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Healthy LifeThe continuing rise of lifestyle-related diseases and chronic disorders means that we need to take a fresh look at health and healthcare, and to remember that prevention is better than cure. Long-term trials, following humans from early adulthood to death, are a rarity. I don’t see a human study of longevity as something that would be a fundable research programme,” says Mattison. Even if you start humans at 40 or 50 years old, you’re still looking at potentially 40 or 50 more years of study.” Plus, she adds, ensuring that extraneous factors – exercise, smoking, medical treatments, mental wellbeing – don’t influence the trial’s end results is near impossible for our socially and culturally complex species.

The latest data on healthy life expectancy (the number of years lived in self-assessed good health) (2013 to 2015) show that it is now 63.4 for males and 64.1 for females. Even moderate exercise—a quick, 30-minute walk each day, for example—can lower your risk of heart problems. Studies have revealed that longer telomeres have been linked to a longer lifespan, while shorter telomeres have been linked diseases such as heart disease and dementia. Longer telomeres can also be inherited by the next generation.

Tobacco use causes atherosclerotic arterial disease (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and lack of blood flow to the lower extremities. Tobacco use causes an estimated 20%-30% of coronary heart disease in the U.S. It also further increases the risk of heart attacks among subjects with elevated cholesterol, uncontrolled hypertension , obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.

If there are things you know are going to be a problem or a challenge, talk to your support person about getting ready to deal with these. For example, if you tend to snack a lot in the afternoon, your support person could suggest rearranging the kitchen cupboard so that healthier foods such as dried fruit, pretzels, or rice crackers are at the front and the unhealthier, fatty foods are stored somewhere more difficult to reach.

Since 2000 to 2002, life expectancy has increased by more years than healthy life expectancy and therefore the number of years lived in poor health has also increased slightly; in 2013 to 2015 it was 16.1 years for males and 19.0 years for females. However, the proportion of life spent in poor health has remained stable and these data do not take into account trends in the types and severity of diseases over time.