When we talk about how long human beings may live there are usually two topics people discuss concerning longevity, life span and life expectancy. Yes they actually are two entirely different things.
Life Span versus Life Expectancy
The easiest way to look at life span is the maximum length of time a person can live. Currently that number is between 120-125 years. Merriam Webster defines life span as: the duration of existence of an individual.
Life expectancy is an average period that a person may expect to live. Currently that number in the United States is 78.7 years and does not take into consideration gender, race or any other variables. However, since it is an average each person can look at their own lifestyle choices and make certain assumptions about their own life expectancy.
The life expectancy in the United States has declined the last two years and currently trails other developed countries like Japan, Germany, Canada, France, and Great Britain. Several factors could account for this decline such as infant mortality and the ever-increasing rate of suicide and opioid abuse and overdoses.
Thinking about the potential life span of 125 years versus an average life expectancy of 78 years, each person will make lifestyle choices that can affect which number is more practicable for them. There is an ever growing number of scientific advances in the field of longevity for extending one’s life span.
Our behavior affects longevity. The most obvious ways of increasing our life expectancy are eliminating our negative behaviors but that is not enough. The real gains in extending our life to 100 years or more are within our grasp by making some positive changes in our lifestyle. It is never too late to start but ideally before reaching the age of 50.
The following nine ways to make positive changes will have a dramatic impact in not only feeling better but making the odds of living longer possible.
- Eat a healthy diet – My advice on this comes from something I recently learned that has helped me vastly improve my diet. The best food we can eat will not have an ingredient list on it. Obvious, right? The main part of our grocery shopping should be done in the produce aisle. Also add nuts. They are energy powerhouses. Find healthy recipes and eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
- Spend some time outside – Get at least 20-30 minutes of sunlight per day. So many people are vitamin D deficient especially as we get older and the best form of vitamin D comes from the sun. A plus is it just makes us feel better being outdoors even for a short time each day.
- Exercise – It is recommended for at least 20 minutes a day but if possible at least 3 or 4 times per week of stretching, exercise and some cardio activity. Even daily walking is good exercise.
- Sleep – It is recommended we get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Too much sleep is almost as bad as not enough. This can cause us to be sluggish, lazy, and inactive. We need to be up after sleeping and having an active day, so not too little sleep but also not too much is ideal.
- Eliminate stress and anxiety – Many people do not realize just how much stress or anxiety they are feeling until the level has just built up to a very high level. I recommend some daily meditation, yoga, or my favorite which is Tapping using Emotional Freedom Techniques.
- Calorie Restriction – The research on this is fairly new but very encouraging. Studies and trials have recently been done on humans suggesting that the threat of certain diseases can be reduced. There have been numerous encouraging articles on this such as in my favorite magazine, Life Extension.
- Regular sexual activity – While this may not seem obvious there is research and evidence that show this is true for both women and men. It can help to reduce stress and even pain by flooding our brain with endorphins and oxytocin. Sex is exercise and relaxing, both of which are good for your health. Also, a close, intimate, and personal relationship enhances health and helps to extend longevity.
- Quit watching TV and be more active – You do not have to completely quit watching TV but the amount of time should be monitored and restricted. Too much time is wasted on watching TV when you most likely have more productive things that you have inadvertently placed on the “back burner.”
- Take very specific and high quality supplements – Some of the most important supplements we should be taking as we get older are: vitamin D3, a high quality and absorbable Omega 3 Fish oil (fatty acid), magnesium for brain health – preferably an extended release form, an absorbable form of curcumin (turmeric) to help fight inflammation, and certain people should take high quality CoQ10.
While life span may be a familiar term to us, health span is a relatively new and more important concept. Health span refers to the number of years we can live a healthy life. The basic focus is to delay aging and consequently mortality by decreasing late onset diseases like Alzheimers, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, etc.
According to recent research, lifestyle factors play a huge role in our health span. Who doesn’t want a better quality of life? While there may not be cures for these certain diseases we can certainly reduce our chances by taking all preventative measures we can to extend our life.
The great news is that research is being done to identify and repair the known forms of cell and tissue damage that lead to aging. Most things can be repaired. Many people make a living off of repairing things. Doesn’t it make sense that our bodies can be repaired when we have known damage? We need to recognize it sooner rather than later.
Cellular damage causes aging and it is caused by oxidation of the body. Therefore, it stands to reason that antioxidants are going to be good for us. The main thing we have to realize is that plant foods are so much richer in antioxidants than any animal food. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and spices flood our bodies with healthy antioxidants that prevent age related diseases.
The baby boomer generation is now reaching their late 60s to 70s. Many of them are still physically and mentally active and maintain many social contacts. While natural changes are going to happen as we age, scientific advances and personal lifestyle choices make it possible to age gracefully.
Scientific research, advances in the medical field, as well as attitudes of the baby boomer generation who are making better lifestyle choices is reflecting in longer life expectancy.
As we consciously think about longevity, our concern should also be focused on our health span.
Dying is inevitable but living a healthy lifestyle to increase life expectancy is a choice!
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