Article by Ceri Wheeldon
It might be a little too late for our generation to reach 120, but according to scientists , a 120 year life span is feasible for people being born today. But if we live longer, what can we do to ensure our later years are healthy and productive? I asked Yuri Medzinovsky, Director General of Longevity & Beauty Residence GLMED, and some of his medical colleagues about the prospects for extending lifespan to 120 years (and staying active and healthy as well) There is a lot of information so I have split the answers into three separate posts to make it a little easier to digest.
This is the first of 3 posts detailing Yuri and his team’s answers. You might want to grab a cuppa if you are thinking of reading all three in one sitting!
This one covers the impact of lifestyle
Part 2 talks specifically about telomeres, and the role of peptides in healthy ageing and Part 3 covers the difference between our biological age and our chronological age, and the things that we can do to reduce our biological age.
Lifestyle and Ageing
Q. What can we do to delay ageing – but also live a healthy life?
An: Following a healthy lifestyle affects only 50 % of one’s ageing process. The rest belongs to factors that are harder for us to change: environment accounts for 20%, hereditary background, 20-25%, and healthcare, 5%. Due to the complex nature of the human body, attempts to slow the ageing processes should be carried out and monitored under the supervision of an experienced practitioner in the field of Internal, Preventive and Anti-ageing medicine who follows an approach based on the latest scientific research.
Q. What foods delay ageing, and what foods speed it up?
Nutrients delay ageing:
- colourful diet (7-10 serving of fruits and vegetables daily) is a source of antioxidants and fibre
- beans, peas, lentils and sunflower seeds are a good source of folate, which is essential to create and repair DNA
- whole grains (source of fibre and vitamins B, PP )
- extra virgin olive oil
- fish rich in fatty acids (twice a week, particularly wild salmon)
- regularly eating a small handful of raw nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), which may have protective properties against cardiovascular diseases
- avocado (contains a seven-carbon sugar, mannoheptulose, which inhibits glycolytic pathways and increase median lifespan)
Nutrients speed up ageing:
- high salt food,
- charred red meat,
- saturated fat (butter, ect)
- sugar+ baked goods+ high glycemic index carbs
- refined oils
- microwave dinner
- bacon, ham (animal fats)
- fried fast food
- trans fats
Q: Mediterranean diet – what makes the Mediterranean diet so effective, and a factor in longevity?
An: The Mediterranean diet is a dietary pattern that is very popular because of its health benefits (39). The routine consumption of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains helps deliver an abundant supply of fibre and antioxidants that have then potential to protect telomeres. It has been proven that people who follow this diet have longer telomeres than the relevant control group (Marin, 2012;Boccardi, 2013).Telomeres get shorter every time a cell divides, and factors like stress and inflammation in the body may also shorten telomeres.
The Mediterranean diet is also rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help prevent inflammation in the body. Moreover, fibre provides for the permanent removal of toxins from the intestines. Another interesting fact about the Mediterranean diet is that eating three to five ounces of fish each week and consuming no more than 3.5 ounces of red meat each day may provide considerable protection against a loss of brain cells that is equivalent to about three to four years ageing.
Q: Physical exercise – how much exercise do we need and what type of exercise?
An: A healthy physical activity regimen should be selected according to the patient’s health status and be tailored to an individual, taking into an account the results of one’s health tests. Normally, for adults aged 18-64 years aiming to increase their lifespan, we recommend regular aerobic physical activity for 2.5 hours at moderate intensity – or 1.25 hours at vigorous intensity- each week. Moderate activities are those during which a person could talk but not sing. Vigorous activities are those during which a person could say only few words without stopping breathing. Such activities will help extend life expectancy by up to 4.5 years according to recommendations of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, it is necessary to do stretching exercises twice a week to preserve flexibility in the spine and joints and maintain mobility to ensure appropriate quality of life. Furthermore, techniques to manage stress should be included, such as regular meditation, because these help us avoid the harmful effects of negative emotions on our health and consequently on life expectancy.
