On Tuesday, Dec. 6 I turned 46 years old. While I am very motivated to be in good shape today, what is more and more convicting is viewing people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, and the dramatic disparity in their physical and mental abilities.

The image here is from an oft shared meme, and the full story is here: The World’s Oldest BodyBuilder Just Turned 80! Here Are Her Secrets…

I want to reframe the perspective from possible admonishment to opportunity! Whatever level of health and wellness we are at now, or desire to be at in the future, is primarily in our control. That is exciting and freeing!

Also, if you scoff at the physical focus, please let me point out that our minds do not work separately from the rest of our body. If your body is diminished, so is your brain. The buff lady in the picture is just as much benefiting from a buff intellect, even more so in regards to her ailing peers!

I’d like to think we are all beyond pawning the difference of wellness off on “genes” or luck. While genes can affect some dispositions, when Dr. Randolph James was asked (by me) how much genetics vs lifestyle choices has to do with overall wellness, he cited only 1-5%.

So two days after my birthday, on Thursday, Dec. 8, the following article was in the main headlines at USA Today:

“Has U.S. life expectancy maxed out? First decline since 1993”

What they are talking about is the length of time until your heart stops beating. Which wholly misses the truly important statistic and what should really be making headlines.

The American medical industry is ever progressing in keeping human’s heartbeats going, despite the fact that the functions of the human bodies are faltering at an alarmingly earlier rate, every day. This is the tragedy and reality and alarming epidemic we should be revolting and responding to.

Much more important than “life expectancy” is life abundance. What pride is there in “life expectancy” when illness and disease are increasing at a feverish pitch? The american medical industry has become the absolute best at creating and applying the most complex bandaids on the planet. While seemingly turning a blind eye to the root causes.

This is what Functional Medicine is all about. As Dr. Paul Rothwell quipped, “Traditional medicine deals with the smoke. We deal with the fire.” Well put.

To bring the issue closer to home, let me give you a stark example with – your car.

If we viewed our cars like “healthcare” discusses humans and their bodies, we’d read something like this:

“American car life expectancy has increased by 10%!”

But the story would look like this…

“I bought a new car in 1996, it was beautiful,” cites Tom. “It’s had some issues, but hey, still fires up every morning!” Here is the timeline and truth however…as shared by “Tom”:

  • 20 years ago the air conditioning stopped working. I had to get used to a sweaty back and butt in the summer.
  • 18 years ago the power windows quit rolling down. Driving through the bank requires me to open the door and get out, it’s a bit embarrassing.
  • 16 years ago the shocks gave out, so it’s a jarring, bumpy ride. Nobody likes to ride with me and it makes my back ache.
  • 14 years ago the heat stopped. Gotta bundle up in the winter!
  • 12 years ago the windshield wipers stopped, so I can only drive when it’s dry outside.
  • 10 years ago the radio stopped, so I drive in silence.
  • 8 years ago the transmission faltered, basically all that works is 2nd gear. It takes me a while to get up to speed, and when I do…I top out at about 20 mph, which makes me a bit of a nuisance on the road.
  • 6 years ago I stopped driving much at all, just an occasional trip to the grocery.
  • 4 years ago the tires dry rotted, so now I can just limp it down to the mailbox and back.
  • 2 years ago the transmission fully quit. But hey, I can still start it and just sit in it…in the garage. I’m hoping it will still fire up for the next decade!

And when Tom’s car still fires up in the year 2026, the automaker will brag about the great life expectancy of Tom’s old car that fires up every morning! Which belies the reality that it is sitting idly in his garage. It has been a jalopy for 20 years and of relatively no use for long, long time.

This analogy is tragically, acutely close to home. Regardless of how long the average American’s heartbeat lasts, people are losing the full functions of their bodies at alarmingly earlier and earlier ages. While the engine may start every morning, people are becoming physically and psychologically impaired and immobile and living greatly diminished lives.

We see it and have allowed it to become…normal. You probably know someone whose life has had a similar trajectory as my fictitious car story. It’s heartbreaking. The point is surely not shaming them, but addressing our own realities and futures with hope.

I won’t get into a debate about the quality of American automobiles vs foreign. However in regards to being well, America is the most dangerous place to be. It’s a war zone where the chances of being wounded are at an all time high. Read the book “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan or “The Blue Zones Solution” by Dan Buettner to understand how we are at the top of the global list for having an unwell culture. We are great at dealing with symptoms and traumas, but horrid at growing and maintaining well and healthy people.

In my above analogy about a car, most of us would have bought a new car long ago and gotten rid of that old clunker. With our bodies, we don’t have this option. We can’t just buy a new one. However, we have a vast amount of control in achieving and retaining full function. Much more control that we’d like to admit, I’m afraid.

It takes Work. Commitment. Devotion. Knowledge. Guidance.

As Dr. Randolph James often cites, non of us can be perfectly well. But we can all have hope and expectancy of becoming “weller”.

So, when you see stats on “life expectancy”, you may throw them in the trash. “Life expectancy” as a topic is worth little to nothing. What should you care about? Not how long you live and how long the engine merely turns on in the morning, but how well you are living and how fully functioning is your body that will allow that engine to get you anywhere.

Kevin Miller – Vitality Revolutionist