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Living a Longer and Happier Life

Health in Retirement


Health in retirement looks different than health at 20 or 30. Health in retirement means having the energy to roll around in the floor with your grandkids or take a walk on the beach with a loved one. It can mean running a marathon if that’s something you want, but it doesn’t have to be extreme fitness. Instead, a healthy retirement should focus on increasing your healthspan.


You’re probably asking what’s the difference between healthspan and lifespan?

I’m glad you asked.  


Healthspan is simply the number of years we live in good health, as opposed to the total number of years we live.


The average American will live to 77, but their health begins to decline precipitously at age 64. That’s a problem, considering Baby Boomers expect to retire at age 72, based on recent data. Even if you retire at 62, like many, that doesn’t leave many healthy years to really enjoy retirement.


Last year I read the book Outlive by Dr. Peter Attia and frankly, it was life-changing. I highly recommend it. He starts by outlining the 3 main causes of non-accidental death in the US, then provides strategies for mitigating risks associated with each. He terms his approach Medicine 3.0, which is essentially a proactive approach to lowering health risks early, rather than our current approach of treating problems as they occur.

The 3 leading causes of death are:


·       Heart Disease (Someone in the US has a heart attack every 40 seconds)

·       Cancer

·       Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases


When you break down each of these, there are certain strategies you can take to lower your risks.


·       Exercise

·       Proper nutrition

·       Quality sleep

·       Proactive health screenings and treatment


Exercise


Dr. Attia calls exercise the most powerful longevity drug available.


I’m not an exercise scientist or trainer, so I’ll borrow from his advice:


  • Aerobic exercise [4x/wk 45min in Zone 2 or 60-70% of your maximum heart rate or at a pace that is easy, able to have a conversation - talk test; plus 1-2x per week high-intensity intervals]

  • Strength Training. Lift heavy; squat or deadlift, hinge, push and pull, grip (Farmer’s Carry), hang, and sometime ruck. 2-3x per wk

  • Stability a few times per week before or after training or as recovery day

Nutrition


Metabolic disorder is one of the leading factors influencing all 3 causes of death and it’s one of the items we can most easily control. His keys to nutrition are:

  • what you eat (dietary composition)

  • when you eat (timing)

  • how much you eat (calories)


The simplest thing you can do here is to cut out added sugar and focus on eating whole foods, such as those found on the outsides of the grocery store. This will help cut out the processed food that’s stuffed in each aisle. Likewise, you’ll be focusing on the meats, dairy, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits that our bodies were built to process. Added sugar really is the killer here, the more of that you cut out, the better off you will be.


Sleep


It’s easy to get behind on sleep. I have two toddlers, I deal with a lack of sleep nearly every day so I understand. That said, sleep is necessary as it’s our body’s time to heal and rebuild. Sleep loss affects not only the issues I mentioned earlier, but it also impacts our mental and physical performance.

Dr. Attia’s keys to better sleep are:


  • Darkness. You should not be able to see your hand in front of your face. Hint: room darkening shades.

  • A cool room temperature (60-68 degree F)

  • Avoid alcohol after 6PM

  • Wind down at the end of the day and create a bedtime routine

  • Avoid screen time, especially social media scrolling, a few hours before bed

Proactive Approach to Health

In short, see your doctor regularly and get ahead of any potential issues. Get your bloodwork checked. Know your family history so that you can have an idea of potential issues.


Here are Dr. Attia’s recommendations:


  • Don’t smoke (period. Don’t smoke!!). And if you do, get help to quit smoking.

  • Go beyond the standard lipid profile of total cholesterol, HDL (“good” cholesterol), LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and Triglycerides. Specifically, request apoB & Lp(a) - you will likely pay out of pocket but it’s worth it in understanding your risk.

  • Get a handle on glucose metabolism probably going beyond fasting glucose; what is your A1C (90-day glucose), how does your body respond to eating/exercise/stress? Get an oral glucose tolerance test or try continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) if possible.

  • Take a look inside the artery; get a Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) score or heart scan.

  • Measure Blood Pressure routinely (and consider morning Heart Rate Variability, HRV).

  • Think beyond the standard 10-year risk score; think 30 years out instead.

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