Longevity 101: Tips for a Longer, Healthier Life
Scientists have long debated what the maximum human lifespan could be, with prolific biohackers stating publicly that they’re aiming to live up to 160 years or longer! The list of tactics and supplements include anything and everything from vitamins and pills, including vitamin D, metformin, magnesium, NAD+, pterostilbene, resveratrol, NMN, nicotinamide riboside (NR), Rhodiola and blueberry extract to lifestyle practices like cold plunges, intermittent fasting, hormone treatments and stem cell therapies!
However, the reality is that despite all the new research and information available to us now, average life expectancy seems to be on the decline, largely attributable to the high rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease which are often caused by lifestyle but have become so rife in our modern lives that we seem to be losing the race to live longer as a population as a whole.
How exactly do we age?
There doesn’t seem to be one single cause of ageing and the causes include things like mutations of chromosomes, mutations of mitochondria, cell death, chronic inflammation etc. We can measure our age through something called telomeres (given that we all age at a different rate irrespective of the number of candles on your birthday cake).
We all have telomeres, which are like caps on the ends of the chromosomes in your cells and protect your cells from damage (telomeres are often likened to the plastic caps on shoelaces). As we age, telomeres wear out and shorten from repeated cell division, oxidative stress and inflammation. This leaves your cell’s chromosomes unprotected, and wear and tear on them allows for your cells to become damaged and we age.
While this is a somewhat simplistic explanation and there’s a lot more involved in ageing, what is more, important for our purposes is figuring out what we can do to slow this process! There are tests that can be done to check the length of your telomeres and it’s exciting to see that when you incorporate some longevity hacks into your life, how you can actually improve your biological age at a cellular level, no matter what your actual age is!
So how do we hack Longevity?
One of the most fascinating animals in the world is the immortal jellyfish. Through a process called transdifferentiation, when these immortal jellyfish reach the end of their life, they simply sink to the bottom of the ocean, assume jellyfish foetal position and regenerate back into baby jellyfish!
And while it is unlikely that humans will ever acquire this skill, there are so many tools available to us not only to extend our longevity but also to Benjamin Button ourselves in a very real way!
The most famous study into Longevity is that of the Blue Zones. Researcher Dan Buettner in his book “Blue Zones” together with National Geographic researched regions where people live a disproportionately long time or have a higher number of centenarians than anywhere else in the world. The regions that were identified are Sardinia, Ikaria (Greece), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), Loma Linda (California) and Okinawa (Japan).
Research shows that only about 20% of how long people live has to do with genetics. The rest: lifestyle and environment.
Buettner’s book is a fascinating read because it identifies key lifestyle and environmental factors that all the Blue Zone countries had in common. These include strong social connections with family and friends, an active lifestyle (moderate and daily physical activity), waking up with a sense of purpose, living in clean air and avoiding smoking, a plant-heavy lifestyle, and participation in the community.
The modern solution: rely on ancient wisdom while embracing modern science!
The world of Longevity research is vast! The key (and scary) thing to know is that most parts of our bodies, for men and women, start to age from our late 20s and into our 30s. It is therefore never too early or too late to start implementing longevity strategies into your life!
The importance of anti-ageing and longevity-promoting strategies cannot be underestimated either. Given rapid developments in modern science, we might well live to a high age, but without much guarantee of the quality of life. I think the main reason to follow the advice below is not necessarily to live as long as possible but to have as much quality of life in the years that you do have!
Below, is a laundry list of the top, science-backed and most powerful interventions for Longevity!
The list below is split into LIFESTYLE interventions and SUPPLEMENTING/TECHNOLOGICAL interventions. The list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it important to implement all of them, especially as the budget will be a constraint when you want to get into some of the whackier things, but most are easy, affordable and really move the needle for Longevity!
This is Longevity 101, so we don’t go into the science or the detail, but here is your golden list to longevity success!
- Don’t smoke: nicotine on its own is not bad, but smoking cigarettes is one of the most detrimental habits for losing longevity.
- Minimise intake of processed and packaged foods. Whole foods extend your life!
- Be able to clearly state your life’s purpose and your reason for getting up in the morning. This has been shown to be a common denominator for all people who have lived long lives! A strong life purpose predicts your allostatic load, which just means age-related wear and tear. Work out your one-liner life purpose and live by it.
