Yes, it is possible to slow down aging.
Even better, in the future aging may even be reversed. That would mean it would be possible to make old people younger again. But for that, we will need cutting-edge biotechnology.
To address aging, there are two approaches: the low-tech approach and the high-tech approach.
The low-tech approach mainly involves lifestyle. These are things like healthy nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, happiness, and supplements.
The high-tech approach involves new kinds of biotechnologies that are currently being developed. These biotechnologies, for example, aim to rejuvenate aged mitochondria, clear up protein accumulation in our cells, or epigenetically rejuvenate cells.
Currently, the best approach to live longer is our lifestyle. New biotechnologies to tackle aging will come into being in the next decades.
Let’s first dive deeper into the low-tech approach. What are the best things we can do now to live longer?
A. THE LOW-TECH APPROACH TO LIVING LONGER
1. Follow a longevity diet
What, when, and how much we eat impacts the rate of aging. Nutrition is the most powerful lifestyle intervention to live longer. Yes, it’s even more important than exercise. Learn more about different diets here.
Some general tips:
- Shy away from sugary foods, like soda drinks, sweets, candy, cake, pastries, doughnuts, cookies, candy bars, and chocolates. Be also weary of seemingly healthy products which contain lots of sugar, like low-fat yogurt, vitamin waters, sport drinks, health drinks (e.g. flavored green tea), granola and health bars, ketchup, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, salad dressings, and vegetable milks (choose the low-sugar varieties).
- Reduce your intake of starchy, empty-calorie foods like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. These foods cause high and protracted glucose peaks in the blood, leading to cross-linking and the (over)stimulation of aging mechanisms (e.g. insulin and IGF receptors). This also includes whole-grain products.
- Don’t consume too much animal protein (especially red processed meat). Too much animal protein accelerates aging. If you do eat animal protein, eat white meat (poultry) and fish. Some scientists advise even to only eat fish and vegetable protein (e.g. nuts and legumes). If you consume fish, opt for species that have low mercury content and don’t eat too much high-mercury fish like tuna, swordfish, mackerel and halibut.
- Avoid unhealthy fats such as trans fats and omega 6 fats. In general, try to avoid fried foods, fast-food, and bakery products. More specifically, reduce your intake of crackers, cookies, cakes, and other baked foods, refrigerated dough products (e.g. cinnamon rolls, biscuits, etc), snack foods (e.g. microwave popcorn), fast-food (e.g. frozen pizza), ready-to-eat meals, various vegetable shortenings (made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil), french fries, and omega-6 rich oils and fats, like sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, margarine, sesame oil, mayonnaise and many salad dressings.
- Don’t drink milk. Milk accelerates aging in many ways, as we will explain in future blog posts (for example, milk stimulates pro-aging mechanisms and pathways, like mTOR, IGF, insulin and contains substances like galactose, which researchers actually use to accelerate aging in animals for studying the aging process).
- Consume lots of vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, seeds, white meat, and fatty fish.
- Consume foods that have been processed as little as possible, e.g. foods your great grandmother would recognize.
- Eat specific foods that improve longevity, like blueberries, pomegranate, broccoli, kale, salmon, chia seeds, dark chocolate, and many others.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol: that means maximum one glass per day, ideally with alcohol-free days.
- Drink lots of water. Drink green tea or coffee (yes, coffee can reduce the risk of various aging-related diseases).
- Eat less. Try to eat two meals a day, with breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Eat within a 12-hour period, so your body can fast for 12 hours. Fast for ideally 3 days a few times per year, like at the start of every new season. If you are up to it, practice caloric restriction. We will discuss fasting and various longevity diets in upcoming blog posts.
So in a nutshell, consume lots of vegetables, legumes and mushrooms – instead of bread, pasta and potatoes. Eat little animal-based food, and if you do, try to eat white meat (poultry) and fatty fish instead of red meat. Consume healthy fats from olives, olive oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, or avocados. Don’t drink soda and animal milk. Be mindful of drinking too much alcohol.
Specific longevity foods are green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts), fatty fish, mushrooms, dark chocolate, blueberries, pomegranate, green tea, strawberries and walnuts.
Learn more about our longevity diet here.
2. Take supplements
Even if you eat very healthily, it is not easy to take in adequate amounts of nutrients.
Many people (and governments) believe that if you eat healthy, you don’t need supplements.
Also, the official recommended daily intakes of many nutrients are often too low. They are in most cases based on the minimum amount you need to take in order not die or become seriously ill in the short term (e.g. months). But they are therefore not always the ideal amount for optimal longevity and health.
In short, despite following a healthy, balanced diet most people don’t get ideal amounts of magnesium, vitamin D or iodine (which are also higher than what most governments recommend).
Therefore, we believe supplements are necessary.
