Are you willing to invest in a healthier life? You could start by reading Dr. Peter Attia’s new book: “Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity.” It’s not just about living longer, it’s about maintaining healthspan, the quality of life, for a longer time. This book and its concepts are not just for the elderly, they’re for everyone. Similar to being successful with money and accomplishing long-time financial independence, we need to start early with a plan for our health; by reducing our risk of failure, staying disciplined and considering the use of outside coaching.
U.S. life expectancy is at its lowest point since the mid -1990s. Attia’s “Four Horsemen of Death”; heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia, have resulted in Americans having a shorter life span than nearly every other developed country. Dr. Attia’s goal is not simply to help you live longer, but to also live better.
Dr. Attia believes that this can be accomplished with a much needed major reset in our medical system and our habits. First, he believes we need to transition to Medicine 3.0. For thousands of years, Medicine 1.0, as created by Hippocrates, provided observation, guesswork and little in the way of results. In the middle of the 19th century with the advent of the germ theory of disease, Medicine 2.0 took over. Through use of scientific testing of cures, discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics, Medicine 2.0 has, according to Dr. Attia, “been a defining feature of our civilization, eradicating deadly diseases like polio and smallpox.” However, Medicine 2.0 fails to cure many long-term conditions, including cancer and is generally a reactive approach. For example, the median age of cancer detection is 66, yet cancer kills more people between ages 45 and 65 than heart disease, liver disease and stroke combined. Dr. Attia believes that Medicine 3.0, which will be proactive and focus on prevention, is needed. As you can see in the graph above, Med 2.0 can help prolong lives of chronically ill people, but not their quality of life as Med 3.0 is designed to do.
But it is not simply the medical system that will make a difference. It is what each of us will do. How do we lengthen our lifespan as well as our healthspan? How do we hold off the Four Horsemen while slowing or even reversing physical, cognitive and emotional decline as we get older? Dr. Attia cautions us that we should start with a strategy and not just focus on tactics. Dr. Attia, who worked for McKinsey in their healthcare practice, believes that Med 2.0 has a “huge blind spot in its understanding of risk.” Just as risk is a key to survival in banking in finance, Attia believes that risk should be a significant consideration when developing a strategy to “outlive.”
Med 2.0 relies on surgery and medications. Med 3.0 relies on prevention and early monitoring and screening. Its components are focused on exercise, nutrition, sleep, emotional help and prescriptions, as well as monitoring and screening. All of these are designed to lower our risk of meeting one of the Four Horsemen prematurely. Exercise includes aerobic efficiency and capacity, strength and stability. Nutrition includes the calories you consume and the composition of those, with many Americans eating too much processed food and sugar and too small an amount of protein. We need 7 ½ or 8 hours of sleep every night. A good sleep is critical to our physiological repair processes, especially in the brain. Poor sleep or too little sleep causes downstream consequences, including insulin resistance, cognitive decline and mental health issues. Emotional health, as we have seen in Covid times, is as critical as physical health.
An appropriate plan in all of these areas can help people live longer and heathier. Exercise not only burns calories, it also benefits our mitochondria (the source of energy in our cells) and improves the way we metabolize glucose and fat. Exercise has been shown to be more effective than drugs in reducing mortality from heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Implementation of the strategy to “outlive” not only reduces the risk of premature death or disability but it makes you feel better regardless of your age.
Personally, I feel I am in good shape for someone 75 years young. I’ve been working on it a long time. However, after reading “Outlive” I recognize that I could do a better job. I am changing my exercise routine and adding more variations, especially in the strength area. I have hired a nutrition specialist who is helping me upgrade what I eat; adding more protein and eliminating processed foods. I will be getting to bed earlier going forward, first with a goal of 7 ½ hours of good sleep and then a goal of 8 hours per night. I’m adding Omega-3 fish oil supplement to promote heathier cholesterol levels. There is no guarantee that I will live to age 100 or that I will somehow avoid heart disease, cancer, diabetes or dementia. But my program reduces the risk of those diseases impacting me prematurely and makes me feel even better every day.
As Total Wealth Managers, we know that Wealth is not just money. Health and happiness count too. When we manage money, we know there are risks, ups and downs and cycles. We can’t guarantee the financial future but we can advise our clients to adopt the best strategies available to reduce risks and have the best probability of producing superior long-term results. For financial assets, it’s about maintaining an appropriate, diversified portfolio and staying invested. For our health, as Dr. Attia points out, it is adopting (and changing as needed) a unique program of exercise, nutrition, sleep, supplements and mental health and staying committed to that plan. Such a program should extend our years on this earth with our family and friends and the quality of those years. Happiness is certainly increased by both monetary success and being healthy longer. Makes sense to me that every one of us can and should consider investing in a healthier life. You can start by reading Dr. Attia’s book “Outlive.”