I had my annual physical recently, and my doctor said that I’m the healthiest 68-year-old he’s ever seen! And I’m consistent – last year I was the healthiest 67-year-old he’d ever seen!
People’s health and fitness start to decline irrevocably about age 50, and as they get older their health and fitness decline more rapidly. This is called the geriatric curve (“geriatric” doesn’t necessarily mean “old geezer”; in this sense, we’re just talking about the process of aging). You can slow down the rate of decline, but you can’t stop it.
I told my doctor that I want to stay as fit and healthy as possible and then die suddenly in my 90s. He told me that this is called “squaring the geriatric curve.”
I’m working on a new eBook tentatively called Anti-Aging about how you can square the geriatric curve. As we age, we lose fitness in five different areas. The book covers the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine in all five areas:
- Cardiorespiratory Exercise
- Resistance Exercise
- Flexibility Exercise
- Balance Exercise
- Weight-Bearing Exercise
Anti-Aging will give you workouts in each of these areas so that you, too, can slow down the aging process.
The book includes interviews with 11 different roadies in their 60s, 70s, and 80s about how they exercise, and their recommendations for aging slowly.
How long will you live?
According to the Social Security estimates Americans have the following life expectancies. These are the average life expectancies for each cohort. Since you’re likely healthier than most Americans (owing to your regular exercise and lifestyle choices), your predicted life expectancy is longer. And, of course, you may live longer or die sooner than your predicted life expectancy.
|Current Age||Life Expectancy
|Age at Death||Current Age||Life Expectancy
|Age at Death|
|50||29.6 yrs.||79.6 yrs.||50||33.2 yrs.||83.2 yrs.|
|60||21.5 yrs.||81.5 yrs.||60||24.5 yrs.||84.5 yrs.|
|70||14.2 yrs.||84.2 yrs.||70||16.4 yrs.||86.4 yrs.|
|80||8.2 yrs.||88.2 yrs.||80||9.6 yrs.||89.6 yrs.|
(Based on 2013 data – the latest available)
Interesting fact: the older you are now, the longer your predicated life! Why? Because, for example, at age 60 more of the less healthy people have died off, raising the average life expectancy.
To help me write the book, this week’s Question of the Week asks a question about your life expectancy.
I’ll be 69 in April, and the Social Security Administration estimates that I’ll live to an age of 83.7 years. Since I’m very fit and healthy, I should make it into my 90s unless my genes catch up with me – my dad had cardiovascular disease – but he still lived to be 87. Or unless I get hit by a truck – again.
What determines how long you’ll live?
At my physical, my doctor told me that three different factors contribute to my how long I will live:
- My lifestyle is by far the most important, and the one factor over which I have total control.
- My medical care is the joint responsibility of my health care professionals and me, i.e., whether I take a proactive role, e.g., going for my annual physical, getting the recommended tests and following upon the recommendations, getting my recommended immunization(s), getting my annual flu shot, etc.,
- My genetics are outside my control. Fortunately my genes are pretty good (except I don’t have any fast-twitch muscle fibers).
Kaiser Permanente is my health care provider, and they have a proprietary Total Health Assessment online that looks at the following factors:
- Stress – I manage my stress through exercise and meditation.
- Physical Activity – I’m well above the guidelines.
- Nutrition – I eat a healthy Mediterranean-type diet.
- Skin Protection – I’ve had several basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas removed, and I get a monthly skin check.
- Tobacco – I haven’t smoked since 1975.
- Weight – My actual weight is slightly above normal; however, I have more muscle than normal, so my weight isn’t an issue.
- Alcohol – I don’t drink.
- Injury Prevention – Simple stuff like staying fit with good balance so I don’t fall.
- Blood Pressure and Cholesterol – Everything is normal except my LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) is 107 mg /dl, <100 optimal.
- Screenings and Immunizations – I’m up to date because I get an annual physical.
I scored 96 out of 100 points on the Total Health Assessment. The slightly high cholesterol number is holding me back a bit. I could improve that by not eating cheese, my one vice.
I love road riding, mountain biking, hiking, XC skiing, snow-shoeing and weight lifting. These are much of what makes my life good, and I want to continue these until I suddenly drop dead. So I do my best to live a healthy lifestyle that includes all 10 of the above.
What can you do?
How are you doing on these 10 factors? Kaiser’s Total Health Assessment is for members only; however, your health care provider may have a similar quiz, which I urge you to take.
Think about how you want to live the final one-third or even one-half (or more, depending on how old you are now!) of your life. How does your vitality support your future life?
Get a physical and talk with your health care professional about all that goes into a healthy and active rest of your life.
Look for Anti-Aging: How You Can Slow the Aging Process soon.
Andrew Kundrat says
I’d like to add a little refinement to the “squaring of the curve concept”: it tends to refer to (increasing) proportions of group surviving to a theoretical age limit of the the population.
In my pursuit of the concept of an individual maintaining fitness, or delaying senescence, I was introduced to the concept of “compression of morbidity”: the plot of age (x-axis) and functional ability (y-axis) to the point of one’s death.
The graphs look similar, squaring off with better fitness of the population (“squaring of curve”) or the individual (“compression of morbidity”). I find the latter concept gets more “interest” when illustrating the benefits of healthy lifestyle with an individual. Using both would make the point well for your book.
Continued success in the good work you do.
J W Haltiwanger says
LDL isn’t a single type of cholesterol. There are dangerous (small molecule) and harmless (large molecule) forms of LDL. You should be tested for your LDL profile. I suspect you will find you have mostly large type as I do. Doctors should never recommend statins solely on total LDL, but that is what the drug companies preach. In long term followup of the Framingham study, LDL was the least associated cholesterol indicator of heart attack risk. (Eat Fat, Get Thin, page 43).
Craig Williams says
Just a minor quibble: Health insurance “providers” are not health care providers. Doctors, wellness centers, hospitals, and the like provide the health care.