For the last two years in a row, the life expectancy for Americans has dropped, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Life expectancy at birth in the United States declined nearly a year from 2020 to 2021… That decline – 77.0 to 76.1 years – took U.S. life expectancy at birth to its lowest level since 1996. The 0.9 year drop in life expectancy in 2021, along with a 1.8 year drop in 2020, was the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.” But a drop in the average lifespan, doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. There are many things we can do to live a long quality life like taking control of our health, which according to a new study from MDVIP many people aren’t doing.
The study reveals that while people do want to live longer, they aren’t taking the steps to ensure longevity. “54% admit they plan more for their financial future than for their future health. This is especially true among men (60% vs. 47% of women) and adults ages 18-44 (64% vs. 44% of adults ages 45+).” Dr. Andrea Klemes, board certified in internal medicine and endocrinology, chief medical officer at MDVIP states, “Just like you start saving for retirement in your 20s, you need to start investing early in your health. Take a ‘portfolio’ approach to your longevity and make sure you have a primary care doctor who will help you build the right mix of healthy habits based on your medical history, risk factors and goals. It’s the best investment you can make in yourself.”
She adds, “Study after study has shown that our lifetime of decisions about what we eat, whether we exercise or whether we’re managing stress have a considerable impact on how well we age…”While most people say they want to live to 100 or beyond, they aren’t considering that the last 20 of those years may not be so graceful,” says Dr. Klemes. “The conversation around aging has largely focused on life span, but the more important measure is our ‘health span,’ or how many years we live well without serious disease. The good news is that if you’re taking steps to live healthier now, you’re not only increasing your chances of living longer, you’re more likely to enjoy those extra years doing the things you love.”
Keep the Same Doctor
Dr. Klemes tells us, “Patients who stick with their doctor year after year tend to have better health outcomes and live longer than those who “doc hop” or have no primary care physician at all, according to multiple studies, including a 2018 study published in BMJOpen. Research also suggests that continuity of care from a primary care doctor is particularly valuable for patients living with a chronic condition or mental health illness. You want to have a strong, long-term relationship with your primary care doctor – someone who knows you, your history and your lifestyle.
The BMJ Open study concludes, “This first systematic review reveals that increased continuity of care by doctors is associated with lower mortality rates. Although all the evidence is observational, patients across cultural boundaries appear to benefit from continuity of care with both generalist and specialist doctors. Many of these articles called for continuity to be given a higher priority in healthcare planning. Despite substantial, successive, technical advances in medicine, interpersonal factors remain important.”
Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic, longevity expert and author of “The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow” reminds us to, “See a dentist twice a year to prevent periodontal disease. Oral bacteria thrive on food residue stuck between the teeth which can migrate to the bloodstream. There they can fuel inflammation that can damage the lining of the arteries making it susceptible to a buildup of plaque, which stiffens and narrows the arteries causing heart attack, stroke and dementia.”
Mayo Clinic states, “Poor oral health has been debated as a possible cause of heart disease for many years. In 2012, experts from the American Heart Association reviewed the available scientific evidence and concluded that poor oral health hasn’t been proven to cause heart disease — and that treating existing gum disease hasn’t been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. Still, studies have shown:
- Gum disease (periodontitis) is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease.
- Poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the bloodstream, which can affect the heart valves. Oral health may be particularly important if you have artificial heart valves.
- Tooth loss patterns are connected to coronary artery disease.
- There is a strong connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease and evidence that people with diabetes benefit from periodontal treatment.”
Dr. Roizen says, “Research at the Cleveland Clinic shows that people who regularly participate in stress reducing activities dramatically increase their perceived stress levels. This is one of the best ways to assess your ability to manage stress, since there are few medical tests that track stress levels. Reducing stress helps improve markers for heart disease and brain related problems. Note, the real damage doesn’t come from stress itself but from the biological response — a flood of hormones and chemicals during these episodes that wreak havoc on the brain and body. So, engage in relaxing activities repeatedly so that your focus changes and your biological system calms down.”
