March 28, 2022

Doctors Weigh In: The One Thing That’s More Important Than Your Lifespan

Written By

Allie Baker

Medically Reviewed By

Kerri Masutto, MD

VP Clinical Operations

Medically Reviewed By

Hector Lopez, MD, CSCS, FISSN

Scientific & Innovation Advisor

The saying goes “quality over quantity,” but why can’t you have both? At Lifeforce, we’re committed to living long and living well. That’s why we focus on optimizing your healthspan. 

You’re probably familiar with the term “lifespan” — how many years you live — but the idea of “healthspan” is less well known. Our mission is to change that. 

What Is Healthspan? 

“Healthspan is how long your physical and cognitive body will allow you to live healthfully, independently, pain free, and without disability from chronic conditions,” says Dr. Kerri Masutto, a functional medicine expert and VP of Clinical Operations for Lifeforce. “It means being able to do all the things you love — whether that’s continuing to work, enjoying your hobbies, or spending time with your family — and feeling good doing those things.” 

The Healthspan Vs. Lifespan Gap

Aiming for that sounds like a no-brainer, yet there is a significant discrepancy in Americans’ average lifespan vs. healthspan. The average life expectancy in the U.S. is approximately 79 years. Until recently, there were no statistics to calculate the average healthspan. To rectify that, the World Health Organization developed HALE, an indicator for healthy life expectancy calculated by taking the average age of the first occurrence of the most common serious diseases and their incidences. That average is 63.1 years old, which means that on average we live up to 20% of our lives unhealthy

While that stat may sound alarming, it’s actually become normalized to accept a deteriorating healthspan earlier than we should, according to Dr. Masutto. “These days it’s become so common to talk with friends and on social media and say things like, ‘I’m 30, so I wake up with pain every day now’ or ‘I’m tired all the time, but I’m 40 so that’s just the way it is,’” she says. “People think that just because you’re getting older, everything has to start falling apart. It doesn’t have to be that way.” 

The Best of Both Worlds

Remember when we said that you can have both quality and quantity? You can do that by prioritizing your healthspan because it accomplishes both goals. “Everything you do to help your healthspan will also help your lifespan,” explains Dr. Masutto. “But everything you’re doing for your lifespan won’t necessarily enhance your healthspan.”

For example, for your lifespan you may go on medications to lower cholesterol so you prevent a heart attack. To enhance your healthspan, you might go on that same medication but also add in lifestyle shifts such as exercise, stress reduction, and dietary changes. By doing that, notes Dr. Masutto, “you will not only help avoid a heart attack, but also improve a host of other things like blood sugar, insulin, hormone levels, weight management, and joint health. Both have optimized lifespan, but one has optimized healthspan as well.”

Why Your Healthspan Matters More Than Lifespan, According to MDs

5 Ways to Start Optimizing Your Healthspan Today

The key to enhancing your healthspan is being proactive. “As you age, your body doesn’t have the resources it naturally had when you were younger,” says Dr. Masutto. “You have decades of stressors, environmental toxins, and toxins from food built up. You have to be proactive about how you combat those stressors, so you can bring your body back to its optimal functioning.” 

Here’s how. 

1. Movement

When you hear the word “movement,” the first thing that usually comes to mind is exercise. Working out consistently is incredible for your healthspan — it has been linked to protecting cardiovascular health, reducing diabetes risk, supporting weight management, strengthening bones, improving sleep, and reducing the risk of anxiety and depression. But if you’re just starting out with lifestyle shifts, you don’t need to jump into intense exercise. 

“The type of movement you’re doing is less important than minimizing being sedentary,” says Dr. Masutto. More than 60% of American adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity, and about 25% are not active at all, according to statistics from the Centers For Disease Control. Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, depression, and cognitive impairment. 

The first step to combat this is, well, stepping. “You’re simply aiming for as much movement as possible,” says Dr. Masutto. This includes leisurely strolls, housework, running errands, even sitting on something unstable like a yoga ball while you work. You can encourage more movement by setting an alarm on your phone to go for regular walks, taking work calls while walking outside, or parking in a far away parking spot. 

These activities may not sound like exercise, but shifting your mindset to “count” them as movement can actually make a difference. One study of hotel housekeepers found that 67% reported they didn’t get any exercise even though they all exceeded the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendation for movement because of their active jobs. They were then divided into two groups — one group received education on how much they were already moving and the calories they were burning while the other received no information. The group who received information lost weight and experienced a 10% drop in their blood pressure. Researchers attributed most of this to a simple mindset shift. 

Another important principle of movement for enhancing healthspan is the concept of 'movement snacks,' which can include chair squats, wall push-ups, rowing with elastic bands, small walks and/or taking the stairs even if for two to five minutes at a time. The cumulative amount of daily physical exercise and movement takes precedence over the duration of each session. “Once you do that, you can start to create a more structured exercise routine,” says Dr. Masutto. 

