New research from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health has shown that the impact of a healthy lifestyle not only lengthens your lifespan but it can also shorten the time spent disabled at the end of your life.
“The duration of the disabled period near the end of one’s life has enormous personal and societal implications, ranging from quality of life to health care costs….by improving lifestyle we can postpone both death and disability.“
– Dr Anne B. Newman
Across all the participants in the study, the average number of disabled years directly preceding death averaged 4.5 years for women and 2.9 years for men. However across both gender and race groups, those with the healthiest lifestyles (nonsmokers, healthy weight and diet and exercising regularly) not only lived longer but they also had fewer disabled years at the end of their lives. For example a man in the healthiest group could expect to live 4.8 years longer than his unhealthiest counterpart and, at the end of his life, he’d be likely to spend only 2 of those years disabled as opposed to 3.7 years for the other guy.
When I think about the end of my life like most people I want any suffering to be over quick. As we get older many of us fear having a stroke that may leave us incapacitated but not even close to death. We fear the loss of our quality of life and the risk of being a burden on others. We worry that we may never recover and it has to be accepted that a young person’s body is better equipped to overcome adversity than a body that’s already done 70 years hard graft. Whilst we know that we should “look after” ourselves to reduce the risk of serious illness I think that most of secretly hope that it wont happen to us – that we’ll be the ones that get “blessed” with that massive heart attack. Reading this report made me realise that most people will have a period of some disability before they die and that there is no getting away from this. And we’re not talking a couple of weeks!
Being someone who isn’t afraid of death doesn’t mean I’m not afraid of being disabled and dependent on others. Makes me think I really should cut down on the chocolate and eat more veg. After all, every little change can help.