Healthspan Matters, Not Lifespan

Healthspan Matters, Not Lifespan

Imagine a life where you not only live longer but feel vibrant and energetic well into your golden years. This is what focusing on healthspan is all about. In this blog, we explore what healthspan is, why it is crucial for overall well-being and actionable steps you can take to extend yours

What is healthspan?

Healthspan refers to the length of time a person lives in good health, free from chronic diseases and debilitating conditions. While lifespan measures the total number of years lived, healthspan emphasises the quality of those years.

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It’s about living better, not just longer. After all, what's the point in living longer if you can't enjoy or partake in life? Biologically, our healthspan is influenced by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors, but by understanding and optimising these factors, we can enhance the quality of our later years.

Why healthspan matters

Focusing on healthspan is essential for several reasons:

  1. Quality of Life: The main reason healthspan matters is simply that a longer healthspan means more years of living actively, maintaining mental sharpness, enjoying life without the limitations of chronic illness and squeezing the most from your days. Who doesn't want that?!
  2. Economic and Societal Benefits: There's also something to be said for the greater good: reduced strain on healthcare providers and increased productivity are direct benefits of an extended healthspan. We can continue contributing to the economy, fostering strong communities and enjoy financial stability longer.
healthspan matters, not lifespan - old age

We all probably know someone in their 70s who's been practicing healthy habits and clean living for decades. They run regularly, travel extensively and have way more friends than you or I! We have no idea how they mange it all, but what we do know is this: they've extended their healthspan!

Factors influencing healthspan

Understanding what influences healthspan is the first step toward improving it:

  • Genetics: While we can‚Äôt change our genetic makeup, knowing our family health history helps us take preventive measures.
  • Lifestyle: Most of our healthspan determiners come from lifestyle choices we're free to make and include decisions made on what we eat, how much (or little) we exercise, the quality of our sleep and mental health and our general living environment.

    How to extend your healthspan

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - healthy food

    What you eat plays a direct role in your healthspan

    We obviously can't change our genetics but, as you'll have seen above, there's many factors influencing healthspan which are within our control. So, let's dive into the main ones and see how we can go about extending our vibrant years.

    How to extend healthspan: Nutrition matters

    A balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals is crucial. Whole foods such as fruits, veggies, lean protein and whole grains provide the necessary nutrients to keep our bodies functioning optimally. As crucial as anything, you'll want to stay clear from ultra-processed foods as much as possible.

    Fruits and veggies should form the bulk of your diet. They're rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that combat oxidative stress, a key factor in aging and many chronic diseases. For example, berries are high in antioxidants, leafy greens (spinach and kale) are packed with vitamins A, C, and K, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli provide vital phytonutrients.

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - ultra processed food

    Avoiding ultra-processed foods is one of the most powerful decisions you can make

    Protein is essential for active folk (which you'll need to be, if you want to increase your healthspan) because they repair and maintain muscle. In addition, protein is also key for enzyme function and hormone production.

    Opt for plant-based sources such as legumes and beans as well as fatty fish like salmon and mackerel which are also high in omega-3 fatty acids (reduces inflammation and supports heart health). If you are a meat-eater, go for lean sources like chicken or turkey.

    Whey protein vs plant protein: Which is best?

    Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and oats are high in fiber which aids digestion, regulates blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Unlike refined grains, whole grains retain their nutrient-rich bran and germ, providing sustained energy and essential nutrients.

    While fats used to get a bad rap, most now know the importance of health fats. Healthy sources of fats include avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil. They superb for optimal brain health and work to reduce inflammation. Not all fats are good though: avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats (which can contribute to heart disease and other health issues).

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - healthy fat

    Avocados: one of the best sources of good fats

    Supplementation is something we're often asked about at the 33Fuel HQ and, as a company that produces healthy supplements, you might think we'd push them hard. But we do things differently around here!

    While our products are of the highest quality, crafted using only whole food and 100% natural ingredients, if you get everything you need from your diet, then you don't need a supplement. Supplements come into play, however, when your diet lacks certain nutrients either due to genetics, a busy schedule, the time of year, your activity levels or body composition goals. 

    For instance, vitamin D and calcium are critical for bone health, especially as you age but, as the best source of vit D is the sun, many of us are deficient during winter, so supplementation during the winter months makes sense. Equally, as much as we'd all love to cook with fresh, home-grown ingredients every night, that simply isn't possible for many, so an immune-supporting supplement like our Ultimate Daily Greens comes into play here.

    Supplements like our award-winning Ultimate Daily Greens can help extend healthspan by making it super-convenient to increase your nutrient intake

    How to extend healthspan: Exercise

    For many, exercise is a way of life. A medium through which to socialise, travel to new places, explore the great outdoors and get the endorphins flowing. You already get it and understand the power of exercise. So, it's not really you we're talking to here (besides saying 'keep it up'!).

    But for others, exercise is a chore or a luxury for which many simply don't feel they have time. Understanding the impact exercise has on your healthspan, however, could help make it more of a priority, and when you realise it doesn't have to be grind and something miserable, you might find you love it!

