Getting started on the road to a healthier and hopefully longer life.
Every day, researchers get together in their labs and try to find ways of bringing aging under medical control. Despite the ongoing global effort, it is estimated that a relatively complete system of controlling biological aging is at least 20 years away.
That means there is likely going to be considerable time before life extension technologies are available. In order to live long enough to benefit from them, developing a personal longevity strategy is a wise idea.
The goal therefore, would be to live at least another 20 years in relatively good health. The difficulty of this depends on how old you are now, but regardless of your age, you can develop a personal longevity strategy today. To help you on this path, we have created some practical health tips to help you take care of yourself and your family.
The first and most important step towards developing a personal longevity strategy is proper diagnostics.
Many diseases and conditions start silently. It’s possible to feel changes in the body without being able to attribute them to deficiencies or abnormal biomarkers. When we get sick, we simply feel bad or in pain. It is important to find out what is wrong – preferably, before it becomes a real problem.
To receive valuable data on your health, you can use three types of diagnostic tests. All of them are valuable, but some of them might be more appropriate than others in different cases.
- Genetic tests spot any genetic predisposition to a disease. Many companies now offer all sorts of genetic tests, from individual diseases to a full exome (the coding part of the genome) test or a full DNA test. In most cases, you only need to take such a broad test once in order to use its information to improve decision making and help your medical advisor understand your condition.
- Regular complex check-ups to see what is going on in your body. Complex checkups test a large number of biomarkers, such as lipid profile, thyroid hormones, glucose and insulin, biomarkers of the liver and kidney, inflammation biomarkers such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, and levels of certain vitamins and minerals that are vital for health and well-being. Biomarker composition normally changes with age, and older people may benefit from checking more things than younger people.
- Regular check-ups specific to your diseases or conditions that will show you how well treatments are working. If you are taking drugs for age-related diseases regularly check if each drug is working well and does not need replacement or dose adjustment. This way, you make sure that each treatment is beneficial and keeping your diseases under control.
Talk to your medical advisor
Most people don’t have a medical degree. While you can find lots of useful information on the internet, a visit to a doctor remains the most reliable way to get a proper assessment of your physical condition.
Properly interpreting data is vital for developing a good strategy, and a doctor may advise you on how to combine your treatments in a safe way if you need to address several issues at once. Some drugs may be incompatible, or your genetic layout may predispose you to a weak response to certain treatments. A doctor can also prescribe additional tests if the picture is unclear and there is no reliable diagnostic hypothesis.
Working together with medical advisors, we can achieve the best results possible. Here are some tips that may make your visit more effective:
- Describe your sensations in enough detail.
- Try to remember what happened before or after you felt that something was wrong, including social situations, sports, or overwork that may have served as stress factors
- List the medications that you are already taking and the reasons why you are taking them; this helps to exclude the influence of those medications on the diagnosis.
- Ask about the suspected diagnosis and how to confirm it.
- Ask about what can be done in your case, including the best strategy and the second-best strategy.
- Don’t forget to set another appointment to check how your treatment is going.
New supplements should be introduced one at a time
The range of dietary supplements is already overwhelmingly large and it is important to develop a science-based approach when considering taking them. Before taking anything, carefully check the information about each supplement and see if it can indeed be beneficial.
There is a lot of misleading marketing and overpriced supplements with little to no supporting data that they will do anything for longevity, so due diligence is a must before considering taking anything. Some supplements contain vitamins that might already be abundant in the body, some can interact with medical treatments in the wrong way, and some may be incompatible with you personally.
In any case, if you choose to take supplements, it makes sense to introduce only one supplement at a time into your regime and carefully check how you feel after it. If you use several new supplements or drugs at once and feel bad, you may never understand what exactly has happened nor which substance is causing issues.
Supplements should supplement a healthy lifestyle, not replace it
It is very tempting to stop working on maintaining a healthy lifestyle if you can just take a drug or a supplement that may prolong healthy life. However, the increase in healthy years that often come from a good diet and physical activity can easily compete with the effects of existing therapies that slow down age-related diseases.
This is largely explained by deeply ingrained genetic mechanisms that make mild hunger, physical activity, good sleep, and a diet with a low glycemic index beneficial for health. For thousands of years, humans have adjusted to harsh living conditions, such as hard work and long walks just to gather food, until the body learned how to use those survival efforts to postpone age-related diseases, reduce their risks, and stay healthy for longer. This legacy is not to be underestimated.
Some simple things you can do now
While we are waiting for powerful longevity treatments to arrive, here are some tips.
- Try to find out how many calories your body needs to be healthy and eat as close to this as is practical. A calorie counter app may help you to track your intake.
- Limit the amount of fast carbs in your diet. WHO recommends only 5% of your calorie intake be from free sugars, such as cakes and sweet drinks.
- Eat plenty of raw vegetables and fruits. According to WHO, over 400 grams of vegetables every day should provide health benefits. And fiber is good for beneficial gut bacteria.
- Try to walk more than 10000 steps a day. If you have health issues, adjust this number to your actual ability, but still move as much as you can
- If you are a healthy adult, do some intense physical activity 2-3 times a week. If you have some health issues, adjust this amount of exercise to your actual ability but still try to make your muscles work.
- Sleep in a room that is dark, ventilated, and cool enough. 7-8 hours of sleep seems to be a healthy amount of sleep. If your sleep is much shorter, you might need to discuss it with your medical advisor – as you age, the production of the sleep hormone melatonin decreases, and your advisor might recommend taking it as a supplement.
- Practice some self-regulation techniques – meditation or relaxation can contribute to better sleep and better control over your health behaviors.
- Saunas have a number of health benefits that relate to health and longevity, try to use them as often as possible. The mild heat stress causes your cells to produce protective proteins and increase the activity of cellular repair systems.
- Get rid of bad habits such as heavy drinking, smoking, and harmful drugs. These may reduce your healthy period of life because they accelerate aging.
Get some good company
It has been shown in numerous studies that social interaction can be beneficial for your health. Even though the pandemic currently requires many of us to limit in-person meetings and wear protective masks, having friends and communicating with relatives on a regular basis is important.
Apart from the enjoyment from human companionship, your relatives or friends may notice if something is going wrong and help you in case of a crisis. Helping other people may also have positive effects on your health.
People who volunteer often feel happier and more fulfilled in life than those who don’t. Centenarians are known to contribute to their social circles, which might be a factor why they live so long.
That is all we wanted to share today! In the meantime, we will continue providing you with research news about the interventions in development, so make sure to check our daily news stories, our weekly video news show, and our pop-sci series, which explores aging research in plain language.
Source: Lifespan.io is a nonprofit advocacy organization and news outlet covering aging and rejuvenation research.
Author: Elena Milova