Each year, when the new year arrives, people always make a lot of projects and promises to themselves … for a new way of life. Most times it all has to do with health, like losing weight, eating better, stop smoking and so on. But all ends up being an effort to live better and longer.
Even if a new year comes in every 12 months, the reality is that time does not stop … and start again. So a new year is not a new beginning but a continuation of our lifetime. Thus the will to live better should not be a state of mind that repeats itself once a year, at the beginning of each new year, and is soon forgotten – it should be a permanent state of mind.
Time goes on, non-stop and so does life. Once one starts living, there is no pause or restart button to press until the end, when one stops living. That length of time is called life expectancy.
It is a statistical measure of how long a person may live, based on the year of their birth, their current age and other demographic factors, including gender. The most commonly used measure of life expectancy is life expectancy at age zero – that is, at birth.
Since 1990, life expectancy at birth has increased globally by six years.
Mathematically, life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age, according to statistics. Because life expectancy is an average, a particular person may well die many years before or many years after their “expected” length of survival.
The behavioural decisions made throughout every day of life of each human being are determinant for their individual lifespan and quality of life.
Studies have estimated that approximately 20-30% of an individual’s lifespan is related to genetics; the rest is due to individual behaviours and environmental factors which can be modified. A 2012 study found that even modest amounts of leisure time physical exercise can extend life expectancy by as much as 4.5 years.
A study of the regions of the world known as blue zones, where people commonly live active lives past 100 years of age, has been considering that longevity is related to a healthy social and family life, not smoking, eating a plant-based diet, frequent consumption of legumes and nuts, and engaging in regular physical activity. In a cohort study, the combination of a plant-based diet, frequent consumption of nuts, regular physical activity, normal BMI and not smoking, accounted for differences of up to 10 years in life expectancy.
Major scientific advances are being made that can change the rate of human ageing itself, opposed to merely treating the effects of ageing and diseases as it is currently done today.
One important detail … women live longer than men all around the world. The gap in life expectancy between the sexes was five years in 1990 and it has remained the same by 2012. It is thought that life expectancy for women has increased more dramatically owing to the considerable advances in medicine related to childbirth.
The United Nations has made projections up to 2300 and it seems that life expectancy in most developed countries will be between 100 and 106 years and still rising, although recent increases in the rates of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease may eventually slow the tendency for increasing life expectancy in the developed world even if medicine is improving at an extremely fast pace.
Infant mortality is down about 50% since 1990, and we have significantly reduced the number of deaths from preventable and treatable diseases.
Even so… ageing is the single biggest risk factor for shortening the individual lifespan – even if life expectancy is growing, we do not expect to live indefinitely!
Ageing is the biggest risk factor for virtually every significant human disease.
To extend and enhance a healthy, high-performance lifespan and change the face of ageing it is very important to solve the diseases of ageing by changing the way medicine is practised. It is the best we can do and the truth is that the new ways of practising medicine are of an enormous relevance for the increase of lifespan and the quality of the extended time that it is achieved.
It is not only a long life we are striving for, it is one which is worth living.
Getting older can come with a variety of health challenges. But you can take action and cooperate with your doctor to maintain good health and reduce your risk of disease and disability.
Exercise, good nutrition, regular health screenings, getting vaccines, having enough sleep and participating in activities you enjoy are just a few ways to promote healthy ageing.
Best healthy wishes,
Dr. Maria Alice
By || Dr Maria Alice
Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service / Medilagos. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve