Most Americans today have a lifespan of around 75 to 80 years, which is the highest in the country’s history. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? 

Not necessarily. 

HealthWorks’ Morgantown Clinical Director Mike Curley explains that we spend the last 15 years of our life slowly deteriorating, with an ever-growing list of health issues and ailments. Compared to a lifespan, a healthspan refers to the proportion of our lifespan we spend staying healthy.

We’re sure that you don’t want to spend your final ten or fifteen years dealing with health problems. This article was compiled with expert advice from Mike Curley, a certified athletic trainer and physical therapist assistant, to help you increase your healthspan so that it aligns with your lifespan. If you’d like to watch the video interview, it’s attached at the end of this article.

Diet

The phrase “You are what you eat” is more accurate than you think. The first cause of a poor healthspan is a poor diet.

How does a poor diet cause problems? Some foods cause systemic inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is basically like a garbage man that takes out the broken cells and damaged tissues from our body in the 3 to 4 days that follow trauma or injury.

The issue occurs with inflammation that becomes systemic and sticks around. Chronic inflammation eats up healthy body cells and begins causing damage, which can catch up to us in our later years.

What sort of diet is important for a longer healthspan? 

Curley recommends a low carb and high healthy fats diet. The first rule is to avoid sugar, including high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oil, starch, and all processed foods. Human-made produced sugars are the worst thing you can feed your body. 

Sleep

Your body rebuilds itself during sleep. The secret to staying healthy late into your life lies in consistently getting around 7 to 9 hours of sleep. 

Sleep reduces cortisol levels and rebuilds muscle tissue. You don’t get bigger in the gym or faster on the track—you need proper rest. Your body adapts to the stress of the day when it sleeps. 

Here are a few quick tips on healthy sleeping habits:

  • Get full sleep at once instead of napping. Naps generally aren’t as effective as uninterrupted sleep. 
  • Turn your phone/tablet/laptop off 2 hours before you sleep.
  • Don’t eat 2 to 3 hours before bed. 
  • Keep your room cool and dark. 

Exercise

Curley reveals that we lose 5 pounds of muscle every 10 years after age 30. This can add up quickly, and frailty is the biggest problem we see as we get older. This general weakness can cause a deterioration of simple daily activities, such as an the ability to walk to the kitchen, change your clothes, or use the toilet independently.

Exercise is essential in keeping our body conditioned. Cardio provides more oxygen to the brain and improves overall health, but resistance training is the most important activity in preventing frailty. It keeps your muscles stressed and growing. It doesn’t matter if you lift heavy or light. The goal is to lift until failure. 

Plus, you can start lifting at any age!

Stress Relief

Stress raises cortisol levels, and chronic stress can cause damage. High blood pressure, lower bone density, and high blood glucose (insulin resistance) are just a few examples of the possible complications.

To deal with stress, you can try weekly massages, aromatherapy, trigger point therapy, or even exercise. Explore what makes you feel relaxed. 

Environmental Exposure

Exposure to the sun for 20 to 30 minutes every day is essential for Vitamin D and a long healthspan. Around 90% of the COVID-19 patients who developed severe complications had Vitamin D deficiencies—that’s how important it is for our immune system. 

Exposure to cold and heat is also important for health. Many people try ice baths and saunas. Curley himself takes a cold shower every morning! These extremes help fight inflammation, improve metabolism, improve immunity, and build muscle. 

Conclusion

That’s it! Incorporate these expert tips into your life for a longer healthspan and stay fit throughout your lifetime!

If you’d like to learn more about improving your general health, reducing pain, and increasing your ability to do the things you love, contact us at your nearest HealthWorks location to discuss physical therapy and fitness options that will work for you!

5 Pillars of a Quality Healthspan – Part 1

5 Pillars of a Quality Healthspan – Part 2

5 Pillars of a Quality Healthspan – Part 3