How to maximize your ‘health span’

Melody G. Gillette

We’re living longer on average, but the number of years we’re healthy hasn’t kept up. This lagging “health span ” translates into more time living with serious illness and disabilities at the end of our lives.

This can have significant repercussions for our retirements. Some of us will have our working lives cut short by ill health, reducing how much money we can save for our futures. Others will face big bills for medical and nursing home care. Then there is the emotional toll of struggling with poor health rather than traveling, visiting the grandkids and engaging in all the other activities we’d planned for our golden years.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. Many of the biggest risk factors for poor health are within our power to modify, prevent or control, says R. Dale Hall , managing director of the Society of Actuaries Research Institute, which provides research on managing risks. But as with retirement saving, the earlier we get started, the better.

This undated file photo provided by NerdWallet shows Liz Weston, a columnist for the personal finance website.

LEARN THE 5 HEALTH SPAN RISK FACTORS

The institute commissioned Vitality, a company that partners with insurers and employers to promote healthier living, to conduct a study that identified five lifestyle risk factors with the largest impact on health span: tobacco use, obesity, high blood sugar, poor diet and high blood pressure.

The researchers also highlighted ways to modify those risks, including quitting smoking, engaging in physical activity, eating a healthy diet and taking medications as prescribed.

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