The following is excerpted from “The Science and Technology of Growing Young” by Sergey Young.
If you are under 60 and in reasonably good health, I believe you will witness some groundbreaking health care advances within your lifetime. And, I believe, you will be able to grow young with the aid of these astonishing new technologies.
Living to at least 100 is within reach for most people on the planet today. In the U.S., 50% currently make it past 83 and 25% past 90. Going forward, these numbers will only improve for anyone who follows what I call a longevity-optimized lifestyle.
My advice: do everything possible to improve your chances of being around to take advantage of the successive waves of scientific improvement. How? Follow my 10 longevity choices that can help you extend your lifespan:
1. Get your health checked. Early diagnosis is critical for the prevention of disease and age-related decline. So, get yourself checked regularly and as comprehensively as possible.
At a minimum, get a complete annual physical exam that includes blood count and metabolic blood chemistry panels, a thyroid panel and testing to reveal potential deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B, iron and magnesium.
One in nine men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime, almost all of them after 50. If caught early, the prostate cancer survival rate is almost 100%. But that figure drops to 31% if it’s first caught in stage 4. The case for colonoscopies is much the same. Women over 40 should get an annual breast exam, mammogram, ultrasound and an occasional Pap smear to check for breast, ovarian and cervical cancer.
Ask your doctor which tests are relevant for you — your physician may recommend additional tests based on your family history.
Direct-to-consumer diagnostic tests, like ones from 23andMe /zigman2/quotes/222659849/composite ME +16.37% , Nebula Genomics and Thryve, also offer convenient, low-cost ways to study your genes, epigenome (chemical compounds that modify the genome) and gut flora (microorganisms in the digestive tract). Identifying genetic mutations that cause hereditary diseases lets you take proactive action to prevent disease and promote a healthier lifestyle.
Don’t ignore DIY diagnostic tools. Smartwatches can tell you a lot about your cardiovascular health, mole-checking apps can help protect you from skin cancer, sleep-tracking wearables can help monitor your slumber. And don’t overlook the good old-fashioned bathroom scale — obesity is one of the biggest independent predictors of disease.
2. Quit your bad habits. I’m talking about cigarettes, alcohol and sugar.
Cigarette smoking is easily the biggest “no-no” for longevity seekers. It causes 90% of lung cancer deaths and 80% of all other pulmonary diseases; increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke two to four times and raises your risk of getting cancer at least 25 times. Statistically, cigarette smoking shaves 10 years off your life. I kicked the habit on Aug. 15, 1994, after four years of heavy inhalation.
While drinking red wine in moderation probably has positive effects on cardiovascular health, brain health and metabolism, all alcohol — including red wine — can shorten your life.
High and regular use of alcohol can damage your liver and pancreas, cause high blood pressure, increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, bring on immune system disorders and lead to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps the most frightening ill effect of alcohol is its ability to cause cancer.
Heavy drinking is likely to cause health problems that knock a few years off your lifespan . Excess drinking also ultimately reduces blood sugar, as your pancreas fights to restore balance and that tends to make you hungry and overeat.
Stick with a glass or two of wine over a weekend at most. The potential damage of heavy drinking is just not worth overdoing it.
Of all our bad habits, sugar is probably the most under-recognized killer of all. The American diet is loaded with sugar — in cereals, baked goods, soft drinks, fast food, frozen vegetables, canned fruit, yogurt, salad dressing and pretty much every processed food you can imagine.
Over time, excess sugar wears out the pancreas, which stops producing insulin, or else cells “shut down” and stop accepting glucose. When you consume more sugar than your body needs, it gets converted into fat. Together, these result in a cluster of health conditions known as insulin resistance syndrome or metabolic syndrome, increasing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Obesity reduces life expectancy by five to 20 years.
In the right doses, sugars from fruits, vegetables and even grains play an important role in a healthy diet. I eat fruits, and treat myself to an ice cream once a month. But make no mistake about it — excess sugar is poison. To lessen your intake, avoid all processed foods and sugary drinks.
3. Don’t do dumb things. Unintentional poisoning is the leading cause of accidental death in the world and there are hundreds of thousands of accidental poisonings from pain medications, sedatives, antidepressants, cardiovascular drugs and household cleaning substances.
Follow medication warning labels, be careful with vapors from cleaning fluids, perfumes and other liquids and securely store pesticides, paint, batteries and other household hazards.
Following close on the heels of poisoning are road accidents, which claim about 40,000 lives in the U.S. every year. The root causes of many of these accidents: speeding, reckless driving, drunken driving, inclement weather and distraction. If you are still texting, talking on the phone, eating, reading or fiddling excessively with your dashboard dials while operating a motor vehicle, I beg you — stop!
4. Eat early, and less often. Eating less food will extend your life by as much as seven years. Caloric restriction predictably reduces common health problems like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline as well as the likelihood of obesity and insulin resistance.
As counterintuitive as it initially seems, slightly starving yourself improves and strengthens your health. For those just setting out in the world of calorie restriction, I suggest starting with a 16:8-hour intermittent fasting regimen. This is where you eat all your meals within one eight-hour period — for instance, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or between 10 and 6.
As you become more comfortable with time-restricted eating, you can consider bumping up to an 18:6 model, where you eat all your calories between noon and 6, for instance.
Clinical data show that intermittent fasting improves weight loss, insulin stability, cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as energy and mental alertness, and it can also add years to your life.
I also recommend eating more of your calories early in the day, which aids weight loss, reduces blood sugar, insulin and triglycerides and causes you to burn twice the calories of those who eat large dinners.
5. Let food be thy medicine. Poor diet is the number-one driver of noncommunicable disease world-wide, killing at least 11 million people every year. High salt intake encourages stroke and heart disease. Cancer is linked to processed foods and red meat. Excess calorie intake drives obesity and diabetes. And I’ve already talked about the dangers of sugar.
So what should you eat?