We all want to live better, longer, healthier lives, however, as we get older this goal seems to become more difficult to reach. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Longevity is priceless, and there is an increasing amount of research showing us how we can live longer and enjoy a much better quality of life. Unfortunately, the information out there can be a little confusing, with lots of scientific jargon and conflicting opinions.
This article will clarify just what causes us to age, and provide you with concrete advice on how to find your own personal fountain of youth.
What Causes Us to Age?
Before we dive too deep into the subject, let’s clarify something: you actually have two different ages. There’s your chronological age, which is how many years old you are. There’s not much you can do about this one.
Then you have your biological age, which refers to how old your body seems to be. Your biological age can be higher or lower than your chronological age, and it’s possible to influence this with diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
Biological age is affected by environmental and psychological factors, including diet, nutrition, and stress.
Three Major Pathways to Aging
Harvard professor Dr. David Sinclair is the world’s leading expert on anti-aging. He has conducted more than 25 years of research on slowing the aging process and has found that three pathways in the body play a major role in aging:
- AMPK stands for AMP-activated protein kinase, and it’s an enzyme that plays a role in cellular energy.
- mTOR stands for mammalian target of rapamycin. This is an enzyme that regulates cell growth and protein synthesis.
- Sirtuins are proteins involved with cellular aging, inflammation, and stress resistance.
Most importantly, these pathways respond what we eat and how we exercise. Many of the most popular anti-aging recommendations involve activating one or more of these pathways.
How to Slow the Aging Process
Now that you have a little insight into what causes your body to age, let’s look at some of the ways you might be able to combat that process and feel younger for longer.
Diet and Nutrition
The single most important dietary change you can make to slow aging is to reduce the total number of calories you’re eating.
Reducing caloric intake by around 30 percent, while maintaining adequate macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins), has been shown to drastically increase life expectancy in rodents, and may have similar effects in humans. The best way for most people to reduce total caloric intake is with a technique you may have heard of called intermittent fasting.
At its most basic, intermittent fasting involves limiting the eating period to a certain time of day, and then aiming to meet all your macro goals during that time period. For most people, the best way to do this is known as the 16/8 method.
The 16/8 method is an intermittent fasting plan where you start eating at 12:00 pm, and aim to have your last meal by 8:00 pm. In other words, you cut out breakfast and late-night snacking. Many people already eat this way naturally, so it makes a good starting point. A certified nutritionist or wellness coach can then help you tailor the plan to your specific needs.
In addition to intermittent fasting, reducing animal protein consumption, and particularly red meat, may also help slow biological aging. Sardinia Italy is where men live the longest and healthiest of anywhere on the planet. Not only do Sardinians live nearly free of cardiovascular disease, they are also home to the highest number of centenarians (men who are over 100 years old) in the world. Although Sardinians follow a relatively high protein diet, over half the protein comes from nuts, beans and seeds. This type of Mediterranean diet has been associated with reductions in nearly all causes of premature death.
Evidence points to both cardio and strength training having an impact on the aging process. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) seems to be best at slowing aging at a cellular level, according to studies. In other words, work hard enough that you are out of breath and actually feel uncomfortable. It’s best to mix up your workout routine, but for specific ideas, sprints, plyometric training, swimming, and boxing are some excellent choices.
Just remember though: the key to exercise is making it a regular habit, and the best workout routine is generally the one you’re going to stick to.
Getting enough sleep is absolutely vital. Studies show that getting both too little and too much sleep has serious detrimental effects on health and longevity. Too little is defined as less than five hours per night, and too much is more than nine hours per night.
Additionally, research indicates that the longest-lived people tend to sleep between six and seven hours per night, which falls in line with the guidelines above.
For these reasons, the recommended amount of sleep for longevity and quality-of-life is six to eight hours per night. Since sleep is such an individual thing, experiment within that range to find the exact amount that works best for you (meaning you wake up feeling refreshed, not groggy). Then stick to it every night. Yes, that includes weekends.
Finally, alcohol consumption should be limited to two drinks per day, and tobacco should be avoided entirely. Smoking cigarettes or tobacco will drastically shorten life span. Alcohol might have some beneficial effects in small amounts, but the science is still out on this.
There are several supplements that show promise in slowing down the aging process and increasing longevity:
- Metformin: Metformin is a prescription drug typically prescribed for diabetes, but numerous studies show it may help extend lifespan by activating the AMPK enzyme mentioned above. Metformin has numerous health benefits: it may help prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and frailty, in addition to treating diabetes.
- Resveratrol: Resveratrol is a supplement derived from the skin of several different types of berries. It may help slow the aging process by interacting with the sirtuin enzymes mentioned above, mimicking some of the effects of calorie restriction.
- NMN: NMN stands for nicotinamide mononucleotide. It is naturally occurring in the body, but taking a supplement may help slow the aging process by activating sirtuins, much like resveratrol.
It’s important to consult with a physician regarding any supplements you want to take, but for reference, Dr. Sinclair takes and recommends 500mg resveratrol, 1g metformin, and 1g NMN to help slow aging and increase lifespan.
Live a Longer, Happier, Healthier Life
Whether you’re still young and want to stay that way, or you’re hoping to turn back the clock, science may have finally found a way. You’ll still have to put in some work, but the fountain of youth has never been closer.
Grant is a fitness coach and the founder of Team G-Fit.