Everyone ages, but is slowing down aging possible?
The science of aging is complex, with new theories emerging all the time.
Along with new insights into the causes of aging, researchers have discovered several ways to age slower.
In the future, humans may be able to slow down aging enough to live an incredibly long time.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for technological breakthroughs. You can take action today to live a longer, healthier life.
Keep reading to learn the surprising causes of aging and the 7 best tips for slowing down aging!
What is Aging?
Aging refers to the process of humans, animals, plants, fungi, or cells becoming older.
Scientists define aging in humans as the accumulation of changes over time. These changes include physical, mental, and social changes.
- Reaction time slows with age
- Physical strength and endurance decrease with age
- Knowledge and wisdom can increase over time
- Relationships may deepen and become richer with age
As you can see, aging isn’t all bad.
But most people would rather avoid or postpone the physical and mental effects of aging.
And of course, aging is also associated with eventual death. Of the 150,000 people who die daily around the world, 66-90% of them die of aging-related diseases or complications depending on the region.
Theories and Causes of Aging
Surprisingly, not everyone agrees as to the causes of aging. But one thing that scientists can agree on: aging is complicated.
Most theories of aging fall into two camps: damage and mutation, or programmed aging.
Damage and Mutation Theories of Aging
According to damage and mutation theories of aging, “wear and tear” on your body over time causes aging.
Some researchers believe that if science explores all the causes of damage and mutation, humans might be able to slow down aging enough to achieve “biological immortality”.
In other words, with enough insight and technology, people might die only from accidents or by choice, not due to aging.
According to anti-aging researcher Aubrey De Grey, here are all the causes of damage and mutation:
- Mutations in cells and DNA that eventually lead to cancer.
- Mutations in mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) that accelerate aging.
- “Junk” inside of cells that lead to clogged arteries, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s for example.
- “Junk” outside of cells that prevents cells from functioning correctly.
- Loss of working cells, resulting in decreased function, for example in the brain or heart.
- Aging of cells, resulting in cells that don’t work or secrete harmful proteins.
- Cellular crosslinks where proteins in cells bind together and cause problems.
This view of aging is very helpful. Whether or not advocates are correct that aging can be ended altogether, slowing down aging by reducing damage and mutation is indeed possible.
Programmed Aging and Reproductive Viability
Programmed aging is the view that human bodies and DNA have pre-programmed tendencies that cause aging to the point of death, even without damage or mutations.
Some researchers believe this is natural and related to the ability to reproduce. In other words, when you’re sexually fertile, you need a healthy body to mate, bear children, and provide for your family.
But after that point, there isn’t much reason for you to stick around indefinitely, from an evolutionary perspective.
Theories of programmed aging are complex. They involve tiny ribbons called telomeres, epigenetic changes referred to as methylation, and biological clocks in cells that “keep time”.
Unlike the damage and mutation theory of aging, programmed aging does not offer very much help currently in slowing down aging.
However, in the future, high-tech breakthroughs may allow people to “reprogram” cells to avoid programmed aging and death.
Inspirations for Slowing Down Aging
According to a 2019 survey of scientists, some scientists do believe immortality is possible.
When asked the big question, 41% of scientists answered “No,” immortality is not possible, but a combined 59% answered “Yes” or “Maybe.”
In follow-up questions, about two-thirds stated they believe the maximum human lifespan may be up to 130 years. The remaining third projected a maximum of over 130 years.
Fortunately for people interested in slowing down aging, there are plenty of inspiring examples already.
Immortal Organisms in Nature
Believe it or not, certain organisms found in nature don’t age at all.
The only catch? These creatures are very simple and fundamentally different from humans.
Image credit: Corvana, CC-BY-SA 3.0
For example, Hydra vulgaris is a tiny freshwater organism that can reach an inch. They can reproduce through sexual reproduction, budding, or regeneration.
Because H. vulgaris has a constant supply of stem cells used in reproduction, they can regenerate their own bodies as needed.
While humans will probably never acquire these traits, species like Hydra vulgaris are incredibly valuable for research into aging.
Super-centenarians are humans that have reached the age of 110 or older.
Amazingly, super-centenarians tend to avoid age-related diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Many of them fall into ill health only within the final three months of life.
According to one study of 32 super-centenarians, less than 6% had a history of cardiovascular disease.
While 25% of them had a history of cancer, they had all been cured successfully. Only one of them had type 2 diabetes.
Other traits of these remarkable individuals can vary greatly, including genes. However, they all live a long time by avoiding common fatal diseases.
Could slowing down aging really be that simple? Check out the next section to find out!
The 7 Best Tips for Slowing Down Aging
#1: Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Evidence shows that being obese can increase your risk of dying of all causes by 20-30%.
As we learned from the super-centenarians, avoiding the most common causes of death is one key to living an exceptionally long time.
No one chooses to be obese, but it is a preventable condition.
Surprisingly, research also suggests that being slightly overweight as you age can reduce your risk of death by about 6%.
Basically, carrying some extra pounds may help for two reasons:
- Being underweight as you age makes you more susceptible to disease
- Body fat contains stem cells that are useful during aging
In other words, if you’re too skinny or too lean, you’ll also run into trouble with aging.
If you want to slow down aging, start by maintaining a healthy body weight using an intelligent diet and exercise program.
#2: Lower Your Inflammation Levels
Chronic diseases that kill people usually have one thing in common: inflammation.
