Life expectancy in the Western world has been increasing over recent decades, but the later years are often with some illness or disability, and in fact the “Healthy Life Years” or “Healthy Life Expectancy” has NOT improved, and even shows signs of declining. Health authorities are now increasingly concerned with raising that last measure, as it suits neither the individuals or the country to extend life if it’s with illness or increasing disability.
So how many healthy years can you expect, on average, at age 65?
There are differences for the sexes, and in both the UK and US, there are regional differences, but the message is clear that for an AVERAGE 65-year-old, between 5 and 10 years of your remaining life will be with disability or impairment.
These are of course averages, whereas the situation for an individual is influenced by factors like: healthy environment; healthy behavior; getting checks and screening; access to quality health care.
Is there evidence that you can do something yourself by altering your diet and lifestyle? Yes, there is.
In Europe, statistics on “Healthy Life Years” are gathered across the constituent countries as a first step to dealing with the problem. They show some dramatic differences. While the remaining healthy life years for 65-year-olds in most countries is about 10 years, it’s as low as 7 years in Portugal, and as high as 15 years in Sweden. This variation is thought to be caused by differences particularly in diet, but also in other lifestyle factors like levels of smoking, and amount of exercise taken. So why not aim to be like the Swedish?
Why should you care?
Some people say that they aren’t going to concern themselves with their future wellbeing, but that they’ll enjoy life as they wish, whether smoking, overeating or whatever, and they’ll be ready to die when the time comes. Sad to say, it’s not always that simple. When bad health hits, the health services will often come to the rescue, and by treatment or medication may extend your life, even into the 90s.
Unfortunately, this often doesn’t mean a healthy life extension, but a bed in a care facility.
Rather than a quick death, after a happy life, you’ll have many years lying in a sick bed, possibly in pain or discomfort, regretting your ‘don’t care’ attitude.