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Choosing life; extending health

The ultimate existential dread we all face as conscious human beings is our awareness of death, more precisely: the realisation that no matter what we do we cannot escape death. But that doesn’t mean we can’t slow down aging, and even if we were to die at a certain age, we don’t actually have to spend our final years suffering from the ill health of old age. At the heart of this goal lies the practicality of increasing well being whilst simultaneously living longer. 

For most of human history, suffering into old age was accepted as a natural law. This notion is being challenged by professors such as David Sinclair and Dr. Peter Attia; and their sight is set on improving healthspan alongside increased lifespan. 

Though improved healthspan may sound like a new term, it’s an age old desire (quite literally). Increasing healthspan simply refers to delaying your onset of disease as you grow in years. This means living a healthy life in terms of your physical, emotional and cognitive needs. Currently, most adults upon reaching old age typically die from one of four etiologies: cardiovascular/cerebrovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and accidents. The goal of reversing aging is to maintain peak health up to the point we die, which is hopefully many years later than we commonly accept. It is quite unsettling to acknowledge that currently, more individuals’ cognitive and physical peak occurs around 20-30 years old. By the time they are in their 80s, most people have reached the ‘halfway point’ of their existence and are functioning at around 50% of their cognitive and physical peak. No one wants to wait for this confined existence, and there are preventative measures we can take to dismiss this previously considered inevitability. 

There are basic pillars of health we can focus on, which include: sleep, nutrition, exercise and stress management. It is crucial that we first optimise these foundations before we focus our attention on the more recent scientific suggestions of biotechnology, biohacking, drugs and supplements. 

For sleep this includes getting 7-8 hours of sleep for most people, avoiding blue lights and strong lights late at night (especially from 11pm-4am, as this resets your circadian rhythm and pushes your natural sleep further back), looking at the sky first thing when you wake up for 5-10 minutes (as every cell in your body runs on a 24 hour clock and this sets your metabolic clock and informs your cells which components to be active and when), avoiding eating 2-3 hours before sleep (as more energy/blood is diverted to your gut and is harder for you to fall into a deeper sleep).

For nutrition this includes intermittent fasting (studies have shown that mice who eat within a restricted feeding time have less ailments and live longer) (this could be as simple as skipping breakfast and having a later lunch), avoiding processed foods and junk foods, avoiding seed oils, taking omega 3, vitamin D (with k2 for increased absorption), b12 (especially if you are vegetarian or vegan), collagen (decreases from your 20s onwards) and other supplements if you are lacking (can be checked by blood tests), eating organic and locally sourced when possible (greater nutrient retention), and eating a varied diet of predominately wholefoods.

For exercise this includes a mix of strength, stability, cardio (targeting muscular areas important for maintaining mobility and stability as we age). Examples of effective workouts include: heavy compound joint and hip-hinge training, intense interval training and body work. Not only do they maintain structural performance but also promote the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an important protector from cognitive loss and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as muscular insulin sensitivity. Sauna and cold showers also produce a hermetic effect (as does exercise), leading to long-term improvement in your body’s ability to handle DNA damage and inflammation.

For stress management this includes regular meditation (could be anything from mindfulless to TM), less social media exposure, reflection, journaling, spending more time with nature, dancing (literally anything you enjoy that helps you be more present).

All these practices have shown to increase your telomeres (typically, your telomeres shorten as you age), and reverse your biological age. Finally, it is important to spend time with people whose company you love (as human interaction and laughter releases molecules like dopamine and serotonin), but also because where’s the joy of living a longer and healthier life if you don’t enjoy it with the people you love?