Mental Exercise and Ageing
Q. Mental exercise- what is the best way to exercise our brain – and why is mental exercise so important?
An: As we age, our brain cells, called neurons, lose the tree-branch-like connections that link them. These connections, or synapses, are essential in supporting our thought processes. Quite literally, over time, our brains lose their heft. In the concept of healthy ageing, the maintenance of adequate cognitive functions plays one of the important roles in the preservation of a high quality of life. To achieve this goal in the GLMED Longevity & Beauty Residence, during the annual comprehensive anti-ageing programme we apply 3 types of interventions in the module called “Revitalization of the nervous system”.
After measuring cognitive ageing by special neuropsychological tests, we make use of neuro-specific peptide bioregulators, which restores the connection between neurons and increases neuron survival under various stress conditions. It also activates metabolism and recovery processes in neurons in order to create an appropriate environment for mental exercises, which are the second stage of the module. In the best cases, we consider teaching the brain new tricks, such as solving crosswords and logic games. The third stage is the consolidation and prolongation of the achieved cognitive compensation. This includes overcoming bad habits to eliminate brain-specific poisons (such as smoking and toxic chemicals in products we use regularly), aerobic exercises to boost the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain supply it with nutrients, and exercises to improve fine motor coordination.
Q. Stress free – how does stress affect the body when it comes to ageing and what can we do to reduce stress?
An: Chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate biological ageing and evidence of this comes from studies confirming its adverse effects on immune system function, in addition to how we respond to hidden inflammation. As we age, stress significantly reduces the immune response to influenza, pneumococcal and hepatitis B vaccine. To manage the negative effects of chronic stress on the immune system, interleukin-6 is regularly assessed in the GLMED Longevity & Beauty Residence, Moscow. Increased difference in interleukin-6blood level that persists for years could speed up the ageing process and bring about a high frequency of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimers, as well as explain higher death rates.
Unfortunately, in our life there are many difficulties that bring stress and which cannot be simply avoided. That is why we focus on the necessity of developing skills to help us resist stress. Such methods include psychotherapy sessions, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and muscle relaxation.
Q. Prevention of inflammation in the body – why is this important when it comes to ageing?
An: The immune system protects an organism from disease. People’s immune system declines in reliability and efficiency with age, resulting in greater susceptibility to pathology as a consequence of inflammation, for example, by cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autoreactivity and vaccine failure, as well as an increased vulnerability to infectious disease. These changes are further compounded by reduced responsiveness and impaired communication between all cells of the immune system. Thus, human ageing is characterised by a chronic, low-grade inflammation, and this phenomenon has been termed as “inflammaging.” Inflammaging is a highly significant risk factor for both morbidity and mortality for people, as most if not all age-related diseases share an inflammatory pathogenesis. Therefore, prevention of inflammation is important area that offers unique insights into the slowing down of the ageing process and the potential for screening and targeted interventions.
Q: What is the impact of calorie restriction on longevity?
An: Caloric restriction has been long known to increase longevity and delay ageing. 80 years ago, a study at Cornell University demonstrated that when caloric restriction was applied in rats (30% less food), the result was a 30% increase in mean and maximum lifespan. A number of prolonged fasting and alternate-day fasting clinical studies in humans are yielding very promising results in support of the possibility that they are sufficiently safe and effective to be considered for long-term trials focused on healthspan (Longo & Mattson, 2014). Among the initial but solid evidence for the efficacy of caloric restriction is that prolonged fasting reduces inflammation and pain in patients. Part of the protective effects of caloric restriction against ageing and disease may be mediated by the reduction of IGF-1, glucose and insulin. Restriction of individual essential amino acids, including methionine and tryptophan, can also extend longevity (Spindler, 2009). The major factor controlling the longevity benefits of protein restriction is the ratio of dietary protein to other macronutrient calorie sources (carbohydrates, fats), which is likely to affect ageing in part through the regulation of mTORC1 signalling (Solon-Biet, 2014). Most studies indicate that reducing mTORC1 signalling confers longevity benefits (Johnson,2009). mTORC1 is activated by amino acids and suppressed by stress signals and energy deficiency.
Read Part 2 The role of telomeres and peptides in ageing and longevity
Read Part 3 Biological versus chronological age