The Ultimate Independent Reality: Lifespan & Healthspan

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Grodnitzky, Ph.D.
July 27, 2023

Who wants to live longer? Who wants a higher quality of life – one without illness or disease?  Some people apparently believe those two things are mutually exclusive. Their thinking goes something like this: The longer we live, the more likely we are to get a chronic disease. So why live longer if you’re just going to be sick anyway? 

That may be their personal reality. But it is not aligned with independent reality.  

For an in-depth, scientific read on this topic, I recommend the book “Lifespan’’ by David Sinclair.

In my discussions after hernia surgery, I have learned that many people continue to believe that your destiny is in your genes. But that’s not true. We can do so much to influence not only our longevity, but also the quality of the years we live. Sinclair calls the number of healthy years we live without disease or illness our healthspan.

Here is the independent reality: Health is cumulative. It is the result of behaviors we do consistently to build a reserve of resources to respond to the inevitable bacteria, viruses and mutations that bombard our bodies. 

‘The Great Eight’ Behaviors for Health and Longevity

The Million Veteran Program (MVP) is a study looking at almost a million veterans and how their cumulative healthy habits affect longevity and quality of life – their healthspan. The study’s findings indicate that, depending on when you start engaging in eight key behaviors, you can extend the longevity and quality of your life by up to 24 years!

  1. Get moving. This should not surprise anyone. Moving your body consistently is one of the most important behaviors for your physical and mental health. According to the MVP study, regular exercise alone reduces your risk of death from any cause by 46% compared with those who do not exercise.
  2. Avoid opioid addiction. The second-most influential factor for healthspan is avoiding addiction to opioids, which can reduce your risk of premature death by 38%.
  3. Avoid tobacco use. This reduces the risk of death by 29%.
  4. Stress management. This reduces your risk of early death by 22%.
  5. Eat a plant-based diet. This increases your chances of living longer by 21%.
  6. Avoid binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as having more than four drinks per day.  Avoiding this behavior reduces your risk of death by 19%.
  7. Get sufficient sleep. By getting 7-9 hours per night, you reduce your risk of death by 18%.
  8. Cultivate positive social relationships. Positive relationships increase longevity by 5%.  That may seem like a small impact, but the absence of such relationships can do serious harm. Loneliness and isolation have been well documented in older adults, particularly post-COVID. People who reported feeling social isolation had a 32% higher risk of premature death from any cause when compared with those who were not socially isolated. Those who felt lonely were 14% more likely to die early than those who did not.

What Are You Doing for Your Healthspan?

My biggest areas of strength:

  1. Fitness
  2. Plant-based eating

My biggest area of challenge:

  1. Getting enough sleep! But I’m working on it.

We know that when our personal reality does not align with independent reality, dis-ease and disease follow.

In what areas are you strongest? What is your biggest area of challenge?  

I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note.

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