- HEALTH & NUTRITION
How to live to 100
Advances in science and technology mean that our life expectancy has increased over the years. But with the obsession of getting more years out of our lives, are we complicating longevity? The short answer is yes.
Aug 17, 2023|
Aug 17, 2023
For a long time, it was believed that genetic factors alone would determine our fate when it comes to health and longevity. But thankfully, new research shows us that this isn’t the case. While genetics play a role in life expectancy, environmental factors like diet and lifestyle may be more influential when it comes to longevity.
What’s something that the longest-living people in the world all have in common? Movement. But not the kind of movement that makes you break a sweat in the gym, the kind that keeps you active in smaller ways throughout the entire day. This type of activity, also known as “natural movement”, doesn’t mean hours of dedicated cardio sessions – it's about making movement part of your everyday life. Taking the stairs instead of the escalator, walking instead of driving where you can, and enjoying hobbies like gardening are all incredible ways to increase your natural movement – and there’s plenty of research to back up these claims.
Telomeres act as a protective cap which shields DNA from damage – and the longer your telomeres are, the more protection they can give. One study that analyzed the DNA of nearly 6,000 adults found that people who were more active had longer telomeres in comparison to those who were sedentary. This correlated to a difference in cellular aging of around 9-years!
Have a sense of purpose
Feeling inspired and finding joy in your everyday life isn’t just great for your mental and emotional wellbeing – it may also keep you healthy in the long run. Having a sense of purpose is about living a life that brings you meaning and fulfillment, and there are a number of studies that highlight the link between cultivating a strong sense of purpose and longevity. Having a sense of purpose will mean different things to different people, but you can contribute to your purpose by pursuing things that feel meaningful to you – whether that be social connection, achievement, self-expression, curiosity or personal growth and impact. Knowing what drives you and brings meaning to your life can support your mental wellbeing and ability to adapt to stress – which naturally encourages a healthier (and more resilient) you.
Eat for longevity
Blue zones are areas of the globe that are home to people who live the longest. There are five blue zones located around the world, including areas in Italy, Japan, California, Greece and Costa Rica. Researchers have identified what's so special about these communities, and one crucial factor is the quality of their diet.
How to follow a ‘Blue Zone Diet’:
- Most blue zone residents have access to locally sourced, organically raised fruits and vegetables so they eat seasonally, and follow a largely plant-based diet.
- Their recipes are passed down through generations and the food they prepare is naturally less processed than what you might find on supermarket shelves.
- Foods rich in fiber like beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens are abundant – while meat and dairy products are eaten in moderation.
- There’s no restriction when it comes to food or calories, but because of their approach to nutrition – people don't tend to overeat.
While it's true that what you eat plays a huge role in longevity, some experts believe that who you're eating with is even more important. Despite being more connected than ever before, research shows that as a collective – we are now lonelier than we've ever been. Studies show that social isolation and loneliness are linked to all kinds of health implications.
What the research says about connection:
- Social isolation can increase the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis — an important system involved in your stress response. It has also been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline.
- Having strong, healthy relationships has been shown to protect the brain and body as we age. Research shows that people with good relationships aren’t as affected by challenges or stress in life, and the support system these relationships provide encourages better long-term health as a result.
Embrace ‘good stress’
We know that stress can be harmful to our health, but what about the ‘good’ kind of stress? Hormetic stress is the kind of stress that can actually be healthy. It’s switched on when the body is exposed to intermittent stressors. This means that whenever the body is being challenged in a healthy way, it can help enhance resilience. The most researched ways to increase hormetic stress include things like high intensity interval training, saunas or cold exposure.
To take a closer look at how these activities can support the body’s resilience, let’s look at some of the mechanisms behind cold exposure and how it creates a ‘healthy’ amount of stress:
- Exposing yourself to the cold in short bursts (around two minutes) has been shown to increase the production of neurotransmitters and endorphins and increase stress tolerance.
- There’s also strong evidence that cold exposure activates ‘cold shock proteins’ in the body, which have been shown to protect our cells and support healthy aging.
- Cold exposure can help generate new mitochondria, which is particularly important as we age.
Antioxidants help to protect your cells and cell structures from reactive molecules like free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). While the body produces some antioxidants naturally, we can benefit from some extra support as we age to help protect the body from oxidative stress. Here’s a closer look at some of the potent antioxidants that may be able to provide some level of support to an aging body.
- Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that has been well-studied for its ability to support longevity. In animals, resveratrol has been shown to extend the lifespan of different organisms – and there’s also research to suggest that it activates specific genes that support healthy aging. Resveratrol has been shown to support the skin, brain and our cardiovascular health among many other things.
- Curcumin (the active compound found in turmeric) has been shown to support many factors that influence aging, from neutralizing free radicals and supporting oxidative stress to protecting our DNA.
- One of the most important antioxidants for maintaining optimal cellular health is CoQ10 – but the body’s natural production of CoQ10 declines with age, and low levels of CoQ10 have been associated with the aging process. MitoQ is an advanced form of CoQ10 that accumulates inside mitochondria (at levels hundreds of times higher than standard CoQ10 supplements!). Taking MitoQ won’t stop you from aging, but it may help your cells run more efficiently if there is an oxidative imbalance, which may help to rejuvenate your cells (and your body).
Protect your mitochondria
Mitochondria are involved in almost every process of the body. They play a crucial role in energy production, cell respiration, skin health, brain health and so much more – but they are also the most prolific producers of free radicals in the body. A hallmark of aging is the gradual slowing down of the body, which is something that our mitochondria experience before we do. Our cells’ mitochondria work tirelessly to supply our cells with ATP necessary for them to function, but over time, the body’s natural defense against free radicals declines and mitochondria can start to become less efficient. This means our cells and our body as a whole become less efficient, which can lead to premature aging. When you protect your mitochondria and support their ability to mitigate oxidative stress, they can continue operating at their optimal efficiency — and so can your body.
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