One way to help reduce stress is acupuncture. According to Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, with Starting Point Acupuncture, “Acupuncture is known for its ability to help decrease pain but what about improving lifespan? There are more studies coming out showing exactly how acupuncture can help to improve quality of life, decrease chronic inflammation, promote anti-aging benefits, and even provide neuroprotective properties which may help to improve lifespan. Acupuncture can exert statistically significant effects on specific signaling pathways in the brain which are linked to positive health outcomes and improved lifespan. Acupuncture has been shown to help release endorphins in the brain, our feel good hormone, which can help to reduce stress, improve pain, and even improve mood and quality of life. Acupuncture has also been shown to help modulate the mast cell response which is important in immune health. A 2022 study found that acupuncture can enhance the body’s immune function as well as regulate the immune system and the inflammatory response, as well as promote anti-aging effects. To learn more about how acupuncture can help you, it is best to consult with a licensed acupuncturist who can guide you on a treatment plan based on your goals and health needs.”
Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD tells us, “Intermittent fasting may be an excellent way to lose weight and also improve their longevity. The intermittent fasting approach is typically done in a 16 hour fasting window with an 8 hour eating and drinking window. Alternate day fasting requires the dieter to fast one day and eat / drink the next. Twenty-four hour fasts are done once or twice a week, rather than alternate days like the previous. For periodic fasting the individual will fast multiple days, three or less, once a month. Dry fasting is said to have weight loss and immune support benefits.Weight loss is attributed to the decrease in food while the immune benefits are from specific cellular processes that occur. Damaged cells are more easily removed from the body during this time as the digestive tract can focus on this process alone and the immune system is essentially reset.”
Dr. Alka Patel, a Lifestyle Medicine Physician, GP and Longevity Expert explains, ” To live longer, aim to fast for 16 hours a day and eat across 8 hours a day. It’s the period of not eating that’s important for living longer, not the period or eating. Why is this? Let’s think about our 3 master longevity genes. The first is MTOR -Mammalian Target of Rapamycin. When you’re not eating,MTOR is down regulated, and activates a process called autophagy in the body which recycles old proteins as new proteins which has been found to enhance lifespan
The second gene is AMPK – Adenosine Monophosphate, Activated Protein Kinase.When you’re hungry AMPK goes up and what happens when AMK goes up is that you make more mitochondria. Mitochondria are our power houses. You need mitochondria to make energy and when AMPK is increased and you have more mitochondria making more energy, you live longer. And the third gene, which is a family of genes, is called Sirtuins – SIR being a silent information regulator. Activated by fasting, switched off by sugar. When you’re not eating, you’re in a low energy state which activates a gene called NMPT which makes a fuel that sirtuins need called NAD which then activates sirtuins. It’s sirtuins that repair DNA which prolongs life. Sirtuins are turned on by fasting.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine neuroscientist Mark Mattson, Ph.D.,has studied intermittent fasting for 25 years and explains in an article on JohnHopkinsMedicine.com that, “daily time-restricted feeding, which narrows eating times to 6–8 hours per day, and so-called 5:2 intermittent fasting, in which people limit themselves to one moderate-sized meal two days each week. An array of animal and some human studies have shown that alternating between times of fasting and eating supports cellular health, probably by triggering an age-old adaptation to periods of food scarcity called metabolic switching. Such a switch occurs when cells use up their stores of rapidly accessible, sugar-based fuel, and begin converting fat into energy in a slower metabolic process. Mattson says studies have shown that this switch improves blood sugar regulation, increases resistance to stress and suppresses inflammation for various periods of time. Because most Americans eat three meals plus snacks each day, they do not experience the switch, or the suggested benefits.”
Add More Plant-Based Foods to Your Diet and Eat 1/2 Cups of Beans Daily
Nichole Dandrea, MS, RDN Author, The Fiber Effect: Stop Counting Calories and Start Counting Fiber for Better Health and founder of purelyplanted.com shares, ” When looking at the Blue Zones (the areas around the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest), researchers found that one common food that all five areas included daily were beans. Inhabitants of these areas consumed about one cup of beans a day. According to the USDA, only 14% of Americans eat beans daily. If beans are new to you, try incorporating just 2-4 tablespoons of cooked beans a day to start so your body can acclimate to the fiber before increasing to 1/2 cup daily. Also remember to drink plenty of water along with increased bean consumption. Add them to soups, salads or grain bowls, make them into veggie burgers, or bake them into crunchy snacks.”
In addition, “Including more plant-based foods can increase lifespan by up to a decade according to this study. The greatest benefit from adding more plant-based foods, or going all plant-based, comes to those who adopt plants early in adulthood. However, lifespan may increase no matter what age you start incorporating more plant-based foods onto your plate. Plant-based foods are packed with phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, many of which act like antioxidants, reducing inflammation.. Foods included on a plant-based diet that may increase lifespan, as well as quality of life, include beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, and vegetables.”
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