Heart disease, cancer, and diabetes all involve chronic inflammation.
Whether or not you are currently experiencing chronic disease, lowering your inflammation levels is essential if you want to live a long, healthy life.
A top-notch anti-inflammatory diet is imperative for lowering your inflammation levels.
Eating the standard American diet, which is high in sugar and processed foods, is linked to heightened levels of inflammation.
Some reasons include increased insulin resistance, obesity, and visceral fat (belly fat).
But if you eat a healthy diet, you can lower inflammation and other risk factors without drugs.
A healthy anti-inflammatory diet is high in whole food proteins, healthy fats (including omega-3 fatty acids), fruits, vegetables, and whole food sources of fiber.
Here are the inflammatory foods you should avoid:
- Processed and packaged foods
- Sugars, particularly fructose
- Trans fats
- Vegetable oils and other processed, refined oils
By eating the right foods and avoiding unhealthy inflammatory foods, you can immediately start lowering your inflammation levels and increase your chances of living a long time.
#3: Decrease Your Stress Levels
High stress levels reduce your quality of life, increase your inflammation levels, and result in hormonal imbalances.
Stress can also impair your immune function. It makes you more susceptible to infections as you age.
So what’s the solution?
Try any of these techniques to decrease your stress levels for a long life:
- Deep breathing every day for 10-15 minutes
- Sitting in nature or going for a walk somewhere beautiful
Another antidote to stress is companionship. Loneliness can increase your stress and raise your risk of heart problems.
Not surprisingly, most centenarians maintain strong social ties throughout their lives.
No one can eliminate stress completely. Instead, focus on how you manage stress.
If you want to feel better and live longer, make sure to engage in stress management techniques each day.
#4: Exercise Sensibly
To live longer, you don’t have to become a fitness fanatic. Instead, the key is to exercise consistently and enjoy doing it!
Here’s what you can expect from regular exercise:
- Disease prevention
- Better mobility and independence
- Higher quality of life
- Less age-related loss of muscle mass
- Healthier hormone levels
While being sedentary is a risk factor for disease, too much physical activity can also accelerate aging. So there’s no need to run a marathon–and even if you do, it may not add years to your life.
Ideally, you want to exercise each of the following ways a few times per week in total:
- Strength training
- Aerobic exercise or “cardio”
- Flexibility training
However, in reality, the best exercise is whatever you can do consistently for the rest of your life.
Group classes, league sports, one-on-one personal training, YouTube videos, or even gardening are all great choices to have fun and stay motivated.
#5: Sleep Well and Enough
Insufficient sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan.
Not only that, sleeping at inconsistent times may accelerate biological aging.
As you age, your sleep will naturally diminish in length. However, if you don’t feel rested in the morning, try the following tips:
- Wake and sleep at consistent times
- Make sure your bedroom is completely dark at night (buy blackout curtains if needed!)
- Stay off phones and other devices with screens for 2-3 hours before bed
- Stop eating after dark
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon (or try quitting altogether)
- Steer clear of alcohol right before bed
By getting enough sleep you can remain alert, disease-free, and happy well into old age.
#6: Try Calorie Restriction
Studies in animals show that calorie restriction can increase lifespan by up to 50%. It’s also a promising way to decrease the adverse effects of aging.
However, the jury is still out on how well restricting food intake works to extend human lifespan.
While there is good evidence that calorie restriction can help people avoid conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cancer, there isn’t yet solid data to show it will result in a massive increase in lifespan as it does in animals.
In other words, if you aren’t already following the first five tips consistently, don’t bother with calorie restriction yet.
But if you are, here are some methods that can work:
- Intermittent fasting (skipping a meal every day)
- Time-restricted eating (eating only during certain times or days of the week)
- Eating less overall
Of the three methods, either type of fasting is a good place to start. On the other hand, consistently eating less overall is difficult because you’re more likely to be hungry all the time.
Again, if you’re already doing the basics, calorie restriction should help you live longer by avoiding diseases at the very least.
Otherwise, keep it simple at first. You can always experiment with fasting or other methods of calorie restriction later on.
#7: Consider These Supplements
There are thousands or tens of thousands of “anti-aging” supplements on the market, but very few of them are supported by evidence.
Of the ones that are, the evidence is not certain. In other words, no one has done a study (yet) to definitely prove that a supplement extends lifespan in humans.
Most of these supplements could work by decreasing damage and mutation that occurs during aging.
Here are 5 supplements that are safe, backed by some research, and worth a try:
- Nicotinamide riboside (NAD+)
- Coenzyme Q10 or ubiquinol
- B vitamins (Folate, B6, and B12)
However, similar to calorie restriction, supplements are the icing on the cake. If you aren’t doing the basics to prevent disease and extend your life, supplements won’t make a significant difference.
The future may hold incredible breakthroughs that slow down aging or even reverse it.
But in the meantime, you can still take meaningful action to live a long, happy, vital life.
Your #1 priority for anti-aging should be avoiding disease. It’s perfectly logical: most people die of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
To the extent those diseases are preventable, you have an opportunity to extend your lifespan.
Once you cover the basics, you can try techniques like calorie restriction or supplementation.
However, without a healthy diet, stress management, and plenty of sleep, all the supplements in the world won’t help you live over 100.
Want to learn more?
Call the office of Dr. Thad Gala today to schedule a comprehensive anti-aging consultation.