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3 Ways of Living That Will Make You Live Longer

Most people want to live a long and happy life – or at least avoid a short and miserable one. If you’re in that majority, then you’re in luck. Over the last decade, a quiet research revolution has occurred in our understanding of the biology of aging.

The challenge is to turn this knowledge into advice and treatments we can benefit from. Here we bust the myth that lengthening healthful life expectancy is science fiction, and show that it is instead scientific fact.

1. Nutrition and lifestyle

There’s plenty of evidence for the benefits of doing the boring stuff, such as consuming right. A study of large groups of ordinary people show that keeping the weight off, not smoking, restricting alcohol to moderate amounts and eating at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetable a day can increase your life expectancy by seven to 14 years compared with someone who smokes, drinks too much and is overweight.

Cutting down calories even more – by about a third, so-called dietary restriction – improves health and extends life in mice and monkeys, as long as they consume the right stuff, though that’s a tough ask for people constantly exposed to food temptation. The less extreme versions of time-restricted or intermittent fasting – only consuming during an eight-hour window every day, or fasting for two days every week – is thought to decrease the risk of middle-aged people getting age-related diseases.

2. Physical activity

You can’t outrun a bad diet, but that doesn’t mean that workout does not do good things. Globally, inactivity directly causes roughly 10% of all premature deaths from chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, Type two diabetes and various cancers. If everyone on Earth got enough exercise tomorrow, the effect would probably be to increase healthy human life expectancy by nearly a year.

But how much exercise is optimal? Very high levels are actually bad for you, not simply in terms of torn muscles or sprained ligaments. It can suppress the immune system and increase the risk of upper respiratory illness. Just over 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity is enough for most people. Not only does that make you stronger and fitter, it has been shown to minimize harmful inflammation and even improve mood.

3. Boosting the immune system

However fit you are and well you eat, your immune system will, unfortunately, get less effective as you get older. Poor responses to vaccination and an inability to fight infection are consequences of this “immunosenescence”. It all starts to go downhill in early adulthood when the thymus – a bowtie-shaped organ in your throat – starts to wither.

That sounds bad, but it’s even more alarming when you realize that the thymus is the place immune agents called T cells learn to fight infections. Closing such a major education center for T cells means that they can’t learn to recognize new infections or fight off cancer successfully in older people.

You can help – a bit – by making sure you have enough key vitamins, especially A and D. A promising area of research is looking at signals that the body sends to help make more immune cells, particularly a molecule called IL-7. We may additionally soon be able to produce drugs that contain this molecule, potentially boosting the immune system in older people.

Another approach is to use the food supplement spermidine to trigger immune cells to clear out their internal garbage, such as damaged proteins, which improves the elderly immune system so much that it’s now being tested as a way of getting better responses to COVID vaccines in older people.

Originally published: Market Watch

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