- Prioritise healthy, happy relationships with friends and family.
- Practice a spiritual discipline. This could be religion, but it could also be a gratitude practice, meditation or breathwork. Setting time aside for this is crucial, especially as it also assists with stress management.
- Have sex regularly (it sends your body a signal that you are reproductively useful).
- Move regularly! Incorporating low-level physical exercise throughout the day, preferably outside, is a major contributor to healthy ageing. Both cardio and strength training is good, but there is a diminishing return when you do it excessively, which will actually shorten your life.
- Diet: low sugar, low vegetable oils, litres of olive oil, dark berries, herbs and spices, organ meats, healthy fats, legumes and in general, a Mediterranean-style diet are all supportive of a long and healthy life that combats chronic diseases. If possible, have your genetics or gut microbiome tested so that you can understand which foods are good and bad for you individually (we are all so different in this regard!).
- Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction: this differs for men and women and is also based on age, but in general, a daily fast of 12–16 hours is healthy for almost everyone and promotes longevity. A longer fast could also be very powerful for many people, especially men and postmenopausal women.
- Drink clean, pure, filtered water and add quality sea salt or electrolytes to it (I like Revive Electrolytes). Hydrogen-rich water is also wonderful longevity-extending addition to your water (I like Neuro H2 for this).
- Hormetic stressors: expose your body to these on a daily basis! These include cold, heat, sunlight, herbs, longer fasting periods and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber if budget allows.
Supplementation / Technology
- Before eating carbohydrates, supplement with insulin-stabilising ingredients because erratic glucose levels result in inflammation, which ages us. My favourites are bitter melon, DihydroBerberine, Ceylon cinnamon (all found in Prime Lean), apple cider vinegar, rosemary, ginger or cayenne pepper.
- Shellfish and organ meats (I like Ancestral Nourishement’s Beef Liver Capsules).
- Supercharge a daily smoothie with the following: Rhodiola, chlorella, spirulina, coffee fruit extract, broccoli sprouts, moringa, blueberries, cacao powder, turmeric, quercetin, and green tea extract. Each of these taken individually are also an excellent addition to a longevity stack!
- The following are the most effective (if budget permits) supplements for longevity: carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10, PQQ, glutathione, pterostilbene, astragalus, vitamin D, fish oil, C60 (I even give this to my dog!) and magnesium.
- Red light therapy devices have phenomenal research backing them to show not only improvements in your external ageing but also for enhancing longevity in a powerful way.
- If budget permits, a monthly intravenous NAD+ drip makes a massive difference in how quickly we age. Sustain levels with NR and NMN supplements between drips
- Super biohacker solution: harvest and bank your stem cells!
Tracking and Quantifying Longevity
The best way to determine how well you are doing at extending your life and improving your quality of life is to ensure that you do annual (or more frequently) testing of inflammation (hs-CRP blood test) and glycaemic variability (hbA1c blood test or a continuous blood glucose monitor).
The following are also useful to quantify your ageing:
- Resting Heart Rate: studies show that an RHR over 80 means you’re twice as likely to die from heart problems and over 90 means three times as likely, relative to someone who has an RHR below 60.
- Telomere testing: this is the current best option to determine your biological age. It’s not a perfect test but can help identify trends.
- Hand grip strength: grip strength (for example hanging from a bar or walking with heavy things in your hands) is known to predict all-cause mortality risk even more effective than blood pressure! Work to improve it and it has a direct impact on your longevity.
- Walking speed: fun fact, people who walk the fastest tend to die later!
The Bottom Line
There are easy, affordable and highly effective interventions that we can make in our lives to extend our Longevity! A healthy, fit and happy older age is surely the ultimate goal and worth working hard for. And again, we are never too young or too old to start taking this seriously!
Follow the advice given here and may you live long and prosper!
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- Thea is the founder of Neolaia — Biohacking SA and passionate about all things biohacking, functional medicine, holistic and ancestral wellness. She enjoys the occasional triathlon, is fanatic about yoga and the gym and loves n=1 biohacking experiments more than anything else! Learning about the latest in scientific research for health and wellness and applying this knowledge is what makes her happiest!
- Instagram: biohack_sa
This information does not serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and does not provide a comprehensive explanation of the different compounds. Always consult your doctor first when making any changes to medication or supplementation.
Originally published in OPTMZ