The more years that pass the harder we want to fight aging. It just isn’t fair that we have to work so hard all our lives only to retire at an age where you can’t enjoy the things you wanted to when you were younger. This is further complicated by the fact that you may finally have some disposable income, why not be able to enjoy it?! So here are my 5 tips on what you can start doing now to extend your lifespan, getting you to those golden years gracefully and in good health.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Exercise is important! It is the magic pill that solves an entire host of ailments and diseases. Through controlling blood sugar, holding off weight gain, improving circulation, increasing bone density and maintaining if not increasing muscle mass; exercise can contribute to a longer and healthier life in many different ways. Exercise also has an effect at the cellular level, working to promote cellular homeostasis making sure everything is running as it should.
Exercise does not have to be completely exhausting and dreadful either. While I am a firm believer in pushing yourself as hard as you can tolerate in order to gain maximal benefits, that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits at lower intensity levels as well. The main thing here is that you do something that gets you moving daily! I always recommend doing things you love as well. Whether that means dancing, swimming, running, weights, organized sports or anything else you can think of, getting that blood pumping is extremely important and will help you live a longer, healthier and happier life.
Calorie restriction is probably one of the most well documented aspects of health in terms of improving longevity. Now what the research refers to as calorie restriction is very specific. This is not starvation or fasting. Rather it is the decrease of daily calories to a level that is just enough for what we need to achieve all of our nutrition goals and nothing more. I would personally never recommend a diet that is lower than 1500cal/d, however this caloric restriction research seems to want people in this “low as possible range”.
Caloric restriction works by activating certain signaling pathways in the body that are most related to extending life. More specifically, the most significant of these genetic pathways is the “FOXA” family of genes. Diving into it here may take way too long so I encourage those of you interested to look more into this if it interests you.
At the end of the day, we generally eat too much anyway. Practice moderation and mindfulness in eating to satisfaction rather than fullness and you will be adding years to your life!
Adaptogens are a group of herbs that have homeostatic properties. They exude most of their benefit in people with their ability to regulate stress. Certain adaptogens will either decrease or increase stress responses to bring a person back to their normal range. Fatigue and loss of motivation can present in either case. Too much stress and your body gets tired, needs more rest and has difficulty getting things done because it is constantly in overdrive. Conversely, if your body cannot react appropriately to stress and produce enough adrenaline or cortisol you will lack the ability to get started and moving at all. Depending on the specific scenario you fall into, different adaptogens can suit your needs.
Aside from regulating stress, these adaptogens have been shown to increase telomere length. Telomeres are basically the “caps” on the ends of our chromosomes. Their lengthening with adaptogen use is important since it has been well documented that shortening telomere lengths are observed with aging. Some of the herbs that belong to this group includes: Ashwaganda, Rhodiola and Siberian Ginseng.
Adding an adaptogen to your daily routine may help extend your life, just make sure you speak to a professional first to determine which one would be best for you.
Best known as a natural sleep aid, melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that plays a large roll in our circadian rhythm and regulates our sleep. Supplemental melatonin can help with jet lag, insomnia, fatigue and is a quite powerful antioxidant. It has also begun to show some evidence towards extending life in mice and fruit flies. Unfortunately, most evidence regarding longevity are focused around non-human subjects since humans live a pretty long time. This is an unavoidable truth of longevity research, however what we do discover is certain supplements or practices improve markers that we know to be associated with longevity.
While the exact mechanism behind how melatonin prolongs life is unknown (currently it is hypothesized to be due to an inhibition of telomerase or as a secondary effect to the pineal gland), we do know it is safe to take long term and has some promising research to back it. Doses vary based on the individual however, 500mg – 5g seems to be the range for benefit here.
I am a coffee lover (espresso really) so I will always write about the potential health benefits of coffee when I come across them. The more I read and learn, the more I am convinced that coffee is a wonder food (Yes, that’s a one up on super foods). Just know that when I refer to the health benefits of coffee I am not talking about candy cane mocha’s with a caramel drizzle. This is about coffee in all it’s splendor as a stand alone beverage.
That being said, the research on caffeine specifically is not super strong but it has been shown to promote longer life spans in yeast through multiple mechanism that hold some ground if they can ever be replicated in humans as well. So drink up coffee lovers!
Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)