Health Mar 15, 2023
Why we should follow our healthspan, not our lifespan
In the 19th century, an adult human would have reached the full-cycle of their life by the age of 30. Today, thanks to changes in our environment, food and, of course, huge leaps in modern medicine, average lifespan has more than doubled to over 80 years in the EU.
However, between 2019 and 2021, for the first time since 1950, life expectancy decreased in most high-income countries by roughly 2 years, largely due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) has uncovered that the human ‘healthspan’ or the ‘quality’ of our prolonged life is not keeping pace with the impressive advances we’ve achieved in life expectancy over the past two centuries.
These longevity trends have made one thing clear – the next era of health and wellbeing will be about increasing our healthspan and here’s what you need to know about it.
Why should we focus on healthspan?
Healthspan refers to the period of life that a person is healthy. However, since ‘being healthy’ can mean something different to each person there isn’t a fixed metric we can use to measure healthspan.
To solve this discrepancy, the WHO has developed Healthy life expectancy (HALE) which calculates the average number of years we can lead a full-life without experiencing disabling diseases or injuries. It is used by the WHO to measure the health and wellbeing of a country as well as the population worldwide.
Healthspan estimates are critical for predicting future health service needs. These estimates help healthcare systems around the world to understand growing demands, trends and existing pain points related to health. They enable health officials to create and implement policies as well as innovative solutions to address issues and improve the overall health within communities.
It’s important to note that healthspan is not solely dependent on illness prevention but also good hygiene practices, clean water, vaccinations, exercise, nutrition and heart health, to name a few.
How can I learn about my healthspan?
If we are able to regularly measure the healthspan of large populations – tracking your own overall health should be a piece of cake, right?
In the past few years, there has been a lot of activity at the intersection of health, technology and big data. For instance, there are plenty of options to measure everything from sleeping habits to heart rate, and even identifying underlying health risks based on genetic tests. While these solutions allow us to self-monitor various aspects of our health and wellbeing, they often aren't indicative of our overall health. Moreover, they tend to focus on your health right now and aren’t equipped to assess how your health will pan out over the years to come.
This personal, preventative and comprehensive health information gap is what Livit by Nightingale Health is here to reduce. Through Livit, individuals can learn more about their heart, metabolism, immunity, and mind – including the current health status and future health trajectory of these areas, and how those results compare to others who are of the same age and sex. Additionally, Nightingale Health uses predictive health technology to combine multiple health outcomes with blood tests results, and estimate the number of Healthy Years the individual person has in store before being more prone to illnesses that can significantly reduce their quality of life.
However, your results are not a determination of your fate. Rather, they are something you can affect and improve by changing your everyday habits and lifestyle. Ultimately, Livit is here to help you ensure your healthspan is keeping up the pace with your lifespan.
What can I do to improve my healthspan?
Vitality is something we have been chasing since humans first walked on earth. The good news is, today, you have more means and access than our ancestors ever did to understand how your health is panning out.
So, the first step is to find out your current health baseline and decide where you would like it to be as you grow older.
Pay close attention to your daily habits and decisions connected to your wellbeing – for instance, the amount of uninterrupted sleep you get every night, the level of physical activity you get throughout the day or how much alcohol you consume in a week.
There are many proactive measures you can take from regular exercising, eating a balanced diet, and meditating. By following and understanding your overall health and potential health risks, you can adopt small yet specific and impactful everyday habits that can extend your healthspan significantly.