In America, “Longevity” is already firmly established in society and science. In the German-speaking world, on the other hand, the term is not only difficult to pronounce, but is often still unknown – even though longevity affects all of us.
Leading a long, healthy life, being fit at 80 or 90 and aging without serious illnesses – a wish of many people. In fact, you can do a lot to stay mentally and physically fit into old age. A healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a nutritious diet, for example.
Medicine is also increasingly concerned with the question of how the health span of humans can be extended in order to live healthily for as long as possible, also known as longevity.
The word longevity comes from English and has been a common term for a long time, especially in North America. Longevity is derived from Latin: “longus” in German for long and “vita” in German for life. In German, the term would probably be translated as “long life expectancy” or “longevity”.
However, longevity does not only mean a long life as such, it is more about people staying healthy longer, about fitness and health into old age and how these aspects can be achieved. The aim of longevity medicine is therefore to align the span of health with the span of life.
Because: The last years of life in particular are often associated with physical and mental deterioration and serious illnesses. With an appropriate lifestyle, this should be prevented in the future.
People who live to be 90 or even 100 years old are no longer a rarity. The fact is, people are getting older.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, the average life expectancy of newborn babies in Europe has more than doubled since the end of the 19th century. Girls currently live to an average of 83.4 years, while boys reach an average of 78.5 years of life.
For comparison: The average life expectancy for newborn boys born before 1900 was just 40.6 years and for newborn girls 44 years.
The reason for this global development is, on the one hand, modern medical care, which includes both medicines and technical innovations. On the other hand, there are more preventive options and an increased awareness of a healthier lifestyle.
This is great progress, but at second glance it also entails challenges. While lifespans are increasing, health spans, the length of time people remain healthy and disease-free, are not. This means that people are getting older, but are therefore also ill for longer.
According to the WHO, a child born in Germany today is only healthy for 71 of the average 82 years of life.
The Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel once said, “Longevity is only worth striving for if it prolongs being young, but not prolonging old age.” Worldwide research is therefore meticulously looking for technologies and means to live fit, vital and healthy for as long as possible. Longevity medicine deals with factors from gerontology (also known as age science), biotechnology, biogerontology, which gets to the bottom of the causes of biological aging, as well as artificial intelligence and omics analyzes (immune response to infections).
One way to age healthily would be to reprogram cells. Young blood plasma as an anti-aging agent is also a model for extending the healthy phases of life. But science is still a long way from widespread use of these methods.
The genes actually only play a subordinate role for the individual lifespan. Only about a quarter of life expectancy is genetically determined. Only a few genetic dispositions that could be responsible for old age have been found in very old people. Personal lifestyle and environmental influences, on the other hand, have a much greater influence on how long a person lives (healthily).
Our health and fitness are largely in our own hands. The fact that we in Germany do not have the highest life expectancy in the world is partly due to the unhealthy lifestyle. Too much fatty, sweet and salty, too much stress, not enough rest.
The situation is different in countries like Japan, Greece or Italy. Traditionally, they rely on a nutrient-rich and at the same time low-calorie, Mediterranean diet. Socializing is also very important there. Social contacts contribute to a happier life – another factor for a longer life. Below we have listed all the important factors for a long and healthy life:
Getting enough sleep is important for health. With a restful sleep, the body regenerates and the immune system runs at full speed. It should be between six and eight hours of sleep. However, everyone has a very personal need for sleep – some need more sleep, others can get by with less.
Eating a healthy, low-calorie, nutritious diet is also important. Mediterranean cuisine is optimal and reduces the risk of age-related diseases. Lots of fresh vegetables, healthy fats in the form of olive and flaxseed oils, and fish, seafood, and lean chicken. However, you should avoid fatty, sweet and salty foods. Finished products are also less suitable for a healthy lifestyle. From time to time to “sin”, but is allowed.
Of course, regular exercise is a must, because sport and physical activity have a positive effect on body and mind. If possible, exercise in the fresh air every day and do sports two to three times a week. Swimming, walking or cycling are considered to be particularly healthy, while strength training can prevent age-related back and joint pain in particular.
A social environment in which one feels comfortable can also extend a healthy life span. Those who are often with other people feel less lonely, can exchange ideas and also get their worries off their chests. If you have loved ones around you whom you trust, you do something for your longevity.
Stress is harmful to health and affects the entire organism – including aging. Mindfulness exercises can help here, as can relaxation and breathing exercises. Sports such as yoga or Pilates are also suitable for reducing stress. If the stress becomes too great, a therapist can also help to cope with it.
Alcohol and nicotine increase the risk of illness and therefore of dying earlier. To this day, researchers are still discussing whether even a small amount of alcohol is harmful to the body or – for example the often touted glass of red wine – even has a health benefit. The fact is, alcohol is a neurotoxin. Better to avoid it altogether.
It is impossible to predict how life expectancy will develop in the coming years. Environmental influences play a large part in life expectancy. Pandemics, wars and climate change play a crucial role. This is countered by medical advances and a growing awareness of a healthy lifestyle.
At least on the latter, everyone has their own influence. Anyone who reduces calories and eats a predominantly plant-based diet, pays attention to getting enough sleep, maintains social contacts and renounces alcohol and cigarettes, at least sets the course for a long, healthy life.