stick to it.
Morning is great for exercise because while your exercising you can think of all the other “important stuff” you need to do that day.
Just like exercise, sleep is super important and it should be a priority.
But so many of us carve extra time for things that seem more urgent out of time that we should be sleeping.
Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep, and life is much better if you get that much.
Dreaming detoxifies you brain and gives yoor brain time to sort out the day.
The rest gives your body time to heal and re-balance hormones, and give your immune system a boost.
Sleep reduces your risk of dementia, depression and other debilitating mental disorders.
And sleep helps you to avoid physical ailments from cancer to the common cold.
Ideally you go to bed when you’re tired and sleep until you wake up on your own and almost invariably you will get just the right amount of sleep for you.
If you don’t have that luxury, just go to bed early enough that you will wake up before your alarm.
Manage Your Stress
A little stress is a good thing – it can keep you moving and mostly in the right direction.
Most of us have too much stress and by “manage” what we really mean is reduce stress.
You can reduce stress in many ways – exercise, meditation, music, hugs…the list goes on.
If you have too much stress – especially general stress that is not connected to something like a deadline but just nags on you like a dark cloud – you need to find a healthy way to reduce stress.
Stress is connected with all the same unhealthiness as insufficient sleep – oh and also stress can disrupt your sleep.
Too much stress is no fun, but stress also causes health problems that can substantially shorten both your lifespan and your healthspan.
Important Note on Stress: Stress can trigger the flight or fight response which bypasses rational thought processes. This in turn can lead bad decisions and more stress. It’s a downward spiral that can lead to depression.
If you feel like you are in such a stress spiral please please find a therapist or tell your regular doctor and they can help you.
Own Your Habits
All things in moderation, including excess and abstinence is the rule I live by. It keeps things spontaneous and exciting.
But don’t make unhealthy things into habits – it loses the excitement and then you have the annoying problem of kicking a bad habit.
If you have ever tried to stop smoking, you know what a pain that can be.
Be conscience of your habits – humans are creatures of habit but we forget sometimes that we have a choice of what kind of habits we have.
Moderate Your Alcohol
Alcohol is good – I personally have never really met a red wine that I didn’t like.
Wine is not only delicious and relaxing it is good for your brain and heart, but only in moderation.
The same is true of beer and liquor but not o the same extent (wine has an antioxidant called resveratrol).
For men 2 to 4 drinks per day and for women 1 to 3 drinks per day is moderate.
If you drink more than that on a regular basis, you need to slow down.
Don’t Smoke Cigarettes
If you’re a smoker you should find a way to quit. If you’re not a smoker there is absolutely no good reason to start.
If you have gotten old enough to be reading a blog you are probably aware that smoking causes cancer, heart attacks and stroke but there’s more.
But you may not know is that cigarettes are absolutely the biggest threat to your healthspan.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease AKA COPD is debilitating. Hiking and biking are not what I want to warn you about losing. It’s your independence. COPD can make it difficult to do everyday chores like grocery shopping, the dishes or even showering without help. Even eating becomes difficult.
COPD can tremendously shorten your healthspan because the average age at onset is 45.
I have heard COPD described as being like trying to breathe with someone standing on your chest.
No matter how you want to spend the rest of your life, that would probably muck-up the plan.
There are some other risk factors, but by far the biggest is cigarette smoking so if you are a smoker….
STOP SMOKING, 75% of people who have COPD are smokers.
Your forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond can be the best part of your life – so you’ve got that going for you.
Much of what determines how long you will be healthy – your healthspan – is within your control.
The actions you can take to extend your healthspan will also improve your life right now.
Have fun, Live Well & Be healthy.