3 mins read
What is Healthspan & Why is it Important?
Author: Dr Beverley Taylor
December 8, 2023
- What is the Difference Between Healthspan and Lifespan?
- Defining Healthspan
- Key Factors Influencing Healthspan
- Lifestyle Choices
- Chronic Disease Prevention
- Mental and Emotional Well-being
- Genetic Testing
- Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)
- Cardiovascular Risk Assessment
- Bone Density Testing
In our pursuit of a fulfilling and vibrant life, we often hear about lifespan. However, a relatively new concept called healthspan has emerged as a crucial measure of quality of life. In this article, we will explore the concept of healthspan, delve into the key health factors that influence it, and discuss some valuable tests that can help predict future health risks.
What is the Difference Between Healthspan and Lifespan?
Healthspan refers to the period in which we can enjoy good health, free from debilitating diseases and physical limitations, whereas lifespan refers to the total number of years we live. A 90 year lifespan could have 10, 30 or even 60 years of healthspan.
Healthspan is a term coined to emphasise the importance of maintaining health and vitality throughout our lives. It encompasses not just the absence of illness but also the presence of overall well-being, including physical, mental, and emotional health. Simply put, healthspan is about maximising the number of years we spend in good health, rather than merely focusing on increasing lifespan.
Key Factors Influencing Healthspan
Several key factors can significantly impact your healthspan. While some are beyond our control, such as genetics and age, others are modifiable through lifestyle choices. Here are some of the key factors that play into healthspan.
Our genetic makeup contributes to our susceptibility to certain diseases. However, while we cannot alter our genes, we can adopt healthy habits to mitigate the impact of genetic predispositions.
Nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are crucial elements that influence healthspan. A balanced diet, regular exercise, quality sleep, and effective stress reduction techniques are all associated with improved health outcomes.
Chronic Disease Prevention
Chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers can significantly impact healthspan. Managing risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and maintaining a healthy weight are essential in preventing or delaying the onset of chronic conditions.
Mental and Emotional Well-being
Mental health plays a vital role in overall healthspan. Strategies like stress reduction, maintaining social connections, engaging in activities that bring joy, and seeking professional help when needed all contribute to mental and emotional well-being.
Tests for Predicting Future Health Risks
Advancements in medical science have enabled the development of tests that can help predict an individual’s future health risks. These tests allow for early identification of potential health issues, providing an opportunity for preventive measures and early interventions.
Genetic testing can provide valuable insights into an individual’s susceptibility to certain diseases. It can identify genetic variations associated with conditions like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological disorders. Armed with this knowledge, individuals can take proactive steps to mitigate risk factors or adopt preventive measures.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)
A CMP is a blood test that assesses various markers related to organ function, metabolism, and electrolyte balance. It can provide insights into liver and kidney health, blood sugar levels, electrolyte imbalances, and lipid profiles, enabling early detection and management of conditions like diabetes, liver disease, and kidney dysfunction.
Cardiovascular Risk Assessment
Various tests, such as cholesterol panels, blood pressure monitoring, and electrocardiograms (ECGs), can help evaluate an individual’s cardiovascular health. These tests aid in the identification of risk factors for heart disease, enabling interventions like lifestyle modifications, medication, or further diagnostic tests as needed.
Bone Density Testing
Bone density tests, like dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), assess bone strength and can help detect osteoporosis or low bone mass. Early identification of bone density issues allows for appropriate interventions, such as lifestyle modifications, supplementation, and preventive measures to reduce the risk of fractures.
Healthspan represents a paradigm shift from simply aiming to live longer to actively striving for a life filled with good health and vitality. Understanding the key factors that influence healthspan and utilising predictive tests can empower individuals to make informed choices and take proactive steps towards optimising their well-being. By embracing a holistic approach to health, encompassing lifestyle modifications, early interventions, and preventive measures, we can unlock the potential to extend our healthspan and live life to the fullest.
This information has been medically reviewed by Dr Thom Phillips
Thom works in NHS general practice and has a decade of experience working in both male and female elite sport. He has a background in exercise physiology and has published research into fatigue biomarkers.
Dr Thom Phillips
Head of clinical services
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