2. Nutrition 

Just like with movement, aim for small, sustainable steps with your dietary changes. “We’re playing the long game with healthspan, so changing small things consistently over time is going to be so much better for you than going on an all clean diet one month and then reverting right back to your old habits the next,” says Dr. Masutto. 

She suggests adding more water and vegetables to your diet and cutting back on highly processed foods — anything that comes in a box or package with a long list of ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Research shows that processed foods are linked to weight gain, cardiovascular risks, diabetes, and more, while a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with lower blood pressure, stabilizing blood sugar, stronger heart health, and healthier weight management. 

You don’t need to ditch your go-to foods all at once. “Most people eat pretty consistently week to week,” says Dr. Masutto. “Choose just one or two things that you have regularly to switch out. For example, if you get fast food at lunch, switch that one meal to something more fresh and less processed. If you have soda or juice with dinner every night, try switching that to water.” Over time, your body will start to crave these new foods, says Dr. Masutto. “That’s a step in the right direction.” 

3. Stress Management 

“Stress management is the area that people overlook the most,” says Dr. Masutto. It’s also one of the most essential. Meditation is her number one tip to begin easing stress. “It’s one of the best healthspan hacks that you could ever do,” she says. 

That’s because research consistently shows that meditation helps reduce anxiety. Typically, outside stressors cause a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to the release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. This may contribute to depression or anxiety, sleep issues, fatigue, and increased blood pressure. But in one study, regular meditation reduced the inflammation caused by stress. Research has also linked meditation to increased self-awareness, improved focus, enhanced memory, and even having more compassion.  

We know that starting a meditation practice may feel overwhelming. “Most people know they should do some form of meditation but are discouraged because it’s not easy to sit down and quiet your mind,” says Dr. Masutto. “The important thing is to recognize that your meditative practice might look different.” It can look like sitting quietly, going for a walk and observing your surroundings, cooking, crafting, photography, something active like snowboarding — anything that gets you into a flow state. However, it is not something passive like watching TV or scrolling social media where you disconnect from yourself. 

“You are probably already doing something meditative, but you’re not calling it that,” notes Dr. Masutto. “If you can label it as meditation, it will actually improve the effects for you.” 

4. Sleep

Sleep is a key component that impacts the rest of your health. Sleep affects your immune system, appetite, stress and growth hormones, blood pressure, and heart health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get between seven and nine hours of deep sleep and older adults get between seven and eight hours, but research shows that one in three U.S. adults don’t get enough quality rest.  

To help you get the best rest, Dr. Vinita Tandon, Lifeforce’s Medical Director and a board certified endocrinologist, recommends keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool (the optimal temperature to stabilize your REM cycle is about 65 degrees). She also suggests powering down your devices at least two hours before bed and avoiding caffeinated drinks past 3 p.m. 

For more tips to help you rest easy, check out this article on why your sleep worsens with age

Lifeforce Peak Healthspan

5. Nutraceutical Support 

Sometimes, even with lifestyle changes, you'll benefit from a little extra support. That's why we developed Peak Healthspan™. “It utilizes multiple key ingredients that have been shown to influence signaling networks and gene expression that are associated with pillars of cellular resilience, maintaining cellular metabolism, and longevity,” says Dr. Hector Lopez, Lifeforce’s Scientific & Innovation Advisor and world-renowned expert in clinical research, dietary supplement formulation, and safety. 

Here’s how it works: “Naturally occurring bioactive molecules bind to receptors, enzymes, and signaling proteins in the cell to epigenetically activate gene pathways and networks that are associated with healthspan-promoting behaviors such as exercise, a healthy diet, and stress-management techniques,” says Dr. Lopez. “Think of it as helping to direct your gene expression profile to mimic the signature of many beneficial health and longevity markers.” 

Peak Healthspan™ features NAD3®, a proprietary, cutting-edge blend of naturally occurring compounds that targets all nine major hallmarks of cellular aging. NAD3® optimizes NAD+ levels, which support the activation and expression of pro-longevity genes that make cells resilient to defend against age-related and daily stressors, says Dr. Lopez. It also stabilizes the integrity of telomeres — just one marker, among many, for healthspan. 

According to Dr. Lopez, research also shows that supplementing with NAD3® can help lower cardiometabolic risk factors, such as total and LDL cholesterol, by 16 to 19%, along with other areas such as VLDL, HDL and triglycerides. 

Peak Healthspan™ also helps optimize omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA metabolism and supports heart function, brain health, joint health, mood, and mitochondrial health. Combine it with your lifestyle shifts to feel your best today, tomorrow, and well into the future. 

“At Lifeforce, our goal is to normalize feeling good in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond,” says Dr. Masutto. 

Learn more about Peak Healthspan™ here

The article was medically reviewed by: 

  • Kerri Masutto, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner

  • Hector Lopez, MD, CSCS, FISSN, Fellow of the International Society for Sports Nutrition, bridging the gap between regenerative & longevity medicine, human performance, healthspan, and nutritional biochemistry