Live Longer - Live Healthier

The goal to live a long and healthy life is one that we all strive for. Although some individuals are living longer many are doing so with a lowered quality of life in their later years. The goal should not only be to live longer but to live a long and healthy life free of disability and serious health challenges.

A common misconception is that life expectancy (LE) has steadily been increasing over the last 100 years. Based on the latest LE values in 2001, Canadian men were living to be 77 and women 82. In 1900 men had an average life expectancy of 47 years and women just over 50 years. Based on this information one would conclude that in the span of 100 years men are living 30 years longer and women 32 years longer.

The problem is that these figures were based on averages. Child mortality was so high in the early 1900’s that it lowered the average life expectancy values for women and men dramatically. In fact if you remove child mortality from the equation in the last 100 years our life expectancy has only increased by 3.7 years!

A common belief is that the increases in LE are all due to the advances made in modern medicine. Although modern medicine certainly played a role the reality is that the greatest contributions made to increased LE came from improving sanitary conditions, reducing childhood mortality and the use of antibiotics to control infectious diseases.

As mentioned earlier life expectancy for men is 77 and for women 82. Unfortunately these numbers don’t give us a complete health picture. What if the last 5 or 10 years of your life were spent very ill, bed ridden, hospitalized, and with ultimately a very poor quality of life? What if you were to now factor into these LE values the number of healthy years that you live? In other words your disability-free life expectancy? Statistics Canada calls this “Health Adjusted Life Expectancy” or HALE for short. These values essentially tell us how long we live to be while staying healthy. The HALE values for men are now 68 and 71 for women. In other words although men live to be on average 77 years old they have a lowered quality of life for their last 9 years because of their poor health. For women who on average live to be 82 the last 11 years are spent with poor health.

Fortunately there are many things we can do to make a long and healthy life a reality. Many scientists from around the globe have devoted considerable time, energy and expense in the pursuit of life extension. First and foremost is the need for better nutrition. Diet is the most important key to not only living longer but also reducing the chance of falling prey to the ravages of many diseases.

Nutritionists recommend a minimum of 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Sadly many Canadians are only consuming 2 to 4 servings daily. To add insult to injury numerous scientific papers have shown that many of today’s foods have a lower vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content than they did 60 years ago. Various food preservation and cooking techniques (like microwaving in particular) further deplete our food of vital nutrients and disease fighting compounds. Knowing what foods to consume and what methods of food preparation are safest are essential in ensuring you get the most from your food and don’t suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

Aside from nutrition many other factors are known to impact life extension: genetics, excessive exposure to and production of free radicals, glycation (the reaction between sugar and proteins in the body), stress, and inactivity (lack of exercise) all can impact how healthy you are and how long you live. Research has clearly shown us that with the right combination of diet and supplementation we can significantly impact our longevity. Understanding these factors and knowing what to do about them is the key to ensuring you live a long vibrant and healthy life!

Share

0 comments

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published