“What good is increasing how many years we have if we are living most of those years in rapid decline?” – Rachel Van Pelt
Dr. Rachel Van Pelt is a healthspan scientist and coach who helps people in midlife increase their healthspan through physical activity, nutrition, sleep, and self care. I know what you are thinking, but healthspan is not the same as longevity. Longevity pertains to how long you live. Healthspan is all about the quality of the years that you live. It’s a disservice to yourself to just focus on strategies on how to extend the years that you live rather than improve the quality of the years ahead.
So, at what point should we start thinking about our healthspan? It’s never too early because pre-mature aging can happen to anyone. Rachel found out she had extremely low bone density at age 20 although she was a very physically fit athlete. This shows that biological aging can happen at any age. However, mid-life is where it is the most important to look seriously at our healthspan. For women over 40, over 50, and over 60, we have a lot of hormonal changes as we go through menopause. These hormonal changes affect bone density, muscle mass, fat mass and organ function. In addition to all the psychological changes, there are many competing priorities during midlife such as career stresses and family responsibilities that interfere with healthy lifestyle habits. So while it’s never too early or too late to start, making big changes in midlife has the greatest impact on the trajectory of our healthspan.
There are four big integrative factors that affect our healthspan: physical activity, nutrition, sleep, and stress management. Thinking about physical activity, nutrition, sleep, and stress management, it is important to focus on making changes that will keep us out of the hospital, from debilitating falls, and medications as we get older. Simple changes that we can do to add physical activity, more plant based food to our diet, and improving our sleep quality can improve our healthspan without a lot of time or effort. In mid-life, we must shift our priorities to maintaining muscle and bone, spine health, balance, so that we can keep doing the activities that we do in daily life.
What’s In This Episode
0:00 Get Strong Over 40
1:14 Introduction to Healthspan
2:02 How Rachael got into the field
3:24 Low Bone Density
4:23 What is Healthspan
5:00 Why we look at longevity
6:14 At what age should we look at healthspan
8:44 Recommendations for healthspan
12:00 Self care for healthspan
16:12 Clean Eating
19:50 Boosting Immune System
21:40 How to minimize “bad” cravings
25:19 Reactive vs Proactive approach to disease
28:01 What is a Healthspan coach