Optimize Your Health and Longevity With These Simple Tips
Before we dive into the different ways you can optimize longevity and reduce your biological age, I want to make one thing clear – this article is not about anti-aging as a way of “stopping” the passage of time or shaming yourself for getting older.
It’s about taking care of yourself, honoring your body, and implementing behaviors that will help you increase your health span, live longer, and ward off disease and chronic pain. There is a huge difference between resisting the aging process and supporting your body for optimum vitality as you age.
Many people believe that past a certain point they will begin to slow down, become less agile, lose their memories, or experience chronic diseases. We consider these things “inevitable” signs of aging, when they’re actually signs of disease that can be prevented and even reversed by addressing the root cause.
What really matters here, according to scientists and health experts, is not your chronological age (how old you are), but your biological age (the age that your body functions, feels, and behaves).
Lifespan vs. Health Span
As advancements in healthcare are leading to increased lifespans, the quality of those extra years is increasingly important.
The term “health span” refers to the number of years that you are healthy and free from age-related diseases, rather than just the number of years you are alive. For example, if you live to be 80, but the last 20 years of your life are spent experiencing chronic illness, your health span is only 60 years.
While your chronological age cannot be changed, your biological age and health span absolutely can, and they are greatly influenced by your lifestyle choices and daily habits.
How to Reduce Your Biological Age
Reversing your biological age doesn’t require expensive biohacking techniques or a strict drug regimen. It can be achieved through relatively simple lifestyle shifts. In fact, since lifestyle factors affect how your genes are expressed, your behaviors and environment actually impact your biological age even more than your genes.
10 Powerful Ways to Reduce Your Biological Age:1. Relieve Stress and Anxiety
A stressful lifestyle can damage your body at the cellular level, accelerating your biological age. Chronic stress and anxiety can lead to chronic inflammation, which sharply raises your risk for diseases like dementia, heart disease, and stroke.
The good news is, there are many practices you can utilize to relieve stress, such as:
- Mindful movement
- Meditation and breathwork
- Time in nature
- Listening to relaxing music
- Social connection
- Eating healthy foods
Make sure you avoid excess caffeine and alcohol, smoking, overeating, over exercising, overworking, or too much time on social media – these habits can all cause further stress on the mind and body.
A positive mindset also works wonders on stress levels and has actually been proven to add years to your life. I’m not saying you have to be happy every second of every day (that’s not realistic), but do your best to focus on the good, practice gratitude, and shift your mindset when you notice negative thoughts, judgment, or self-talk.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek help from a trained psychologist. You don’t have to do it alone.2. Move Your Body
Exercise in general can help you slow your body’s aging process. It bolsters immunity, lowers high cholesterol, reduces your risk for heart disease, lengthens telomeres, and keeps your brain young. According to a Bringham University study, exercising for 40 minutes, five days a week can reduce your biological age by nine years.
“Exercise is the closest thing we’ve found to a magic pill for combating the effects of aging”, says Dr. Linda Fried of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Get physical by engaging in activities you enjoy, and mix it up with a combination of cardio, strength training, and flexibility or mobility training.
- Cardio and aerobic exercises strengthen your heart and lungs and boost circulation. Research by the Mayo Clinic has shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) slows cellular aging by boosting the regeneration of mitochondria (your body’s energy-producing powerhouses) by up to 69%.
- Strength Training: Studies show that building muscle is one of the keys to longevity, and can reduce your risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It also boosts growth hormone, which helps you retain bone-building calcium and fat-burning muscle as you age. Women, in particular, should prioritize bone-building exercises, because our bone density decreases dramatically when we go through menopause. Aim for 2-3 weight/strength sessions for every cardio session.
- Flexibility/Mobility: Flexibility (your muscles’ ability to stretch) and mobility (your joints’ ability to reach their full range) are both important in ensuring proper movement and balance later on in life. Practice yoga, animal movements, a mobility flow, or take time to stretch throughout your work day. University of California research found that sitting for ten hours a day increases your biological age by eight years.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) found that a healthy diet – one rich in high quality protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in red meat, added sugars and saturated fats – appears to slow the effects of aging in women.
Consider the following eating and nutrition habits to reduce your biological age:
- Limit processed and junk foods.
- Avoid refined sugar, flour, and vegetable oils.
- Consume a plant-rich diet, which improves heart health, boosts the immune system, and positively affects the degradation of telomeres.
- Eat foods rich in healthy fats, which help lower your risk of heart disease, improve cholesterol levels, control your blood sugar, and reduce inflammation. Some of the best options include avocado, olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, and fatty fish.
