You can slow down your aging process and help stave off heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. U.S. News & World Report offers some tips on how to do it:
Free radicals. Free radicals are chemically unstable molecules that attack your cells and damage your DNA. You can limit your exposure to them by avoiding cigarettes, trans fats, charred meats, and other sources.
Organic fruits and vegetables will also limit your exposure to pesticides and herbicides, which contain the harmful molecules.
Inflammation. Inflammation is a major player in many diseases of aging, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. One way to avoid it is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet.
Other great anti-inflammatory foods include turmeric, dark chocolate, and the anti-aging chemical resveratrol. Exercise is another great way to lower inflammation.
- Glycation. Glycation is what happens when sugar mixes with proteins and fats to form molecules that promote aging. Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are thought to accelerate your aging process by churning out free radicals and promoting inflammation. One way to avoid ingesting AGEs is to turn down the heat when you cook. The browning effect of high-heat cooking causes these molecules to form. Limiting your intake of sugar-filled foods in general will also help.
- Stress. Stress initiates the release of a variety of hormones that make your pulse race and cause your blood pressure to rise. The hormone cortisol, released to lessen these effects, also creates problems when it remains chronically elevated. Try practicing relaxation techniques to help manage stress, and get enough sleep every night.
Death is surely inevitable, but I do believe you can live far longer than the average life expectancy, which, in the US, is around 78. Genetics may play a role, but is NOT the final determining factor for whether you'll live a long healthy life.
Barring an accident, your lifestyle has everything to do with your longevity. It's already been established that diet can override genetic predispositions for disease, for example, so don't fall into the trap of believing your health and longevity is somehow the inevitable result of what's in your gene pool.
Please understand that the list in the summary above is from US News and World Report and it is THEIR concept of what contributes to aging. Of course you don't get the newsletter for their views so I am going to use their list as a springboard to provide you with my thoughts on the topic.
The Leading Cause of Premature Aging and Premature Death
Increased insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity has clearly become the leading candidate for premature death. This results from two primary conditions: too much sugar and processed foods, combined with insufficient exercise.
Interestingly, controlling these two factors could likely eliminate more than 90 percent of:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Of all the molecules capable of inflicting damage in your body, probably the most damaging of all are sugar molecules. Fructose in particular is an extremely potent pro-inflammatory agent that speeds up the aging process.
This is mostly an artifact of the postindustrial agricultural revolution that we live in as over thirty years ago scientists learned how to cheaply produce sugar from corn and now it is loaded in nearly all processed foods and has become the number one source of calories in most developed countries.
Fructose is a major contributor to:
- Insulin resistance and obesity
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL
- Cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout
How does it do all this?
Fructose adversely affects your body in a number of ways, but one of the mechanisms that causes significant damage is glycation; a process in which the sugar bonds with proteins and form so-called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. It's a fitting acronym because – along with oxidation – it's one of the major molecular mechanisms whereby damage accrues in your body, which leads to disease, aging, and eventually, death.
When sugar glycates it creates inflammation, which activates your immune system in a defensive maneuver. Macrophages are scavenger cells that are part of your immune defense system, and as such they have special receptors for AGEs, aptly called RAGEs (think: raging inflammation). These RAGEs bind to the AGEs and get rid of them.
Unfortunately, this process can leave its fair share of battle scars. Inside your arteries, for example, the scar tissue created from this process is called plaque. This also explains why there's such a strong connection between diabetes and heart disease.
As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day.
However, most people would be wise to limit their fructose to 15 grams or less, particularly if you have elevated uric acid levels, which can be used as a predictor for fructose toxicity. (For more information on this, please see this recent article.)
This includes keeping track of your fructose intake from whole fruits. For a helpful chart showing the fructose content of many common fruits, please see this link.
I recommend this lower level simply because if you consume processed foods or sweet beverages at all, you're virtually guaranteed to consume "hidden" sources of fructose.
How to Prevent Free Radical Damage
The most widely accepted idea for life extension is the free radical theory, which says that as you age, you begin to "self-destruct," courtesy of free radicals – aggressive chemical compounds created as a byproduct of your natural metabolism that damage your DNA.
Lifestyle choices such as smoking, consuming processed foods laden with trans fats and other harmful chemical additives, along with pesticide- and other chemical exposures further add to your body's free radical burden.
With time, your DNA eventually becomes damaged beyond your body's ability to repair, and once your biological processed fail, you die.
Antioxidants continually combat these free radicals – which is why a diet high in natural antioxidants is so important for your health and longevity. Antioxidants are abundant in a number of foods, and your BEST bet to get high quality antioxidants is to consume raw fresh organic vegetables and fruits.
Supplementation can also be useful and resveratrol appears to be particularly potent and is often referred to as a "fountain of youth" that can extend lifespan. It is unique among antioxidants because it can cross the blood-brain barrier to help protect your brain and nervous system.
Another important but often overlooked antioxidant is coenzyme Q-10, but more specifically the reduced version, called ubiquinol.
Your liver produces CoQ10 and it is actually an essential nutrient for health and longevity because it provides energy to every single cell in your body. Unfortunately, after age 25, your natural levels of this critical compound begin to decline, which is why I personally take the reduced form, ubiquinol, every day.
CoQ10 is also an absolute necessity if you're on statin drugs as they can quickly deplete your body of coQ10. This is in part why statins are so harmful to your heart.
