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Lifespan Versus Healthspan | Coconut vs DEET

From eNewsletter 12/24/2018

Bonnie & Steve: While clinicians, scientists and public health professionals should proudly "declare victory" in their efforts to extend the human lifespan to its very limits, according to University of Illinois at Chicago epidemiologist S. Jay Olshansky, there is a lot left to be desired when it comes to quality of life, or what is referred to as "healthspan."

In an article from the October issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, Olshansky suggests that the focus should shift to compressing the "red zone," the time at the end of life characterized by frailty and disease, and extending the "healthspan," the length of time when a person is alive and healthy.

Simply put, achieving an optimal quality of life.

Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at our own UIC School of Public Health, discusses how human longevity has reached into its upper limits but we have much room to grow with regard to increasing our healthspan.

"You don't want to live to be over 100 years old if the last 20 years of your life are spent in pain and sickness," Olshansky said. "We should not continue to pursue life extension without considering the health consequences of living longer lives."

This is such a brave and astute comment from a public health expert we have admired for a while. And it's not just because Bonnie got her masters of public health at UIC :)  

Olshansky goes on to say, "Life extension should no longer be the primary goal of medicine when applied to people over age 65. The principal outcome and most important metric of success should be extension of the healthspan."

So true. As the holidays are here and we approach 2019, what a wonderful time to discuss healthspan with family, friends, and coworkers. There's power in numbers. Have frank, motivating discussions with each other about what steps you need to take to improve your healthspans!

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