Peter Attia's Marginal Decade
Longevity and Love
As you head into Christmas, and hopefully enjoy precious time with your loved ones, it’s worth reflecting on the intricate relationship between longevity and love. Sharing laughs with your loved ones is only because you’re alive and in good health, both of which are necessary.
Being alive is easily understood as the converse is death. This is the concept of lifespan, the number of years you live. While we all want to extend lifespan, what is arguably more important is healthspan – the number of healthy years you live. Without good health, it’s very difficult to enjoy precious moments with your loved ones. And no one wants to be battling disease or crippled in the last years of their lives.
Peter Attia coins the last decade of life as The Marginal Decade1. We worry that we will be bedridden in this marginal decade. But can we make this last decade exceptional? Can we work backwards to ensure the last decade of our lives is filled with health and happiness? Can we extend our healthspan? For that to happen, we need to start optimizing our health now to live longer and better later. However, for most of us, it’s hard to optimize the present for a long-term future reward. It helps if we have a purpose.
What is your reason to care about longevity? For me, it’s love. I wish to hike and camp with my husband for as long as possible. I wish to hopefully play tennis with him into my 90s. I wish to discuss books with him for decades to come. I wish to celebrate more Christmas’ with my kids. I wish to run around with my grandkids. For any of this to be possible, I have to be healthy in my marginal decade.
The Marginal Decade Exercise
As a spur to deepen my quest for healthspan, I thought it would be a fun and useful exercise to visibly lay out all the special moments I’d get to celebrate with my loved ones if I could extend lifespan and healthspan. Enter the Marginal Decade exercise.
Make a list of your loved ones and write down what their ages will be when you’re 70, 80, and 90. Next to each age, note the special event that would occur in the decade to come. Notice how many more significant life events you get to be part of if you extend your marginal decade from 70 to 80 or from 80 to 90 years, and are healthy in the decade.
My example will make it clear:
If I enter my marginal decade at 80 instead of 70, and am healthy in the decade, I get to celebrate Doug’s 90th birthday, attend my grandkids’ weddings, and hike more with my kids.
And if I enter my marginal decade at 90 instead of 80, I get to celebrate Doug’s 100th birthday and hopefully play with my great grandkids. What a delight that would be!
Each additional decade of good health can make such a big difference in celebrating the special moments with your loved ones. And this doesn’t even capture the special moments of each day.
If I live to be 90 vs. 80, I get to have an additional 3,650 dinners with my husband! Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ll take them all and more. To me, longevity is about love, and love is about longevity.
I hope you do your own Marginal Decade exercise and it spurs you to take better care of your health such that you can enjoy more precious life events with your loved ones.
This Christmas and New Year’s, I wish everyone an abundance of love and longevity!
If you’re looking for practical tips on how to optimize your health in 2024, check out my posts:
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Referenced from Peter Attia’s Early Program