If you’re at all interested in living healthy for as long as possible, I highly recommend you listen to the video above, in which CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta interviews two of the leaders in the field of longevity:
- Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D, author of Ending Aging – The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime, and
- Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zone – Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.
Both agree that longevity is about far more than your genes. In fact, it is believed that your genetic makeup accounts for only about 10 percent of your potential longevity, while a variety of lifestyle factors account for the rest.
What You Can Learn from Those Who’ve Lived the Longest
Buettner’s book looks at the lifestyles of centenarians across the world. Common denominators among the people who’ve lived the longest include:
- Eating a plant-based diet
- Drinking diuretic-type teas on a regular basis
- Living in areas that promote regular physical activity, such as daily walking as the main means of getting around
- Living in societies where friends and family encourage a healthy, natural, active lifestyle
- Having effective strategies for coping with stress, such as prayer, meditation, strong social networks, and napping daily
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 promotes inflammation, so being able to reduce the inflammatory response in your body can have a significant impact on your overall health. This is also believed to be one of the major reasons why so many centenarians appear to be more or less immune to brain degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Now, Buettner does mention a few things I personally do not agree with, such as including tofu in the healthy food category, but aside from that, both authors offer plenty of interesting information worthy of attention.
De Grey, of course, approaches the topic from a slightly different angle. De Grey is a Cambridge researcher and chairman and chief science officer of the Methuselah Foundation, and I previously had the pleasure of interviewing de Grey about his fascinating ideas for “engineering immortality.” If you missed that remarkable interview, I highly recommend you listen to it now.
He is more concerned with what he refers to as rejuvenation- or regenerative medicine, which includes such scientific strides as
stem cell therapy and tissue engineering. He believes that by following this line of research we will eventually be able to actually reverse aging.
Personally, I’m not one to want to veer too far from the natural order of things -- I don’t even want to eat a piece of genetically modified corn. But the technology and science enthusiast in me can’t help but be intrigued by the ideas and radical advances in the field of extreme life extension.
The Free-Radical Theory
The most widely accepted idea for life extension is the free-radical theory, which is part of what de Grey promotes. According to this theory, you begin to self destruct” as you age. Your DNA becomes damaged beyond your body’s ability to repair and you eventually accumulate enough damage that can’t support life, and consequently you die.
The main agents of this destruction are oxygen free radicals; aggressive chemical compounds created as a byproduct of your natural metabolism. Over a lifetime, this progressive damage accumulates to the point where your body’s basic biochemical processes fail.
This is one of the primary reasons that Coenzyme Q-10 works and why I take the reduced form, ubiquinol, every day.
One of the most destructive processes is protein carbonylation, in which oxygen radicals attacks the carbon-hydrogen bonds in proteins. This process has been implicated as a cause for many age-related diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, chronic renal failure and adult-onset diabetes.
Antioxidants continually combat these free radicals – which is why a diet high in natural antioxidants is so important for your health – but over the years, your biological defense systems eventually begin to suffer from oxidative damage as well and can’t function as effectively. Your state of health suffers as a result, and “age-related ailments” set in.
Seven Major Cause of Aging According to de Grey
De Grey’s work focuses on finding the main causes of age-related damage that inevitably leads to death, and uses scientific methods to prevent or reverse them.
According to de Grey, nature has not specifically pre-programmed you to die, as there is no “death gene”. You don’t perish because of some internal clock counting down to death, but because nature doesn’t bother to promote self-healing past a certain point. He claims there are seven major known causes of aging:
- cell loss
- death resistant cells (that overstay their welcome)
- nuclear DNA mutations
- mitochondrial DNA mutations
- intracellular junk
- extracellular junk
- extracellular crosslinks (which link together molecules that should be kept separated)
From a strictly biological standpoint, the maximum lifespan of human beings seems to be set at around 120 years. However, I do believe it’s possible to extend your lifespan well beyond this with the regenerative technologies that de Grey is working on.
However, as he states, longevity scientists still have a long way to go, which is why focusing on your current lifestyle choices is so important.
I met Dr. de Grey when we both spoke at Manhattan Beach,
California Anti-Aging Conference in LA last month.
How to Live Longer, Starting Today
Regulating your insulin pathways, and all the other important lifestyle changes I advocate, would clearly increase not only the quantity of your years but the quality of them as well.
Proper nutrition; feeding your body the fuel it needs based on your individual biochemistry rather than a one-size-fits-all regimen, exercise, and maintaining emotional well-being should never be underestimated in the anti-aging quest.
Rather than sitting idly by, waiting for some “magic pill” that will stop or even reverse the aging process, you can take control of your health, and hence increase your lifespan, right NOW.
What Can You do NOW to Maximize Your Lifespan?
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. Elevated insulin levels are one of your key physical influences that contribute to rapid aging, and there is no question that optimizing your insulin levels is an absolute necessity if you want to slow down your aging process.
Consuming sugar and grains will increase your insulin level, which is the equivalent of slamming your foot on your aging accelerator. There’s simply no more potent way to accelerate aging than sticking to a diet full of sugar and grains.
Here are the rest of my top “anti-aging” recommendations:
Learn how to effectively cope with stress – As discussed at the beginning of this article, effective coping mechanisms is a major longevity-promoting factor as stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day.
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 Meridian Tapping Technique (MTT) 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. The heart of my program is the elimination, or at the very least, drastic reduction of grains and sugar in your diet, which is a far simpler way of restricting your calorie intake naturally, without suffering.
Take your omega-3 fats – Krill or fish oil is a strong factor in helping people live longer, and many experts believe that it is likely the predominant reason why the Japanese are the longest lived race on the planet.
Get your antioxidants from foods – Antioxidants have been shown to have anti-aging effects. Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
Switch to coconut oil – Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil. 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. It can help you lose weight, or maintain your already good weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, and lower your cholesterol, among other things.
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, 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.
Get plenty of exercise -- 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.
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.
There is no quick fix when it comes to life extension – no pill and no magic fountain. While there are certainly some exceptions -- some centenarians do little in the way of healthy eating or getting exercise -- for most of us, living a healthy life well into our 100’s will take some dedication to making healthy lifestyle changes, and it's up to you to decide if it’s worth it.