Healthspan is a concept that you could actually optimize how many years you enjoy feeling healthy. It’s a growing trend. That comes as no surprise as new estimates suggest humans will live longer today, than ever before in history. What steps can you take in your daily life to extend the number of years you enjoy wellness? It’s easier than you think! Simple steps, as in actual steps can help – daily physical activity has been shown in research studies to reduce how many of your years you will spend in pain or with a debilitating disease. Here is why it’s important for you to focus on healthspan. Plus, what research says are the 8 best ways you can improve your healthspan.
The ability to age with good health, without chronic or disabling disease or dysfunction.
You are likely to live 5.5 years longer than you were expected back in 2000. According to 2016 World Health Statistics, you are going to live longer and with this decrease in mortality, it would be nice to increase the number of years spent in good health.
Understanding how and why we age has become a trendy topic, with the number of peer-reviewed studies jumping from a mere 14 prior to the turn of this century, to wellover 200 in 2021 alone. Research shows there are many easy ways you can improve your healthspan.
Evidence in humans is consistent with findings in animals, that it is possible to live a lifestyle that promotes longevity. There are clusters of people who live in the so-called ‘blue zones’, areas of unusually high numbers of long-lived, healthy people. These populations follow healthy lifestyles that include the consumption of mostly plant-based foods, without overconsumption, regular physical activity, lower stress levels than Western lifestyles, social interactions which offer emotional support, and cognitive stimulation.
Growing evidence suggests diets that are low in sodium and high in these foods are linked with better motor, vascular, cognitive, renal, and immune function:
*Vitamin D is being researched for its growing value in health and should be included in this list, however, there are no excellent food sources. Sunlight is a primary source. Supplementation may be needed. Vitamin D status can be tested by a qualified health practitioner.
A research review noted these nutrients have clinical proof of ability to promote healthspan:
Get moving, says the research if you’d like to enjoy a good healthspan. Physiological functions that normally decline with age, remain at higher functioning levels in those adults who are chronically physically active. As the body ages, physiological dysfunctions, such as sarcopenia (loss of muscle strength and power) and motor unit loss can reduce mobility and daily functioning. However, there are ways to slow aging. Sarcopenia has been extensively studied, with research on adult males showing that intake of sufficient protein within 20-30 minutes post-exercise, can help reduce sarcopenia. Preserving muscle strength is also noted in research as a way to improve healthspan, with importance placed on not just movement, but both weight-bearing motions and cardiovascular exercise. Interestingly, the benefits of cardiovascular exercise exceed the benefits to the heart muscle itself but include preserving nitric oxide bioavailability, which helps with blood pressure management.
[Pull Quote] Want to improve your lifespan? Research suggests healthy habits may be more effective than treating chronic disease.
Yes, you can slow aging. Research continues to point to many aspects of the holistic lifestyle as healthy habits linked with a better healthspan. In a research paper, scientists suggest that delaying some of these age-related disorders through adaptation of healthy lifestyle habits may be more effective at increasing healthspan than treating individual chronic diseases.
Scientists suggest a number of factors lead to disorders in cells that reduce healthspan, including oxidative stress and inflammation. Eating foods rich in antioxidants (e.g. a rainbow of plants, such as herbs, nuts, seeds, berries, and leaves) can help reduce oxidative stress. Anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, are well noted to reduce inflammation. In addition, lower inflammation through immune modulation is linked to healthy microflora in the gut, suggesting some effort to eat foods beloved by those microbes, such as fiber, could be beneficial.
Prevention through a healthy, holistic lifestyle, could be the best way to improve your healthspan. Healthy aging is possible and focusing on a holistic lifestyle can help you enjoy health for more years to come.
Learn more by becoming a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.
How healthy is the healthspan concept? GeroScience 2018 Aug; 40(4):361-364.
Physiological geroscience: targeting function to increase healthspan and achieve optimal longevity. J Physiol 2016 Apr 15; 594(8): 2001-24.
Natural products improve healthspan in aged mice and rats: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2021 Feb; 121:89-105.
Statistics WH. Monitoring health for the SDGs sustainable development goals. World Health Organization: Geneva. 2016.
Tannis, Allison (2017). Aging Bites: How the foods you’re eating may be making you age faster.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.