Healthspan: The Key to a Better Life
The search for eternal life didn’t begin or end with the Knights Templar or the great Conquistadors of Spain. At our very nature, humans have always sought ways for a longer life span. Whether through magical means, or scientific, the search continues. At this time, immortality is out of our reach – but that doesn’t mean we can’t take control of our longevity.
In essence, any life that extends past the average life span is considered to have longevity.
However, a longer life for just the sake of a longer life, without good health, isn’t the best proposition in the quest for longevity.
“In my mind, there are few sins so egregious as extending life without health,” says David Sinclair, longevity expert and tenured professor at the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School, in his latest book Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To. “This is important. It does not matter if we can extend lifespans if we cannot extend healthspans to an equal extent. And so if we’re going to do the former, we have an absolute moral obligation to do the latter.”
David, who says his age on the inside (his “biological age”) is a decade younger than his chronological age, sticks to a regimen of intermittent fasting at about 16-18 hours a day, supports his oral microbiome health with oil pulling, and eats a plant-focused diet that contains lots of polyphenols. Sinclair swears by the antioxidant properties of polyphenols as a key ingredient in his regimen to staying young.
It's time we shift our focus from living longer to living healthier for a longer amount of time. Which brings us to the topic: what is "healthspan?"
health-span: (noun) the part of a person's life during which they are in generally good health. "the goal is to enhance and expand healthspan"
Healthspan vs. Lifespan: What’s the Difference?
Although we can all agree living longer seems like a great thing, how long we are healthy determines a lot more about our quality of life. Scientists for decades have been working to help improve the length of our lives, often focusing on improving medical care for infectious and chronic diseases. This has been an incredible improvement for many, expanding on our ability to heal and overcome illness.
But as modern medicine has adapted to improving our lifespan, something else has been accidentally left to the wayside: preventing us from getting sick to begin with.
This has been at the heart of Viome’s initiative against the onset of chronic diseases. Rather than constantly treating symptoms - what if we could reverse or even prevent poor health from ever occurring? The consequence: yes, longer lives, but also healthier ones.
A Holistic View on Health
With the right guidance, our food can be our answer to a longer healthspan, and it begins by adopting a holistic view of health (and seeing our food as preventative medicine). Viome embraces this way by viewing each person as a superorganism - seeing the individual as unique and working in symbiosis with the microbes that thrive on and inside us. In science, we call this a ‘systems biology approach’ that looks at an individual’s biology and celebrates the tree from the forest, yet at the same time appreciates the whole tree instead of focusing on one branch or leaf over another.
In systems biology, scientists view a person as a greater picture and look at how the whole functions. In this case, we view an individual as more than just the DNA in your cells. We look at how your environment, your diet, your age, and your gut microbiome function together to impact your overall health.
This allows us to make recommendations that don’t just nitpick over little, often isolated changes in your body. Instead, we can develop ways to improve your health by creating a comprehensive analysis of how the whole biological system functions. By looking at the micro-footprints of your biology, we can make macro-size changes to make a difference in your whole-body health.
So What Does Good Health Mean to You?
Whether we live to be 80 or beyond, how we manage our health and keep our whole body functioning at its best gives us a better, much more fulfilling future. Optimal health can translate to more time with friends and family doing the things you love most. It means more years of building relationships, experiencing new things, and reducing the level of stress and discomfort on your body as you age.
As we get older, our risk for age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dementia, diabetes, arthritis, and many others increases. Though our lifespans have never been longer, our long-term health has yet to improve in like.
Scientists who study the gut microbiome believe that our diets may have more to say about the risk of these chronic diseases than previously thought. In our food are the compounds our bodies need to function, repair, and thrive - and yet much of our Western diets lack these essential nutrients. Moreover, each food can interact with our gut microbiome on an individual level, constantly shaping our health in unique ways. If we’re not supporting our gut flora with beneficial foods specific to our ecosystem, they could instead be impacting our overall health for the worse.
Guiding the Gut Toward Better Health
One of the lesser-known aspirations of Viome is to establish a newfound respect between how we treat our bodies and how we view health. Far more dynamic than we imagined, how we view and treat our bodies can have a lasting effect on how we age, starting from the foods we eat, how we move each day, all the way to our mindset. Through new and innovative research into the gut microbiome, scientists are also appreciating the scientific basis behind this vision.
If you’re looking at food as medicine - or even preventative medicine - its composition can support our goals to improve our digestive and overall health. The microbes that thrive inside our gut also lend a hand by shaping the chemical messengers that impact our mood, metabolism, performance, and how well we’re aging.
So rather than join the hunt in finding the fountain of youth, at Viome we rather find the answer to life by finding out how to truly live better for longer.
The purpose of life isn’t simply to survive but to thrive in a healthy life. To do this, we have dedicated resources to uncovering the hidden secrets to healthspan. Viome is helping people embrace a new perspective and gain the answers they need with our Health Intelligence and Gut Intelligence Tests. The scores you receive can guide you toward what a healthy body can be capable of. In doing so, we also hope to show you how powerful a healthy mindset can be.
This is what it means to embrace improving your healthspan over your lifespan. It means making changes today that can allow you to do more living in your life, without discounting how precious each moment of time we have is.