New science is unveiling a different, though controversial, way to look at conditions related to the inevitable aging process. Experts have been uncovering the root of aging from a cellular level that can manifest in many of the diseases considered a “normal” part of getting older. From this, aging “treatments” in health have become mainstream with a promise to prevent or attempt to reverse aging.
Ever wonder why some people get age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, cataracts, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease, while others do not? Longevity scientists have the same question. Diseases and conditions once regarded as a “normal” part of getting older are now being framed as preventable, as more evidence shows the root cause of these health-related issues from a cellular level. This new body of research around aging science has emerged, introducing age-defying “treatments” that many believe can prevent or reverse aging from inside out.
Biology vs. Chronology
“Act your age,” they say. There may be some truth to that. There is a scientific difference between chronological age (how old you are in years) and biological age (how old you are in health). This is measured through a blood tests to determine DNA methylation or telomere length (essentially, genetic testing). For example, a person could be 50 years old, but the status of their internal health could equate them to a 60-year-old. Scientists speculate that aging is “a series of processes that include direct damage, accumulation of cellular waste, errors, and imperfect repairs as well as the responses to them.” Biological age is largely determined by lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, sleep, stress, presence of environmental toxins, etc. – any long-term pattern of unhealthy behaviors and exposure.
To combat biological aging and the possible diseases that come with the breakdown of healthy cellular activity in the body, the obvious are true: eat a healthy diet, sleep at least 7-8 hours a night, learn to reduce and manage stress, don’t smoke or drink excessively, stay active. Other lesser-known behaviors have come into play as research around aging hits the mainstream market.
Fasting & Intermittent Fasting
Science around limiting food intake or consuming within a specific window of time has exploded over the past few years. Longevity scientists believe – and have proven – that calorie restriction can slow the aging process, and in some cases, reverse biological aging. In past studies, fasting without malnutrition and fasting-mimicking diets have been shown to extend lifespans and reduce diseases like cancer. Of course, reducing food intake can be dangerous if not monitored by a physician, but the research behind its effects are impressive.
Hot/Cold Temperature Exposure
Pushing the body to its limit temperature-wise has long been associated with living a longer life. Cold exposure like Cryotherapy and ice baths can help reduce inflammation (the root cause of many diseases), and also induce “hormesism” or an adaptation to a stressor that promotes cellular health, strength, and efficiency in the body. Similarly, exposure to hot conditions (eg. sauna therapy) can provide similar benefits, with added support in decreasing oxidative damage when exposed to infrared saunas.
Nutrition & Supplementation
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods is associated with health and longevity, but scientists have also discovered compounds that can support cellular health directly and prevent aging internally. NAD (nicotinamide riboside), a form of vitamin B, supports mitochondrial health which is responsible for protecting cell health, maintaining sleep cycles and repairing damaged DNA. PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), naturally found in green tea and green peppers, is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from free radicals. Other supplements in the form of protein (collagen protein, whey protein) have been touted for their benefits in providing essential amino acids to support the development of healthy tissues in the body. Note: Supplements can come with added risks and are not regulated, so be mindful when considering adding to your diet or speak with your doctor for more information regarding your health.
With longevity research dominating the health and wellness industry, does this mean we’ll eventually find a way to live forever? Likely not. However, understanding the root causes of age-related conditions may shed light on potentially beneficial preventive measures to take to reduce the probability of future disease. Either way, perspectives are changing on health as we begin to consider aging as a disease, instead an unavoidable path towards illness.