The increasing life expectancy and quality of life in older age, focusing on ways to stay healthy and active well into the 80s and 90s. The role of medical advancements, social connections, lifestyle choices, and research into “super-agers” is explored. The piece provides guidance on bolstering physical systems like the heart and emphasizes the importance of exercise, eating well, sleep, and social connections. The main challenge remains in extending not just lifespan but health span, the period of life lived in generally good health.
- Increased Life Expectancy: Life expectancy has increased by 26 years since the 1950s, and people living into their 80s and 90s with vibrant lifestyles are more common. Medical community excels at extending lifespan, but health span needs to catch up.
- Importance of Lifestyle Choices: Along with medical checkups and vaccines, four main lifestyle factors, including exercise, proper diet, sufficient sleep, and strong social connections, significantly contribute to extending health. Areas with many “super-agers” often have a robust social fabric.
- Chronic Illnesses and Aging Factors: Aging is associated with chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and neurodegeneration. However, aging can also bring benefits like increased creativity and happiness after a certain age. Genes and social factors also contribute to health span.
- Heart Health Guidelines: The article delves into heart health, discussing the changes it undergoes with age and how to maintain it. Recommendations include following specific diets like the Mediterranean and DASH, physical exercise, sleep management, and controlling cholesterol. These habits can reverse arterial stiffness and lower heart attack risk.
- Emphasis on Quality of Life: The perspective on aging is shifting towards quality of life, not just longevity. There’s an emphasis on what individuals can do now to influence their future health, and it’s asserted that it’s never too early or too late to start making healthier choices.