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - exercise outdoors
    Live healthier for longer by exercising (outdoors, if possibly) regularly
    If you're new to exercise, here's the most important things to consider:
    • Consistency is everything. Maintaining a regular exercise routine is key to reaping long-term health benefits. Whether you exercise once a week or three times a week, it doesn't matter. Just make it a habit and stick to it (here's a podcast we did about sticking to habits)
    • Cardiovascular exercise - activities like walking, running, cycling and swimming increases heart rate which improves cardiovascular health and boosts endurance. Aim for at least 2.5 hours per week of cardio (split over a few sessions) to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and hypertension
    • Strength training. This one is often neglected but, particularly as we age, it's so important.¬†Strength training helps maintain muscle mass, bone density and metabolic rate. We've written a lot about stength training, but here's 7 great exercises to get you started. Exercises like weight lifting, resistance band workouts, and body-weight exercises (such as push-ups and squats) are effective. Strength training also improves functional fitness, making daily activities easier and reducing the risk of falls and injuries
    healthspan matters, not lifespan - strength training
    • Flexibility and Balance: Stretching exercises, mobility, yoga and Pilates enhance flexibility, reduce muscle stiffness and improve range of motion. Balance exercises such as tai chi or simple standing exercises can prevent falls, a common issue as we age.

    How to extend healthspan: Sleep

    An oft-underrated determiner of healthspan, quality sleep is utterly vital for maintaining cognitive function, emotional well-being and physical health.

    During sleep, the body undergoes critical processes such as muscle repair, memory consolidation and the release of growth hormones. Poor sleep can directly lead to a whole host of health issues such as weakened immunity, weight gain and increased risk of chronic diseases.

    9 tips for better sleep

    Improve your sleep quality by maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a restful environment, and avoiding stimulants before bedtime.

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - sleep

    We all know that wonderful feeling waking up feeling fully rested and rejuvenated - it's good for your healthspan too

    Develop a relaxing pre-sleep routine to signal to your body that it's time to wind down. This could include reading, taking  bath or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation. For obvious reasons, avoid stimulants (like caffeine and nicotine) close to bedtime, as well as heavy meals and vigorous exercise, which can also disrupt sleep.

    With technology by our side 27/7, it's easy to take these companions to bed and use them into the wee hours, but we've all experienced how negatively impacted our sleep can be when we're watching the TV or on our phones too late.

    Set strict boundaries to minimize exposure to screens at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by these devices can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. If you must use electronic devices, consider using blue light filters or apps that adjust screen lighting.

    How to extend healthspan: Mind matters

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - mindfulness

    Mindfulness practice is effective at developing sound mental health

    Mental health is a crucial component of healthspan, influencing not only emotional well-being but also physical health.

    The first step in maintaining mental health is recognising its importance and acknowledging when help is needed - something we haven't always been great at as a society, though it is improving.

    Mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of age or background, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Regular self-reflection and mental health check-ins can help you stay aware of your emotional state and identify areas that need attention.

    Practices like mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools for enhancing mental health. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, which can reduce stress, improve focus, and increase emotional regulation. Meditation practices, such as guided meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation, have been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Integrating these practices into your daily routine can foster a sense of peace and balance.

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - community and friends

    Community and meaningful relationships boost healthspan

    We wrote a lot about the importance of social connections one our blog all about the Blue Zones. If you haven't read that article yet, I'd recommend it - it's delves into the factors which have resulted in certain parts of the world having a disproportionate number of people living to over 100 years of age.

    Building and maintaining strong social connections is at the heart of Blue Zones because of their role in achieving optimal mental health. Supportive relationships provide emotional support, reduce feelings of loneliness and offer a sense of belonging.

    Make an effort to stay connected with family and friends and consider joining social groups or clubs that align with your interests. Volunteering can also provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, enhancing overall mental well-being.

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - stress

    Stress can, quite literally, be a killer

    Chronic stress is another a significant barrier to extending healthspan. It not only impacts mental health but also contributes to physical conditions like hypertension, heart disease and metabolic disorders. Effective stress management is crucial for maintaining both mental and physical health, so work to incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine.

    Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and visualisation (here's four effective techniaues) can help calm the mind and reduce physical tension. Practices like yoga and tai chi combine physical movement with mindfulness, offering both physical and mental relaxation.

    Lastly, it's worth tippping the hat to gool ol' positive thinking and resilience - something that seems to have disappeared from the lexicon of late. Cultivating a positive mindset and building resilience can help manage stress effectively - positive thinking involves focusing on the good aspects of a situation rather than the negatives, which can improve coping skills and reduce the emotional impact of stressors.

    healthspan matters, not lifespan - positive thinking

    A little positivity never hurt anyone ;)

    And building resilience involves developing coping strategies, maintaining a strong support network, and fostering a sense of purpose.

    Healthspan matters, not lifespan - Conclusion

    I hope I've left you with good reason as to why healthspan should be your life's focus, not lifespan and shared some useful insights into what impacts healthspan and what you can do to extend yours.

    Extending your healthspan is essentially about making choices that enhance the quality of your life, not just its duration. By adopting healthier habits and making informed lifestyle changes, you can enjoy more years of vitality and well-being. As I said at the top, who doesn't want that?!

    Start today and invest in a healthier, more fulfilling future. Remember, the efforts you put into your health now will pay off in a longer, happier, and healthier life.

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