- Increase antioxidants. Foods high in antioxidants – green, leafy vegetables, colorful fruit (especially berries), nuts, seeds, and spices – promote longevity by neutralizing oxidative stress and free radicals, two of the major causes of aging and disease.
- Focus on gut health. Maintaining a healthy microbiome boosts your immune system and prevents inflammation, leading to a younger biological age. Consume a well-balanced diet that includes fiber-rich foods and fermented/probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh, and grass-fed, organic yogurt. It can also help to consume prebiotic-rich foods, which help good bacteria grow in your gut, Prebiotic foods include dandelion greens, jerusalem artichoke, onion, garlic, chicory root, leeks, asparagus, bananas, oats, apples, flaxseeds, seaweed, and cacao.
- Include high quality protein, ideally 1 gram per lb of ideal body weight. For example, if your ideal weight is 135, you’d want to aim for 135g of high quality protein per day. One of the easiest ways to do this is to front load your day with protein (aim for 30 grams of protein at breakfast). If you eat animal products, try to purchase organic, grass-fed options when possible. If you do not eat animal products, make sure to include complete protein sources into your diet, such as quinoa, tofu, tempeh, edamame, pistachios, chia seeds, hemp seeds, amaranth, spirulina, and buckwheat.
Optimal water intake can protect your health and longevity and reduce your risk of age-related diseases. As the body’s most important nutrient, water helps remove toxins through the liver and kidneys, lubricates your joints, carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells, aids digestion, regulates body temperature, and improves circulation.
So how much water does the average adult need? According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women.
These recommendations cover fluid from water, other beverages, and food. About 20% of daily fluid intake comes from food, and the rest from drinks. So a woman, for example, would want to aim for 8-9 glasses of water per day, as she will likely obtain the remaining fluid from her food.
Some of the best foods for increasing your water intake include watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, watercress, apples, celery, lettuce, peaches, and zucchini.5. Get Enough Sleep
Getting adequate sleep is one of the most impactful ways to live longer and reduce your biological age.
Lack of sleep drives most of the hallmarks of aging. Short-term effects of poor sleep include reduced alertness, impaired memory, and mood changes. In the long term, sleep deprivation of less than seven hours per night can accelerate epigenetic aging and lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression, obesity, impaired immune function, and a lower sex drive.
For the best, longevity-supporting night’s sleep, aim for 7-9 hours. This amount of sleep will slow the onset of aging, improve your mental health, and reduce your risk of developing chronic disease.
P.S. – While it can be tempting to scroll through social media, watch TV, or check your phone one last time before bed, limit your use of technology in the hour or two before you go to sleep. Screen time exposes you to artificial light, which disrupts your body’s natural circadian rhythm.6. Stay Social
Humans are naturally social creatures, and the quality of your social interactions has an impact on your aging and health. In fact, a 2018 study found that loneliness can actually decrease telomere length, increasing the signs of aging.
Committing to maintain social connections is one of the best investments you can make towards healthier aging. Being socially connected means physically going out of your home and interacting with other people. Whether it’s visiting friends, volunteering, joining a club, engaging in your local community, or attending a concert or social event, staying engaged as you age will support you in combating chronic disease and reducing your biological age.7. Never Stop Learning
One of the best ways to maintain cognitive function (mental ability) is to learn something new. Doing so forms new neural pathways in the brain that strengthen and protect it.
Having a hobby that allows for continued growth and improvement — playing an instrument, learning a new language, or doing something creative — has been linked with a lower risk of dementia and a boost in overall health.8. Get Some Morning Sunshine
If you want to wind back your biological clock, it’s crucial to expose your body to early morning sunlight. Early morning sun exposure stimulates bone growth, muscle relaxation and mitochondrial health, ensures the proper functioning of your metabolism, regulates glucose, lowers your risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and generally lifts your mood.9. Try Contrast Therapy
Switching from hot to cold temperatures resets your nervous system , flushes toxins, increases blood circulation and blood flow to the brain, and boosts your immune system. It’s based on the concept of hormesis – intentionally putting your body through a light amount of stress so that it bounces back even stronger and more resilient. Consider spending time in a sauna, steam bath, or hot back before hopping into a cold shower, ice bath, or cold plunge.10. Clarify Your Purpose
Research shows that having a sense of purpose may actually help you live longer. A sense of purpose can drive healthy behavior, reduce inflammation, and make you more resilient to stress. Interestingly, having a sense of purpose is even more strongly associated with longevity in women, lowering their risk of all-cause mortality by 34% compared to men, whose risk was reduced by 20%.
While your chronological age cannot be reversed, your biological age can, and it plays a major role in how you look, feel, and function throughout your entire life. Through simple lifestyle shifts and supportive behaviors, you can create vibrant, optimal health and feel younger at any age.