I’m a huge believer in embracing a few simple healthy habits to age well: move your body every day, eat good food (and probably a bit less), get enough sleep, manage the stress in your life, and stay connected to people who care about you.
But sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to discover what might have a huge impact on the cells in our bodies that can contribute to either premature aging (and possibly an early death) or successful aging.
Longevity researchers have made some really exciting breakthroughs in recent years, with a lot of attention paid to discovering how different parts of our cells contribute to premature aging. Some are focused on extending our lifespans (how long we actually live), while others are looking for ways to help us live as long as possible without disease or disability, also known as healthspan. Here are just a few of the hottest topics.
The long and short of telomeres
Next time you exercise, take a closer look at your sneakers. See those little plastic caps–called aglets–at the end of each shoelace? That’s how scientists visualize our telomeres, the tiny caps on the ends of our chromosomes. Recent research tells us that people who age successfully have short diseasespans, long healthspans, and long telomeres. Stress, lack of exercise, poor eating habits and other factors that contribute to premature aging can shorten the length of telomeres and have an impact on telomerase, an essential enzyme that impacts the length of telomeres. Sound complicated? It is. But, the solution is pretty easy: follow the healthy habits recommended throughout my book — Love Your Age: The Small-Step Solution to a Better, Longer, Happier Life — and you’ll be doing a lot to help keep your cells thriving.
Dousing the fires of inflammation
Inflammation, or inflamm-aging as it’s often referred, has been a buzz word in medical research for a while now and has been linked to a wide range of illnesses that can shorten your healthspan and lengthen your diseasespan, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, ADHD, depression, autism, and more. Some researchers are even looking at inflammation as a cause of aging itself. All of this explains why the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently made inflammation a top research priority. You’ll be hearing and reading a lot more about inflammation and how to reverse it in the coming months and years.
The science of senescence
Senescent cells are a kind of zombie-like cell that has stopped reproducing but doesn’t die. Shorter telomeres (see above) seem to contribute to an increase in senescent cells, which contribute to inflammation and have been linked to age-related diseases ranging from arthritis and osteoporosis to heart disease and neurological problems. Senescent cells aren’t all bad: they are useful for wound healing and may actually suppress some cancers. However, biologists have had success in reducing the signs of aging by eliminating senescent cells in mice, although it will be a while before any such treatments are available for humans. In the meantime, we can take action against senescent cells ourselves: what’s good for lengthening telomeres is effective at keeping senescent cells from wreaking too much havoc. Turns out that treacherous gangs of them hide out in one of the most abundant kinds of human tissue: fat, especially visceral fat — the evil kind of fat that surrounds are organs.
Love me, love my mitochondria
You might think you get energy from your breakfast—or at least your coffee. But scientists who study aging say it’s all about the mitochondria. Mitochondria, tiny structures inside our cells, are basically tiny power plants, and many experts think mitochondrial decay is the main reason we age. Over time, accumulated damage to the DNA of the mitochondria may lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Hot news: some scientists think they are close to figuring out how to reverse mitochondrial decay. Stay tuned.
What magic might Metformin hold?
Metformin, an inexpensive drug used to treat diabetes, is also being evaluated as a possible boost to longevity, and even a potent cancer-fighter. Metformin appears to increase oxygen flow on the cellular level, which could slow the cell divisions that keep our bodies functioning but can ultimately lead to disease and aging. While studies have been done on roundworms with amazing results, a lot more tests will need to be conducted before your doc writes the script. In fact, a group of scientists have petitioned the FDA to put Metformin through the approval process, but as of today, the FDA is still waiting for more clinical tests before the process can begin.
One of my missions in life is to do the research and report back to all of you on what I find out about new advancements in healthy aging. Check in with me regularly and check out my book — Love Your Age — for 100+ tips on living a better, longer, happier life!