Some important supplements for optimal health are vitamin D3, vitamin K2, iodine, selenium, magnesium malate, B vitamins, and minimally-oxidized (low TOTOX) omega-3 fatty acids. We call them “health supplements” (there are also “longevity supplements“, see further down below). Find out more here about the best health supplements to take.
Many people are deficient in these, or do not take in sufficient amounts for optimal health.
However, many of these supplements do not really seem to extend maximum lifespan. But they can be very useful to improve health span, and to solve deficiencies which can accelerate aging. We go deeper into supplements here.
Nonetheless, there are also supplements that can extend lifespan and slow down aging in various animal models. We call these “longevity supplements”. These are supplements like fisetin, alpha-ketoglutarate, lithium, glycine, nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), and glucosamine.
Unfortunately, many supplements claim to be “anti-aging” but contain substances that have shown not to extend lifespan in animals.
An example are antioxidant supplements. Most antioxidants do not extend lifespan according to well-conducted scientific studies, and some may even shorten lifespan! We dig into specific anti-aging and longevity supplements — those that work and those that don’t — in this post.
Engage in both anaerobic exercise (like weightlifting) and aerobic exercise (like running or swimming). High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is especially good to improve metabolism, leading to increased mitochondrial biosynthesis (Mitochondrial Health is one of the 9 mechanisms of aging), among other things.
Even a 20-minute walk on a daily basis can reduce your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and many other aging-related diseases.
4. Take care of your sleep
Sleep is very important for your health. During sleep, the body repairs itself. Sleep deficiency leads to accelerated aging, and a higher risk of aging-related diseases, like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Get sufficient sleep (on average 8 hours per day), and make it high-quality.
Besides the amount and quality of sleep, regularity is also important. Try to get to bed always at the same time.
We provide dozens of tips to improve your sleep here.
5. Cultivate a positive mindset
Happiness, stress reduction, and having purpose and goals in life (feeling useful) all contribute to longer lifespans. Studies show that people who are happy, meditate or have goals (even as simple as taking care of a pet) live longer.
6. Be social
Humans are social animals. We need each other. When we are among friends and family, we feel good because the body produces all kinds of substances that have beneficial effects, such as endorphins and serotonin.
Loneliness induces inflammation and activates stress hormones like cortisol that damage the body (R). Studies show that people who are social live longer, healthier lives.
7. Don’t smoke
8. Challenge your mind every day
Your brain is like a muscle, the less you use it, the more it languishes. Train your brain daily to keep it healthy.
Explore new neighborhoods, museums, cities, or countries. Learn a new language, or follow a cooking, programming, or gardening course. Play chess, bridge, mastermind, or any other game that requires some brainpower.
Download brain training apps on your smartphone. Be open to new experiences and challenges. Take on challenging tasks, they are great learning experiences and train your brain.
We provide tips to keep your mind in optimal health here.
9. Participate in preventive medicine
It’s so much better to prevent than to cure when it’s too late. Get regular health checkups so problems can be detected early, like high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, or nutrient deficiencies (however, don’t over-rely on your blood check-ups: many vitamins and mineral deficiencies can appear normal in a blood work test).
Find an MD experienced in preventive medicine and lifestyle. Participate in programs screening for colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, or HPV-induced cancers.
10. Brush and floss your teeth
People with healthy teeth live longer.
If you do not take good care of your teeth, bacteria in your mouth and the substances they secrete get into the bloodstream and cause inflammation and other damage everywhere in the body, which increases the risk of a heart attack, dementia or type 2 diabetes.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss every day. Regarding mouthwash, opinions are divided. Mouthwash can kill off the resident bacteria in your mouth, which is also not a good thing (R).
11. Use medication sparingly
Many people greatly underestimate the side effects of medication.
Even medication known for its low side effect profile can be unhealthy, especially in the long term.
Gastric acid inhibitors (proton pump inhibitors/PPIs) hinder the uptake of important minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium, and disturb the gut microbiome.
Painkillers such as ibuprofen and diclofenac are highly stressful for the kidneys and other organs, and even the mild painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be very toxic to the liver (4 tablets of 1 gram combined with alcohol can lead to liver failure and death).
Try to take as little medication as possible, but always consult your doctor for your individual medical decisions.
12. Be an empowered health advocate for your own body
Don’t just rely on the health care system to keep you healthy.
The traditional health care system focuses primarily on treating symptoms of diseases, and not tackling the causes.
Currently, our healthcare system is more of a sick care system that kicks into gear when it’s already too late: when you already have cancer growing in your body, or when you are having a heart attack and being rushed in an ambulance to the hospital.
If you want to stay healthy, you have to take action yourself and be your own health advocate.
B. THE HIGH-TECH APPROACH TO LIVE LONGER
To learn more about novel technologies to slow down and even reverse aging, click here (and scroll down):