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Lifespan VS Healthspan: What Is The Distinction?

Lifespan VS Healthspan: What Is The Distinction?


There are two crucial aspects that shape our journey as humans: lifespan and healthspan. Think of them as companions in our life's adventure, influencing both how long we live and how well we live. These two concepts move together, impacting the overall quality of our existence.



What is lifespan?

Lifespan is defined as the average length of life from birth to death and is an evolved species-specific life-history property of organisms. Lifespan deals with the universal invariant properties of life – birth and death – and can be influenced by genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.


Variations in lifespan exist among species and among different human societies. For example, there are organisms that exhibit negligible senescence and can potentially live indefinitely, while others have more limited lifespans.


Humans currently have the longest lifespan among primates, with some individuals living beyond 100 years, referred to as centenarians, and a few reaching supercentenarian status, living beyond 110 years.


What affects lifespan?

Research has provided insights into genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that affect ageing and lifespan. For example, the discovery of longevity genes and various interventions, such as caloric restriction, exercise, and avoidance of harmful habits, have been shown to potentially enhance lifespan.


What is healthspan?

Healthspan refers to the length of time that an individual remains healthy and free from serious or chronic diseases. It is the period of life spent in good health as opposed to merely the total lifespan and involves living disability-free for as long as possible.


Healthspan is about improving the quality of life, so that individuals enjoy their life for a longer period of time. Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a biomedical scientist and health educator, refers to healthspan as being about avoiding diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, and essentially living healthier for a longer period of time.


Why should you care about your healthspan?

Healthspan is important because rather than just focusing on extending life expectancy, the goal is to maximise the years of life spent in good health, which can lead to better life satisfaction, less burden on the healthcare system, and overall improved well-being.


What affects your healthspan?

Healthspan can vary greatly between individuals due to a combination of lifestyle factors, environmental conditions, genetic predispositions, and healthcare access.


Measures to improve healthspan encompass a wide range of approaches from clinical interventions and lifestyle changes to public health policies and community-based programs.


Nutritious food acts as a medicine and has a crucial role in promoting healthspan. A diet rich in whole, real, health-promoting foods can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases and enhance the quality of life.


How to expand your lifespan and healthspan?

To maintain the best health and possibly a longer lifespan, recommendations include:

- Engaging in regular exercise,
- Abstaining from smoking,
- Moderating alcohol consumption,
- Maintaining a healthy waist circumference,
- Taking omega-3 fatty acids,
- Being generally happy,
- Avoiding excessive consumption of fried foods,
- Getting adequate sleep.


Let’s sum up: what is the difference between lifespan and healthspan?

The difference between lifespan and healthspan is mainly characterised by the duration of life versus the quality of that life, in terms of health.

To improve lifespan and healthspan, preventive health measures and lifestyle interventions are crucial. These may include a balanced diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, and avoidance of harmful substances like tobacco or excessive alcohol.


As for prevention, adopting healthy lifestyle practices from an early age can contribute significantly to better health outcomes over the lifespan. Embedding routine physical activity, consuming nutrient-rich foods, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and moderating alcohol intake can all help in prolonging healthspan.


Disclaimer

It is important to note that while these descriptions and recommendations can provide a general understanding, every individual is unique. Personal healthcare decisions should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider. If you have concerns about your healthspan or lifespan-related issues, it is recommended that you seek professional advice and assistance from qualified medical professionals.


References

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