Age is just a number, but the healthy years you’ll live may be shorter than your actual life expectancy. Quality of life becomes just as important as duration when you’re in an elderly life stage. A variety of factors play roles in total life expectancy, and number of quality (healthy) years you’re expected to have.
U.S. Life Expectancy
While your actual life expectancy varies based on gender, race, and lifestyle habits, average U.S. life expectancies can give you a good estimate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average life expectancy for Americans is 78.8 years; for men it’s 76.4 years old, and American women are expected to live 81.2 years (on average). Keep in mind these estimates are averages based on data from the National Vital Statistics System.
Healthy Life Expectancy
Healthy life expectancy (HLE) is generally lower than actual life expectancy and is the number of years Americans are expected to live in good, high-quality health. The CDC says that once Americans reach age 65, about 73 percent of their remaining years of life will be healthy years. During these higher-quality years, older adults can generally still walk around (or drive), take care of themselves, and be free from serious health conditions. However, the last five years or so of life are often spent struggling with mobility, dementia, or other age-related difficulties.
Gender and Race Variations
Believe it or not, gender and race play roles in how long you’re expected to live. In the CDC’s report for the year 2014, life expectancy is highest among Hispanic Americans (81.8), followed by non-Hispanic white Americans (78.8), and non-Hispanic black Americans (75.2). Furthermore, women have higher life expectancies than men, regardless of race.
Ways to Boost Life Expectancy
While genetics definitely affect life expectancy, there are several things you can do to better your chance of living a longer, healthier life. These include:
- Don’t smoke or take drugs
- Avoid excess alcohol
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a well-balanced diet packed with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Limit added sugar, sugary drinks, high-sodium foods, highly processed foods, and greasy fried foods
- Get plenty of essential nutrients — including vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids
- Attend regular doctor checkups
Your lifestyle, genetics, gender, and race all play roles in how long you’ll live. However, choosing healthy lifestyle habits boosts your odds for longevity — and a higher-quality, more fulfilling life.
[Image via Getty]