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Ways to maximise longevity while living your best life

  • Longevity hackers are on a quest to solve the ageing problem forever, but the key to slow down ageing may well be in our own hands

Engaging in regular exercise can significantly impact how well and how long you live
Engaging in regular exercise can significantly impact how well and how long you live (Unsplash/Gabin Vallet)

If you could live to be 1,000 years old, would you? Aubrey de Grey thinks so. As a relentless pursuer of longevity hacking, he believes that with the proper medical interventions, we as a society must solve the “ageing problem” and give humanity the right to live as long as they want to. Scientifically justified or not, he thinks this can happen soon. If you feel a sudden sense of unease, you’re not alone. The possibility of endlessly living affects our entire value system of time and worth. As time is a precious commodity, we are encouraged to disengage from the world around us and stop to smell the roses to enjoy life more deeply, to “live in the moment”. If we had all the time in the world, would our special moments mean as much?

Whether 1,000 years is realistic or not, we are living longer as a species. The proof exists. In 2020, the World Economic Forum reported that there were over half a million people worldwide – currently over 100, and that number is rising. Thanks to an improved medical system, increased wealth, and better lifestyles, we are living long enough to battle age-related diseases. However, the scientific community is interested in discovering if we can “solve or hack” the ageing problem for good.

However, what does the average person want? There will always be pioneers like de Grey who are disruptive enough to push the envelope of our understanding of the world. However, a Norwegian study indicated that most people don’t want to live to infinite times yonder in the distant future – they want to live slightly past their average expiry date and live those years well. According to research by Big Think, average Norwegians said 91 was the ideal age to pass, Americans indicated 93, and Germans indicated 85. To put this into perspective, Norwegians have a life expectancy of 83 years, Americans have 77 years, and Germans 80 years. 

The same study showed that when the same group of people was asked how long they would like to live if they had dementia, chronic pain, loneliness, poverty, etc., their responses dropped. That means, when talking about maximizing our longevity, we’re not talking about living a millennium, we are simply aiming to ‘beat the odds’ while still living our best lives. How do we do that?

Also read: Why you should increase your core strength for a healthy life

“Inflammageing" and oxidative damage

Those of us over 35 know intimately well the groans that escape our mouths getting up from the floor – our bodies naturally start to break down over time. Scientists have identified two significant factors behind ageing: “inflammageing” and oxidative stress. According to a paper titled “Inflammageing: Chronic Inflammation in Ageing, Cardiovascular Disease, and Frailty,” inflammation is when the body shifts to a pro-inflammatory state, and it doesn’t resolve itself. The result of this relentless increase of inflammation can be age-related diseases. According to a publication in Clinical Interventions in Ageing, the oxidative stress theory of ageing is that damage within our cells accumulates over time, leading to age-related disease and functional or organ impairment. Inflammageing and oxidative stress can produce age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus and dementia, to name a few.

The genetic argument 
We blame a lot on genetics but dig deeper and you may find people in your family tree who actively contributed to their oxidative damage and inflammageing. They may have been lifelong smokers, lacked required sleep, lived sedentary lifestyles, and ate a lot of pro-inflammatory foods. That begs the question, did they have “poor genetics” to live a longer life, or did their choices impact their lifespan?

Jamie Justice, an assistant professor of gerontology at Wake Forest University, interviewed by the Washington Post, said that our longevity is approximated by 25% of our genetics and 75% by our lifestyle choices. An article published by National Geographic expanded on this, saying humans can “self-engineer” their genetics. We can influence our genes, which is called ‘epigenetic’. Epigenetics is when our lifestyle decisions change how our bodies react to our DNA, and every decision we make toward our health and well-being toggles on or off certain gene expressions. For example, how exercise has been shown to reduce some instances of cancer, according to “Exercise Impacts Epigenome of Cancer”. This is an exciting thought – the more healthy behaviors we employ, the longer we live.

Also read: Why exercise helps with inflammation

Lifestyle and diet
There are many other complex processes outside of inflammageing, oxidative stress and epigenetics to influence ageing. Even de Grey has yet to be able to hack this entire problem. However, if we know that our lifestyle significantly impacts how our bodies age, the next logical step is to set out the basic actions to become longevity hackers of our lifespan.

The first recommendation is to exercise. A paper published by Biogerontology titled “Towards ageing well: Use it or Lose it: Exercise, epigenetics, and Cognition” is clear – exercise is available to everyone and can significantly impact how well and how long you live. The general baseline recommendation is to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity weekly exercise.

The second recommendation is to limit the junk you put in your body, including cancerous substances from smoking and alcohol consumption, which are a significant cause of oxidative stress.

The third is to eat well. Omega 3s, found in fish, nuts, eggs, and fortified foods, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Including more sources of these foods in your diet while reducing processed foods (heavy in Omega 6, which is pro-inflammatory) will help rebalance the inflammation associated with ageing.

Some fascinating information is being discovered about a particular carotenoid found in plants, fungi, algae, and bacteria called Astaxanthin (ASX), a potent antioxidant. According to the paper, “The Role of Astaxanthin as a Nutraceutical in Health and Age-Related Conditions”, it is 6000 times more potent than vitamin C, 770 times more potent than CoQ-10, and 100 times more powerful than Vitamin E. You can buy astaxanthin as a dietary supplement. However, it’s best to discuss the addition of any supplement into your diet with your doctor first. It’s also important to note that while astaxanthin sounds powerful, the jury is still out on whether it can help you live longer, but it is possible that it can help you live better.

And this is the final crux of the longevity argument – we have no control group of our own lives to know how long we were meant to live and if all our daily actions were direct contributions. However, we know that our actions can impact the outcome - the healthier you live your life now, the more chances you have to enjoy a longer one. 

Also read: Improve your quality of life with these great tips


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