Lifespan Vs Healthspan
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
It’s January when most people make new plans – or re-commit to old plans – about their health.
Last month I went to Las Vegas for the annual World Congress of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M). There were thousands of doctors and health practitioners attending, and over a hundred lectures to choose from. People say conferences like this are like drinking from a fire hose, but it was really more like being surrounded by fire hoses of latest cutting edge health information.
There is a lot of discussion about people’s “lifespan”.
But what about “health span”?
One of the keynote speakers was Dr. Aronson from UCSF – she spoke about redefining aging. She said what I have been saying, that we need new terminology. When a baby is born, it called a neonate, then an infant, then a toddler, then a child. Then a preteen than a tween, then adolescent. So many terms for just an 18 year span of life.
Then we get to age 18, and from there forward we are … “adult”. For the rest of our lives!
Dr. Aronson talked about a study done with medical students about some terms for getting older. I’ll ask you the questions the students were asked.
What do you think of when you hear the word “old”?
Most people say things like: wrinkly, feeble, decrepit, falling apart.
How about if I say the word “elder”?
Maybe you’re thinking things like: wisdom, experienced, a guide, a resource.
We need more words, more terminology to describe what happens between age 18 and death.
There are of course many more stages that we go through as adults.
How about the word Dr. Aronson proposed for the more advanced ages of adulthood: Elderhood.
Here’s a really great feature of elderhood – the return of happiness.
Here is the “happiness curve”, studied repeatedly and shown to be true for all kinds of people.
In childhood, most young people feel carefree and unlimited. Little kids never want to go to bed!
Then we get older. Sometimes as an adult, I have woken up in the morning and started planning when I’ll be able to go back to bed!
We head into adulthood, maybe going to a job we don’t like, staying in stressful relationships or environments because we feel we have to. Then we see the happiness curve go up again later in life. Maybe later in adulthood, we make choices to do more meaningful work or hobbies that allow us to express ourselves.
Whatever the reasons, people report a return of happiness later in life.
There is one caveat.
People later in life only report an increase in happiness as long as they have their health.
This is why “health span” has to catch up to “lifespan”.
Unfortunately, in the United States, a lot of Americans spend much of the last years of their life in ill health. The health span curve shows a long drawn out part at the end.
My goal of learning about anti-aging and regenerative medicine is not to defeat death. What I want for myself and my patients is to square off the health span curve so it shows health and vitality persisting into advancing ages. A doctor friend of mine says, “I want to be sliding into my grave as they start to throw the dirt.”
What about you? Do you want to reach and enjoy a healthy elderhood?
If so, what’s your plan?
It’s January, time to make health-related plans.
Here’s one great suggestion to jumpstart all your efforts to support and improve your health this year – help out your liver with a detox program.
After the A4M conference I attended last month, I went on a super fun vacation with my husband to see my family in Argentina. We pretty much ate our way through Buenos Aires. I introduced him to as many as possible of the yummy foods I enjoyed when I traveled there as a kid and throughout my life.
My husband and I are going to help our livers recover from our holiday season by doing a 7-Day Detox program the first week of February. Click here if you’re interested in joining us and I’ll make sure you get more information.
Whether you do this detox program or any other path to support your one precious body, I challenge you now in this new year, to decide what you will do differently to square off your health span curve so that you stay vital and healthy, and enjoy a long and vibrant lifespan.