Age doesn't slow down for anyone. But that doesn't mean we have to slow down for age!
Why is Health Span more desirable than Life Span?
First, let's define both.
Life Span: Simply put, is the length of your life, measured from the time of your birth until the time you die.
Health Span: The easiest way to describe it is how many years you live without disease or disability. So if you were healthy until the age of 65 and then developed a chronic disease or an age related disability, your health span would be 65 years, regardless of how long you lived beyond that.
So why is Health Span more desirable than Life Span? Easy! Most of us would prefer to live a long and healthy life (best of both worlds) where we don't require assistance to do day to day tasks and maintain our independence well into our latter years. Living to 80, but being dependant on a walker and medications for the last 15 years is not the goal. The goal is to live to 80 and beyond with an active and healthy lifestyle.
So how can we accomplish this?? The biggest factors affecting health span are lifestyle related and can be controlled by us. Diet, exercise and stress management are three of the most powerful tools we can employ in the quest for a long and healthy life.
Eating a nutritious diet of mostly whole, unprocessed foods including lots of fruits and veggies, and adequate protein will help fend off many chronic diseases that rob us of precious healthy years. Consumption of fruits and vegetables has been shown to have an inverse relationship with rates of heart disease, cancer and all cause mortality. Meaning, the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower your risk for all three. Protein is especially important as we age to counteract the process of sarcopenia--a syndrome characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength and it is strictly correlated with physical disability, poor quality of life and death. Keeping protein intake high (0.7g of protein per lb of lean body mass) will help you maintain and even gain muscle as you age. So fill that plate with fruits and vegetables and keep your protein intake high with lean cuts of meat or other complete sources, animal or plant based.
Maintaining a regular exercise program (like CrossFit!) is also one of the best ways to keep kicking ass well into your later years. Being fit or active is associated with a 20% to 58% decrease in the risk of heart disease! The best exercise program for you is something that you enjoy, and will keep you motivated and consistent. That can be group classes, personal training or anything else that gets you moving. So what are you waiting for?? Start small. Start now. But start!
And lastly, finding ways to manage stress can help to extend your health span. Chronic stress has been linked to increases in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer as well as depression and anxiety disorders. We all deal with many different stressors in our life and eliminating them may not always be possible, but we can come up with strategies to mitigate them. Studies have shown that many different stress interventions, like meditation, journaling, breathing exercises or simply taking a couple of minutes to reflect on the day can lessen the negative effects and help add valuable, healthy years to your life.
So what's the hold up? Control the factors you can by dialing in your nutrition, exercise and stress management to give yourself the best chance to live a long, and more importantly, healthy life!
If you need help getting started, let us know! We can help!