Do You Have A Plan To Enjoy A Long And Happy Life Right Up To The End?
It is hard to believe that life expectancy in Great Britain was 50 at the beginning of the twentieth century. By the end of the century, this had risen to over 80!
The good news is that we are lucky to have 30 years added to our lives. However, the bad news is that we might not be well enough to enjoy them. Sadly ‘accelerated ageing’ and chronic diseases rob people of their vitality and leave them vulnerable to dependency and poor quality of life. This creates a substantial gap between life and health span.
Life Span Vs. Health Span
People over the age of 50 take different paths as they grow older: they can stay vibrantly healthy, or deteriorate slowly with age and diseases. The path depends almost entirely on the body’s ability to cleanse and repair itself.
It’s important to note that only 20 per cent of ageing is attributable to your genes; the rest is completely under your control. So, your environment controls a staggering 80 per cent of the ageing process, and this includes your thoughts, attitudes, stress, diet, physical activity, sleep, and relationships.
Grouped together, these can have an epigenetic (above genes) effect that is powerful enough to influence your genes to promote either health or disease. In simple terms, this means that by adopting a healthy lifestyle, your genes will be prompted to express health and you will age gracefully and win the game of life!
Accelerated ageing, on the other hand, takes place when more body cells are dying than are being replaced by the body’s repair system. You start losing organ reserve, which naturally affects their function and your health. This happens in relation to chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, which can result in brain failure (dementia); kidney failure; and heart failure.
As we all know, a physical or mental impairment (especially when combined) increases the risk of people losing their ability to live independently, and significantly lowers their quality of life.
Finally, some people belong to another group of over-50s whose vitality is diminished, although they do not have sufficient symptoms to be classified as a disease. As these people age, they become slower, fatter, and clumsier and they lose their confidence. They simply lack fitness.
What Does Fitness Really Mean?
As a doctor with over 35 years of experience, I have met fit people over the age of 100 and very unfit people in their 20s. Fitness has nothing to do with age. It comes from a mental attitude that helps some people adopt an active lifestyle.
Contrary to what many people think, you do not have to work hard in the gym to get fit; fitness can be attained while pursuing your normal daily activities, such as housework, gardening, and brisk walking.
While our genes may determine 20 per cent of ageing, we all have a choice to make with the remaining 80 per cent. We can choose to stay healthy, or allow our health and vitality to deteriorate.
By choosing health, your body functions better and you have a good chance of remaining independent and happy for the rest of your life.
By not choosing health, you increase your risk of disease, and diseases can lead to dependency and poor quality of life.
Therefore, good health should be the priority for everyone, particularly over the age of 50. At this age, you can still easily switch from the unpredictability of exposing yourself to a higher risk of disease, to a more enjoyable health path. Along this health path, you increase your chances of aging gracefully and enjoy life fully up to the end – I call it the vitality span curve!
Evidence To Support Making This Choice
I am sure you have met fully functional and independent people in their 80s, 90s, or even beyond the 100 mark. We often think these people are lucky to have strong genes, and I agree—good genes are crucial—but you need to supplement them with a good attitude and better lifestyle choices in order to enjoy a prolonged and productive life.
A study compared the benefits of an exercise program for a younger group of participants (in their 30s and 40s) versus an older group (in their 70s and 80s). Surprisingly, the older group achieved more improvement in their physical fitness.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has indicated that people who cut down their calorie intake by 20 per cent and manage to maintain their muscle mass, live on average 20 years longer than their counterparts, and live better quality lives. And when it came down to quantity versus quality, the research shows that most people prefer to have a better quality life in their remaining years, rather than having more years to live.
Surely it’s a no brainer? I think that since we are destined to live longer nowadays, everyone deserves to stay strong with a good level of energy and vitality to enjoy life.
What If You Already Have Poor Health?
If you’re already suffering from bad health, you might think it’s too late for you. Fortunately it’s not, you can turn things around as my personal story demonstrates…
20 years ago I was overweight, with a couple of medical conditions and a total lack of energy. I was unable to walk from the train station to my house (half a mile) and had to take a taxi.
My condition deteriorated further when I had to be rushed to hospital and had two operations. After the second, I was in a coma for five days. Waking up in the Intensive Care Unit, I felt hopeless. It was a wake-up call.
I made the decision to turn things around and for the first time in my career I started to learn about health and fitness. The result was the following:
- I lost two stones and my trouser size dropped from 38 inches to 32,
- My heartburn and indigestion were resolved,
- My left knees’ arthritis settled,
- I start running again for the first time in 25 years. Completing more than 90 marathons, with a personal best time of 02:37:26!
I am the living proof of the vitality span curve. The common belief that vitality declines with age is certainly false as I am comfortably running regular marathons in my 60s, whereas I was unable to walk to the train station in my 40s.
I have transformed my life, how about you? As you can see if I can do it other men in their 40s, 50s and 60s can do it too. To get started take my 5 Minute Vitality Test to see how you score and find out what steps you can take for a better, healthier future.