Can we live to 150 and beyond?
Preventative strategies that can increase your potential lifespan (Part 2)
The field of life extension is full of empty promises, charlatans, and hucksters. It is also home to some of the world's best and well-funded scientists.
Notables such as David Sinclair, Ray Kurzweil, and Aubrey DeGrey paint an optimistic future extension of the human lifespan. All three experts agree that the longest-lived person has already been born and will likely live well past Jeanne Calment's record of 122 years old. However, each visionary has a different prediction for achieving this milestone.
While the first part of this series addressed the question of if it is possible to live past 150 years of age, the second part will address the how.
Some think we will get there through future AI-driven technological advancement or pharmaceuticals. Others believe we should focus on better diagnostics and treatments for the four most common killers, namely heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and metabolic syndrome.
Much has been written about the prospect of living to 150 and beyond. A recent study found that the human lifespan could be limitless. Some, like Aubrey DeGray, believe that aging should be treated like a disease that can be "cured" if we unlock the right combination of preventative strategies and treatments.
Others like David Sinclair believe in lifestyle changes such as frequent exercise, caloric restriction, and a cocktail of promising drugs including metformin and rapamycin, both of which have had successful clinical trials - one in mice and one in humans - and are quite safe in small doses. Convincing the FDA to approve a drug for prophylactic prevention of aging versus treatment of disease will likely pose a challenge.
On the other hand, Futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that the solution to aging will be an AI-driven, nanobot injection that will clean up senescent (aging) cells, arterial plaques, and pre-cancerous cells. These bots will essentially eat the top two killers - heart disease and cancer - which still kill five out of every six people in North America.
Which model will win in the future, and how can we use this information to my advantage and they've to 150? The short answer is to start early with the information you have and adjust the plan as we learn more.
The ideal longevity strategy should focus both on the prevention of disease, namely the four most common killers, and early diagnostics.
Having a family physician willing to run more than just a standard blood panel, along with referrals to specialists, when appropriate, has been one of the critical factors in my health strategy.
In my case, the men in my family don't live long. Most of them are dead by the age of 65 of either heart disease or stroke, i.e., cardiovascular disease, still the number one killer of men in developed countries. I reasoned that my first order of business would be to avoid getting heart disease at all costs.
Down the rabbit hole, I went with lab tests, diet experiments (from vegan to carnivore), as well as a healthy dose of exercise. I quickly realized this would not be enough to solve the problem of my "genetic shortcomings," which can play a moderate role in health status and an even greater role when it comes to lifespan, as we discussed in Part 1.
After much experimentation, study, and consultation with experts, my life extension strategy can be divided into four methods: Fuel, fitness, sleep, and function.
(None of this should be taken as personal health advice and consult your physician before taking any steps you read here)
When it comes to diet, because of the potential for cardiac events as I age into my 40s, my food intake consists of high protein, moderate carbohydrate, and lower fat simply because that's what suits me best and helps keep my numbers down.
I do count calories, and I do count my macros. I'm not saying everybody should do this, but it is often a good starting point for somebody who doesn't consciously pay attention to what they're eating throughout the day. You'd be surprised what you'll learn about your diet simply by tracking how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume throughout the day.
For exercise to be effective, it needs to be 1) fun and 2) varied. Simply running on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day will only ever make me good at running on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day.
I've been doing CrossFit for 15 years. I enjoy it immensely, and the variability that CrossFit provides in terms of high-intensity interval training (fast cardio) combined with strength training and gymnastics (mobility) has been the right formula for me.
I have also incorporated martial arts training into my fitness routine for almost 20 years, initially with Muay Thai kickboxing and now Jiu-Jitsu. I consider this my long and slow "zone 2" cardio training. I am working out in the fat-burning zone to stay lean and keep my heart healthy.
Sleep is fundamental for repair and recovery, and it's something that's been sorely lacking in my life. I try to get between seven and eight hours a night which is not difficult, but the quality of sleep can be lacking.
I sleep in a dark, cold room with black-out blinds to improve sleep quality. I have also found that having a routine before bed to calm my nervous system down, reading, avoiding stimulants late in the day, and magnesium supplementation, seems to help me fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
When it comes to taking care of the human frame, practices such as mobility training, massage, chiropractic care, etc., are essential for taking care of the joints in my body. I want to be independent and able to move well as I age. It is not enough to focus solely on diet and exercise at the expense of my knees, hips, shoulders, and spine health.
I have a daily movement practice that takes 10 to 15 minutes a day called CARs (controlled articular rotations). I stretch, visit the chiropractor, and go for massage therapy, saunas, flotations, and cryotherapy at least monthly.
Again, this is what's worked for me, and I'm trying to give people a simple framework for building their longevity practice.
Finally, in addition to all the preventative strategies listed above, to make it to 150 and beyond we will need new advancements in health care, technological developments, and a bit of luck along the way.
The key here is to begin early in life, have a great doctor on board with doing extra testing, and most importantly, we need to live long enough to take advantage of any future advancements in health and longevity. While it may not guarantee us a spot in the 100+ club, better prevention will give us an edge over previous generations.