Lifespan has traditionally been a way of measuring the general health of a population; after all, healthier people do tend to live longer. However, although life expectancy has improved significantly over the past century, we are not necessarily spending these extra years of life in good health.
On average, people currently spend one-fifth of their lives with a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. This is sometimes because of their genetic inheritance, but in many cases it is also linked to lifestyle choices and environment.
This has led to a concern with ‘healthspan’, as opposed to lifespan. It means focusing on the number of years that we spend in good health, rather than the number of years that we actually live. This can allow us to make positive health and lifestyle choices that will lower our risk of developing chronic illnesses when we are older.
Currently, the average person develops a chronic health problem at the age of 66, yet they may live to be well over 80 years old thanks to modern healthcare. However, the quality of life for the remaining 20 plus years can be impaired.
By taking preventative measures, we can improve the odds of living not just longer, but of remaining in good health for longer. One of the most important elements of increasing healthspan is diet. Nutritional experts recommend following a Mediterranean diet for the beneficial results.
This is a diet that is rich in whole foods, including fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil. Certain foods with this diet are classed as ‘superfoods’ because they are so dense in nutrients and antioxidants. Examples include leafy greens such as kale; mushrooms, and blueberries.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you are optimising your health with a well-rounded diet is to include some supplements in your diet. A superfood blend can provide a high-strength dose of multiple vitamins, minerals and nutrients in powder form. They are simply added to a shake or smoothie for instant nourishment.
A good diet should be complemented with a balanced lifestyle that involves regular exercise. This will help muscle strength and bone density as we get older, reducing the risk of falls and helping to suppleness and flexibility. Exercise also helps us to sleep better, and getting enough rest is another crucial factor for maintaining good health.
Managing stress and maintaining good mental health is also important. Chronic stress can cause inflammation and high blood pressure, which can lead to a range of serious health problems. Stress management techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, or spending time in nature can help to keep us feeling calm and in control of our emotions.
Finally, it’s important to keep socially active and engaged with friends, family and hobbies and interests as we get older. This helps to keep our brain cells active and can slow cognitive decline.