9 Ways to Extend Your Lifespan & Healthspan
The amount of time we live is called lifespan. The length of time that a person is healthy and functional—not just alive—is called healthspan. Scientific understanding in these areas is advancing rapidly. Below are 12 things that will help on your journey to a longer healthier you.
1. Boost NAD+ Levels
There’s a strong consensus among anti-aging experts that boosting NAD+ is important for healthy aging—the body makes much less NAD+ as we get older. Cells make NAD+ from L-tryptophan and vitamin B3 (niacin), and these constituents are part of the recipe for boosting NAD+. The resveratrol and oligomeric proanthocyanidins compounds found within the skins and seeds grapes have been demonstrated to upregulated the capacity to make NAD+ in studies, and represent another opportunity for optimizing NAD+. We recommend reading Targeting NAD+ in Metabolic Disease: New Insights Into an Old Molecule for those interested in learning more about the science of NAD+.
2. Power Up with ATP
Mitochondria are specialized organelles within our cells. They are responsible for converting food into cellular energy in the form of ATP. It’s estimated that we make (and use) approximately our body weight of ATP every day – when we are young. As we age, the ability to make ATP decreases substantially. When cells don’t have sufficient ATP many signs and symptoms of aging occur or get worse. Nutrients that play an important role in ATP production include (1) CoQ10, (2) magnesium, and (3) creatine. To find out more we recommend reading, Optimal Wellness, Part 4: Energy, Mitochondria and Toxicity.
3. Create Fit Mitochondria
Individual cells contain hundreds of mitochondria. Over time, more and more mitochondria become damaged as part of normal metabolism. Selectively eliminating dysfunctional mitochondria (mitophagy) and replacing them with new mitochondria (mitochondrial biogenesis) helps us stay biologically younger. Nutrients like lipoic acid and pyrroloquinoline quinone, and the herb black ginger (Kaempferia parviflora) support these mitochondrial processes. One of the best mitochondrial foods is dark chocolate. To get the most benefits from dark chocolate look for higher cocoa content and eat a few squares of chocolate a day. We recommend Bulletproof Original Dark Chocolate Fuel Bars. To find out more we recommend reading “Can Dark Chocolate Help You Get Fit?”
4. Activate AMPK
AMPK is the master cellular energy sensor. It coordinates the cellular and mitochondrial response needed to restore ATP when levels are low. When AMPK is activated it increases ATP and NAD+. A positive side effect of activating AMPK in muscle and fat is improved healthspan, especially in areas overlapping with metabolic health (body fat, lean mass, blood sugar, etc). Some plant polyphenol compounds (apigenin, resveratrol, rutin) activate AMPK. Mitochondrial nutrients such as CoQ10 and lipoic acid support AMPK.
5. Calorie Restriction and Calorie Restriction Mimetics
Strategies focused on limiting calorie amount or timing are being explored for longevity and healthspan. Four of these are (1) sustaining a decreased daily caloric intake (classical calorie restriction of 15-40%); (2) limiting daily intake of food to a 4- to 12-hour window (time-restricted feeding); (3) following an eating pattern with days of periodic full or partial fasting (intermittent fasting); and (4) a specialized meal program designed to induce a fasting-like state (fasting mimicking diet or FMD). Taking one or more calorie restriction mimetics—plant compounds like resveratrol that cause cells to respond in some of the same ways—appear to offer some of the physiological benefits of limiting calories without actually having to eat less (or be hungry). For more information on the four practices we mentioned read a recent article published in Science called A Time to Fast.
6. Exercise and Exercise Mimetics
Exercise is one of the most powerful habits for enhancing healthspan. Nutrients that mimic some of these beneficial effects are called exercise mimetics. Examples of exercise mimetic compounds include HMB, creatine, and carnitine, as well as plant a plant compound called ursolic acid (found in rosemary and other plants). A good scientific review article is “Nutraceuticals” in relation to human skeletal muscle and exercise.
7. Body Clock
What cells do is important… when they do it is also important, with “when” being dependent on body clock function (i.e., the circadian rhythm). Regulation of many cellular processes is timed. This timing component allows cells to work effectively, scheduling processes so they don’t interfere with each other, while allocating finite resources most efficiently. We’ll be writing a post exploring this topic in greater detail in the coming weeks but a citrus bioflavonoid called nobiletin (found in small amounts in peels of sweet oranges, blood oranges and tangerines) has been identified as a clock modulating compound. Clock function suffers with aging—this is thought to contribute to unhealthy aging (if interested in some of the science read more at The aging clock: circadian rhythms and later life). Doing things that keep clock function working well is part of an overall healthy aging strategy.
8. Get Sufficient High Quality Sleep
Sleep is one of the pillars of high performance. The benefits of sleep include better brain function, muscle recovery, hormone balance, longevity, and fat burning. It is truly the foundation of our health and the foundation of our body and mind. In short if you want to live longer, feel better, and perform better, it pays to understand how sleep impacts your body. If you’re ready to start sleeping better read How to Sleep Better and Wake Up Ready to Go and find out why sleep matters, how much sleep you really need, and science-backed sleep hacks to improve your sleep.
9. Watch Dan Buettner’s TED Talk on How to live to be 100+
In this 20-minute talk from 2009, Dan Buettner shares his team’s findings from studying people who live in the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. He shares the 9 common diet and lifestyle habits that keep them spry past age 100.
Health & Beauty Tips
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