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Self-Care

 Focusing on Healthspan, Not Lifespan

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It’s second nature to measure our lives in years. We celebrate birthdays and mark milestones as the years pass. But rather than focusing on the years we have to live, wouldn’t we rather focus on our health? This has led to evaluating our health span instead of our lifespan to focus on the quality and quantity of our lives.

What is a lifespan?

Traditionally, lifespan has been defined as the maximum number of years a human can live. Lifespan is to be confused with life expectancy, which is the average of the total number of years that a human can live based on several factors, including the year they were born, current age, and demographic factors such as gender. The concept of longevity plays its role in describing the ability to live beyond the average age of death. In some circumstances, it could be considered the average lifespan when living under ideal conditions. 

What is a healthspan?

In recent years, healthspan has started to be explored as a new burgeoning topic, though it is a relatively new concept and is not without its faults. Instead of focusing simply on the number of years that we live, the concept focuses on the period in our lives that was spent in “good health,” or instead, was spent free from severe disease. These conditions include heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, COPD, and more. 

Outside of solely analyzing the average lifespan of humans, the World Health Organization has even developed the measure of healthy life expectancy, which considers the average number of years an individual can live in “full health.”

How can our lifestyle support our healthspan?

While there are factors outside our control at times – whether from genetics or other factors –  the way we live our day-to-day lives directly affects our healthspan. Remaining physically fit by staying active is essential, especially to prevent some of the more serious health conditions that can reduce our health span. Physical activity goes beyond the concept of burning calories – it is necessary for maintaining and repairing the physiological stress caused by our bodies’ normal functions.

Another one of the biggest contributors to health is our diet. While each individual is vastly different in terms of what we need, based on diets from around the globe, there are trends in the types of foods consumed. 

Lifestyle habits that may benefit healthspan include primarily plant-based diets, consuming seasonal produce and whole grains, daily or regular consumption of legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils, and prioritizing water as the beverage of choice. Meat can still be consumed, but in smaller quantities. Additionally, processed foods and refined sugars are uncommon, with coffee, tea, and red wine all in moderation.

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