Humanity is on the brink of a new age. This new age is defined not by a new generation X/Y/Z but by the resilience of each generation — the extension of life. This shift in how we view ourselves and the process of aging will have far-reaching consequences from healthcare to political policy. While it may seem futuristic, and the shift in society will take some time, there are actions you can take right now to for a longer life. This article outlines these key actions, while hopefully convincing you that your longevity is worth investing in.
If you’re interested in the steps that you can take today which might lead to a longer life, read on.
Billions of years ago, life developed mechanisms to make our bodies stronger and increase livelihood. Today, in Harvard Medical School, and other top institutions around the world, we’re finding out how these mechanisms work and what we can do to activate them. With this new research, we can reduce the suffering associated with aging and improve life on Earth.
The idea that organisms grow old and die “for the good of the species” dates back to Aristotle, but it’s not a given. There are various ‘immortal’ species existing in the modern day. Take the Turritopsis dohrnii, more commonly referred to as the immortal jellyfish, which is able to return to a younger version of itself. Or the Hydra which can regenerate parts of itself and has even been used to identify a protein that may be linked to longevity. These unique creatures show that immortality can be achieved ‘naturally’ with the right investment in evolution points.
Humans, on the other hand, with our current lifestyles, are not optimised towards longevity — there’s no debate. We’ve grown accustomed to satisfying our short-term desires by pushing back things which will help us in the long run. This has been fairly easy to do, since “we’re all going to die eventually, why bother?”, but now viable technologies to extend our lives by decades are on the horizon, so there’s a chance at longer lives. For the youngest among us, maybe even immortality.
What can you do today, in order to increase your lifespan?
Steps to a Longer Life
First-off, let’s start with the ones you’ve probably heard before, but should pay more attention to:
- Exercise: take a lot of steps each day and walk up stairs, go to the gym. Exercise is the simplest way to start shifting the needle towards a longer life and is one of the most accessible for people in all walks of life.
- Eat plants: eat a lot of plants and try to avoid eating other mammals, even though they do taste good. Plants are known to be high in all the nutrients that we need for a functioning biological system, they’re what we’ve survived on for millions of years. While you’re at it, avoid foods high in sugar, such as dessert (just have a taste if you must). With all this, you don’t have to be 100% strict, for example, you can eat meat after working out when you need extra protein for regeneration.
- Watch your weight: Aim to keep my body weight or BMI in the optimal range for healthspan, which tends to be around 23 to 25 (though can vary by person). This can generally be achieved by monitoring your input (what you eat) and your output (how much you exercise).
- Don’t Smoke: this is probably the most obvious on the list, but smoking has been linked with numerous cancers and you should just downright avoid it. There’s also some research that shows that second-hand smoking (from those around you) can cause problems. If you can, avoid hanging around people who are smoking with you, asking them to do it at another time if it’s acceptable.
- Avoid: microwaved plastic as all sorts of bad things can get into the food; excessive UV exposure, X-rays, and CT scans which can damage DNA and create mutations that may eventually grow into tumours.
Somethings you might want to try, and are also more commonly accepted include:
- Fasting: try to skip one meal a day or at least make it really small. If you’re a busy person, then this an easy one and many may already be doing it. The 16/8 intermittent fast is a popular one in which you designate an 8 hour window in which you can consume food, e.g. 12–8pm, outside of which you should only consume water.
- Stay cool: stay on the cool side during the day and when you sleep at night. This will lead to the generation of more brown adipose tissue, something which otherwise disappears as we grow older.
Getting a little more technical, there are various vitamins and supplements that have shown great results during testing, such as on mice, as well as anecdotal evidence on humans:
- NMN: Take 1 gram (1,000 mg) of NMN every morning, along with 1 gram of resveratrol (e.g. shaken into homemade yogurt) and 1 gram of metformin. These chemical cocktails have all been linked with longevity — definitely read up on them before starting any regime.
- Biomarker analysis: Every few months, you can consider visiting a phlebotomist who can draw your blood to analyse for dozens of biomarkers linked to a healthy lifestyle. This analysis can indicate when any of your biomarkers are not optimal, which can then be moderated with food, exercise, or other techniques.
A Hint of the Future
It’s interesting to consider what would happen if everyone started following the suggestions above. Would the population rapidly increase, causing environmental destruction on our already overwhelmed world? Would it greater widen the gap between those in poverty and those with access to the tools for greater longevity? Would we begin to re-evaluate somewhat risky activities such as driving as they become more common than disease as a form of death? Would a longer lifespan lead to greater knowledge acquisition and increase our intelligence as a species? A lot of interesting questions, and in the coming years we’ll see these play out in real-time.
If you’re uncertain about all this, just remember that aging doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of life. Once we accept this, it becomes a lot easier to take better care of ourselves and invest in our future. Especially when there are easy steps such as exercise and diet that we can take to start moving in the right direction — stay healthy!
Keep in mind that with all things in life, there is a balance. Happiness is one of the key indicators of a long life, so we shouldn’t be making too many sacrifices to pursue longevity. Instead, through education and understanding, we can take small steps and begin moving in the right direction.
A lot of this content comes from Sinclair’s Lifespan, so if you’re interested in learning more, check it out! Ray Kurtzweil has some interesting discussions on the topic too, though sometimes a little more outlandish.