What would you do if you could extend your years of healthy living (a.k.a. health span)? Would you take a concoction of medications and supplements every day? Would you completely change up your nutrition? Would you start exercising every day? Would you do all the above?
We realize there is unlikely one magical key to living a long, healthy, and happy life, but rather a combination of factors that can help promote longevity. While there are several aspects of our health that are (currently) out of our control (ex: genes, trauma, childhood exposures, etc.), we can certainly optimize what aspects we DO have control over.
And who wouldn’t want to live longer!? People are going back for second and third careers. Working and/or volunteering well into traditional retirement years. Delaying having children until their 40s (or having second families). Traveling, writing books, speaking, and exploring other life interests…there is so much we want to accomplish in our lives!
Longevity is such a hot topic in medicine. In fact, there is newer arm in science called Biohorology dedicated to it. Biohorology utilizes various aging clocks, which are computed models that use inputs of genetic and metabolic markers (from saliva, blood, buccal cells, other tissues, etc.) to estimate biologic age (vs chronologic age) and explore specific factors linked to age acceleration.
Although recommendations like “quit smoking”, “eat healthier”, “exercise more”, and “sleep more”, are usually advisable, let’s delve deeper and look at what some of the research shows.
Physical activity: Animal studies show regular exercise can decrease epigenetic (biologic) age. Exercise can regulate autophagy (promoting a balance of the synthesis and recycling of proteins in the body). Specifically, aerobic exercise has been shown to promote age deceleration.
Nutrition: Both Mediterranean and plant-based diets have shown longevity benefits (and reduction in chronic disease risk). Animal studies have shown that restricting both total calories, as well as methionine-rich foods, can potentially lower biologic age. Caloric striction is well-known to promote autophagy. Methionine is a sulfur-rich amino acid. Foods higher in methionine include meat, eggs, fish, some nuts and seeds. Additionally, increase intake of fruits and vegetables, as well as omega three fatty acids and vitamin D supplementation, have been linked to lower biologic age.
Beverages of Choice: Those who choose to indulge in the occasional adult beverage will be happy to hear that light alcohol intake (‘light’ being the key word) may decrease biological age. Similarly, coffee drinkers can celebrate their love for the brew, as moderate intake (3-6 cups daily) of coffee has also been linked to increased longevity.
Supplements: Laboratory and animal studies have linked intake of alpha-ketoglutarate, a precursor to glutamine and glutamate that supports protein synthesis, muscle and bone health, to extended life span.
Medications: Repurposing prescription medications (medications FDA approved for other conditions) for longevity is being heavily explored. One of these medications is the diabetes medication metformin. Research has shown that metformin may decrease cancer risk, cardiovascular mortality, and all-cause mortality in people with type 2 diabetes. Besides its insulin-sensitizing benefits, metformin may have anti-inflammatory, vascular protective, and neuroprotective effects. *However, it’s longevity benefits in people without diabetes is still up for debate. The research is not as promising in those without diabetes, and several studies used metformin in concentrations much higher than those dosages used clinically. Thus, more research is needed.
Anti-Aging medicine is an exciting field that is still in its infancy. I anticipate we will have a lot more information in the upcoming years to help further guide our lifestyle, supplement, and medication choices to support longevity.
Dr. Rueda is currently practicing functional medicine in Minneapolis, Minnesota area. Please contact Twin Cities Integrative Medicine to schedule your initial consultation.
Escobar KA, Cole NH, Mermier CM, VanDusseldorp TA. Autophagy and aging: Maintaining the proteome through exercise and caloric restriction. Aging Cell. 2019 Feb;18(1):e12876. doi: 10.1111/acel.12876. Epub 2018 Nov 15. PMID: 30430746; PMCID: PMC6351830.
Enroth S, Enroth SB, Johansson Å, Gyllensten U. Protein profiling reveals consequences of lifestyle choices on predicted biological aging. Sci Rep. 2015 Dec 1;5:17282. doi: 10.1038/srep17282. PMID: 26619799; PMCID: PMC4664859.
Triggle CR, Mohammed I, Bshesh K, Marei I, Ye K, Ding H, MacDonald R, Hollenberg MD, Hill MA. Metformin: Is it a drug for all reasons and diseases? Metabolism. 2022 Aug;133:155223. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2022.155223. Epub 2022 May 29. PMID: 35640743.