Maximizing Health Span: Quality Over Quantity

 In Health, Juice, News

We see it all around us, people are living longer than before, human lifespans (how long we live) are increasing. Longevity and the quest for a longer life are becoming commonly discussed concepts. In humans, our lifespan is dependent on genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, with genetic components contributing about 20–25%, and lifestyle playing a major role. The problem is that a longer life expectancy can also lead to an increase of the number of people suffering from age-related diseases, age represents the main risk factor for all major life-threatening disorders.

Health span refers to the length of time an individual remains healthy, active, and free from chronic diseases as they age. Emphasizing the importance of a good quality of life and overall well-being during the aging process, rather than just the length of life. Maintaining a longer health span means enjoying more years of good health and independence as one grows older. The fact that health span is not growing in the same way as life span is a source of great concern. As a result, it has raised interest among the scientific and medical community to study and elaborate strategies to improve health span. The concept of health span versus lifespan is crucial because it challenges us to consider the quality of life as we age, not just the quantity of years we accumulate. After all, what good is living to be 100 if the last few decades are plagued by illness, pain, and limitations?

In the pursuit of exploring the secrets of longevity, scientists are studying groups of individuals who reach the age of 100 or older, known as centenarians. These extraordinary people not only challenge how we typically think about getting older but also spend less time dealing with long-term sickness. Studying centenarians gives us important information about why some people age more slowly and offers health span habits for living longer, healthier lives.

What we eat and how much we consume, have relevant roles in determining our health span. Several studies show that a high intake of (red) meat and especially processed meat, as well as animal proteins, simple sugars, high-glycemic index carbohydrates and saturated fatty acids have higher inflammatory potential and are associated with increased all-cause mortality. However, the Mediterranean diet as well as high-quality nutrient rich diets that we see in centenarian populations, contain whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and omega 3 fatty acids that are associated with reduced all-cause mortality risk. These diets provide minerals, folic acid, vitamins E, C, omega 3 polyunsaturated fats and a host of phytonutrients (polyphenols, phytosterols, carotenoids, beta-carotene, etc.)

In addition to nutrition, other health span habits that optimise our longevity include regular physical activity, stress management, adequate sleep, social connections, preventative health checks and avoiding harmful habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. While extending lifespan is an admirable goal, it’s time to shift our focus towards maximizing our health span. By prioritizing quality over quantity, we can ensure that people not only live longer lives but also enjoy those extra years to the fullest. As a society, let’s work together to promote health span habits and empower individuals to live their best lives at every stage of the journey.

Milman, S and Barzilai, 2023. Discovering biological mechanisms of exceptional human health span and life span. Cold Spring Harbour Perspectives in Medicine,2023 Sep 1;13(9)
Pignatti, et al., 2020. Nutrients and pathways that regulate health span and life span. Geriatrics, 2020, 5, 95.

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