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Health Span vs. Life Span

Written by Altheda Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer - Dr. Peter Ford, Pharm D.

February 24, 2024


A person’s healthspan is the length of time that a person is healthy, not just alive. The word was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2018.  Whereas life span is the duration of existence of an individual.  The words are complementary to one another, however, as a baby boomer, I am much more interested in the term health span, than I am in the word lifespan. Not a single one of us will cheat death.  It is inevitable.  However, healthspan can be achieved by a number of life choices.  We all have genetics, however, we all have the ability to modify our health span through life choices.


Individuals who live in so-called Blue Zones have significantly increased Health Spans, and Life Spans.


Statistics Canada says life expectancy for the average Canadian at birth has fallen for three straight years, from 82.3 years in 2019 to 81.3 in 2022.


The report on deaths shows New Brunswick saw the biggest decline in life expectancy in 2022, dropping to 79.8 years from 80.9 in 2021.


Saskatchewan's life expectancy has fallen the most over the past three years combined, dropping a full two years to 78.5 in 2022 from 80.5 in 2019.


Healthspan is the quality of life over time and maximizing well-being in the following categories:

  • Mind and cognition (processing speed, short term memory)

  • Body (maintenance of muscle mass, functional movement, freedom from pain)

  • Distress tolerance (emotional pain, dealing with daily annoyances)

  • Sense of purpose and social support (meaning of life)


When we look at deaths of individuals in Blue Zones, they basically die of the same diseases as younger individuals, just at a much later date. Cancers, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases etc.


Why? 

This graph best illustrates the relationship between health span and lifespan. 


The red line shows today’s average person, maximizing health span around 40 years old, and slowly declining until death around 80. If you think about it, this decline in quality of life is someone who deteriorates in health becoming immobile with dementia needing costly assistance to survive – not preferable.


The desired line in blue shows the goal of maximizing longevity by pushing the whole curve to the right, maximizing the peak from 40 to 60 years, and making the healthspan decline as steep as possible. This is representative of the 90-year-old effortlessly mowing their yard and still as witty as they were at age 40. Then to painlessly pass in their sleep of a heart attack at 100 – preferable. 


Altheda’s mission is to help individuals’ through supplementation, and the encouragement to remain physically and mentally active, and to maintain a purpose in life to extend your health span.


References:

International Alternative Health Association

Statistics Canada



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