Glutathione (GSH) is another important and underutilized antioxidant. This is one antioxidant though I believe you can optimize with proper diet and if you are leading a healthy lifestyle it is probably unnecessary to supplement. However if you are sick and disabled and recovering, you certainly could consider supplementation.
Interestingly, increased glutathione levels may actually play a role in stopping telomere shortening, which is one of the most exciting anti-aging discoveries in recent years. If you missed my article on this fascinating new theory, you can read it here.
Now, I'm not a fan of taking fistfuls of supplements in lieu of altering your diet to get the nutrients you need, and I have reservations against using glutathione supplements in particular. When it comes to glutathione, one of your best sources is high quality whey protein. Other food sources include free range animal foods and eggs.
Just remember that there are vast differences between whey products. You'll want to make sure your whey protein is derived from grass-fed cows and very carefully processed to preserve the fragile amino acid precursors. Many whey proteins on the market are highly processed and may also contain undesirable additives.
I am so convinced by the research on telomeres and glutathione that I take our Miracle Whey protein every morning, and a second dose before my twice weekly strength training days.
Additionally, I use Sprint 8 -- specific "anti-aging" exercises that boost human growth hormone production.
Learning from Those Who've Lived the Longest
Longevity researchers have long searched for the magic common denominators that might explain the extended life spans of centenarians. What they found is that the people who've lived the longest tend to eat a natural, plant-based diet and live in areas that promote regular physical activity, such as daily walking.
They also tend to have effective strategies for coping with the inevitable stresses of life, such as prayer, meditation, and having strong social networks. In fact, being able to effectively cope with stress, it turns out, is one of the MAJOR common denominators for those who live long, healthy lives.
One of the proposed reasons for this strong link is that stress, just like fructose, promotes inflammation in your body.
Indeed, most of the research indicates that longevity hinges on preventing chronic inflammation, and avoiding sugar/fructose while consuming an antioxidant-rich diet of whole, fresh foods, along with physical exercise and effective stress reduction methods work hand-in-hand to do just that.
The Anti-Aging Lifestyle
Going back to where I started, of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your longevity, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important.
There is no question that optimizing your insulin levels is an absolute necessity if you want to slow down your aging process, and that means modifying your diet to avoid excessive amounts of fructose, grains, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients like trans fats.
Here are the rest of my top "anti-aging" recommendations:
Learn how to effectively cope with stress – As discussed earlier, stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day, so developing effective coping mechanisms is a major longevity-promoting factor.
Meditation, prayer, physical activity and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden emotional problems.
- Eat a healthy diet based on your nutritional type – My nutrition plan, based on natural whole foods, is your first step toward increasing your chances of living a longer, healthier life. This is so important, I now offer the full nutritional typing program for FREE.
- Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels. This is another very powerful and inexpensive intervention that can have profound benefits on your health. In the summer you can do this for free by careful and safe sun exposure but even in the winter a therapeutic level of oral vitamin D (typically 5-10,000 units of vitamin D3 for most adults)
Animal based omega-3 fats – Correcting the ratio of omega-3 to healthful omega-6 fats is a strong factor in helping people live longer. This typically means increasing your intake of animal based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, while decreasing your intake of damaged omega-6 fats (think trans fats).
I do not, however, recommend the new prescription strength fish oil medication, sold under the name Lovaza. Don't be fooled by their "all-natural" PR campaign. This is actually a drug to treat very high triglyceride levels.
However, as with most other drugs, Lovaza comes with potentially dangerous side effects that you would not experience with a natural fish oil or krill oil supplement. Side effects include flu-like symptoms, infections, back pain, skin rashes, upset stomach, taste changes, digestive issues, chest pain, migraines and respiratory problems!
Additionally, new research strongly suggests that 500 mg of krill oil is more potent and far less expensive.
- Get your antioxidants from foods –Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
- Use coconut oil – Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil, known to reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your cholesterol, among other things. In fact, it's doubly beneficial because it can be both eaten and applied directly to your skin. Coconut oil can be used in place of other oils, margarine, butter, or shortening, and can be used for all your cooking needs.
Get your resveratrol naturally – Resveratrol is one of the forerunners in the anti-aging pill race, but more than likely, by the time they've manipulated it into a synthetic pill (like the fish oil discussed above), it won't be healthy for you.
Although resveratrol is the antioxidant found in red wine, I can't recommend drinking wine in the hopes of extending your life because alcohol is a neurotoxin that can poison your brain and harm your body's delicate hormonal balance. Instead, get your resveratrol from natural sources, such as whole grape skins and seeds, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts.
Exercise regularly, and correctly-- Studies repeatedly show that regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can help prevent or delay your onset of hypertension, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and the falls that lead to hip fracture. Although a lifetime of regular exercise is ideal, it's never too late to start. It's been shown that even individuals in their 70's can substantially increase both strength and endurance with exercise.
I'm also excited about the research showing how high-intensity, interval training can increase longevity as this specific style of training promotes human growth hormone production – yet another aspect of the longevity puzzle.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible – This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Avoid pharmaceutical drugs – Pharmaceutical drugs kill thousands of people prematurely every year – as an expected side effect of the action of the drug. And, if you adhere to a healthy lifestyle, you most likely will never need any of them in the first place.
Incorporating these healthy lifestyle guidelines will help set you squarely on the path to optimal health and give you the best shot at living a much longer life. For even more anti-aging information, please review the related articles listed below.