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Longevity expert says improving your wellbeing could boost your “healthspan”

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Huge leaps in medical advancements mean we’re living longer. Yet, poor health can present challenges in later years. According to a longevity expert, there are steps you can take that could improve your quality of life.

Government statistics show that since the 1920s the average life expectancy has increased by around 20 years. In fact, the Office for National Statistics estimates that children born in 2023 will live into their late 80s, with many celebrating their 90th birthday.

Longer life expectancy is great news, but considering how healthy those later years are is important too. “Healthspan” refers to the number of years you live in good health.

A report in the Telegraph suggests that in 2022 the average male could expect to live to 79.4 years, but his healthy life expectancy was just 63.1. For women, life expectancy was 83.1 years, but 19.3 of those are spent in “not good” health.

However, speaking to the Telegraph, Dr Peter Attia, a physician and longevity expert, argues poor health in your later years isn’t inevitable – there are things you can do to improve your long-term health. A key part of this is maintaining physical and mental fitness.

Taking care of your physical health could help you get more out of life

While our healthcare system is great at diagnosing and treating illnesses, experts in the Telegraph argue that prevention is often overlooked, including the importance of diet and exercise.

You don’t have to hit the gym every day to improve your physical wellbeing. There are simple ways you can incorporate a variety of exercises into your life. You could:

  • Make a brisk walk part of your lunchtime routine

  • Follow an online yoga class to improve balance and coordination several times a week

  • Create a routine of strength exercises to build muscle that you can complete in your living room.

Consistency is key when it comes to physical health. Choose something that you can incorporate frequently into your daily life – walking a few miles every day could have a larger positive effect overall than going for a run once a month.

Pick activities that you enjoy and look forward to. This could it help you stick to your goal and improve your overall wellbeing too. For some people, making exercise a social activity can be useful. You may want to join a local walking group, plan hikes with your family or friends, or join an exercise class. 

Better physical health in your later years may reduce the risk of disease and other hazards, such as suffering a fall. Improved mobility can also mean you can get more out of life, whether you want to explore more of the world or play an active role in your grandchild’s life.

Mental health plays an important role in your later years too

From keeping your mind sharp to improving your wellbeing, mental health is incredibly important in your later years.

There are some simple ways you can improve your mental wellbeing and create a solid foundation for better mental health. According to Dr Attia, you should:

  • Reduce stress as much as possible

  • Create a healthy sleep routine

  • Consider your diet and its nutritional value.

Keeping your mind active with mental challenges can also be useful and may boost areas like your memory or problem-solving skills. It could be as simple as doing daily brain exercises, like a crossword puzzle, or playing a strategy game to challenge your mind. Or you may want to focus on learning something new, such as a language, playing a musical instrument, or research a topic that interests you.

As well as steps like these, having a purpose in your life can give you drive and passion that improves your mental health. What makes your life happy and worthwhile? And how can you make this a greater focus?

Mental and physical health can work together to improve your healthspan

Improved mental wellbeing supports your physical health, and vice versa.

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress and improve your mood. If you’re happy, you’re also less likely to reach for unhealthy food or skip your exercise routine.

So, while it’s impossible to remove all health risks, doing something every day to improve your physical and mental wellbeing could boost your healthspan.