It’s one question we all want answered: what can we do to live longer and healthier lives?
From stem cells to NAD treatments, new technologies are constantly spruiked as the next big anti-ageing phenomenon. One thing is for certain: it’s hard to tell fact from fiction (or marketing hype).
So, what does the latest medical research say about ageing? To find out more, I spoke to Dr Norman Swan, trusted Australian physician and award-winning journalist.
What Does Medical Research Say About Ageing?
In his book, So You Want To Live Younger Longer?, Dr Swan explores the science behind our lifespans – and how our everyday choices can slow down the clock.
He unpacks what medical research has discovered about the ageing process. This gives us the ability to weigh up anti-ageing advice, according to the real impact it has on the body.
Read on to find out which anti-ageing tips are true – and which may be doing more harm than good.
Is Your Lifespan Determined By Your Genetics?
Traditionally, we look to genetics when it comes to estimating our lifespan. We may expect to live at least as long as our grandparents and great-grandparents.
Science now shows genetics play a much smaller part in longevity than expected. However, that’s good news! It tells us we have more control over our lifespan than we think.
Research confirms there’s plenty we can do right now to live a longer, healthier life.
Is ‘Biological Age’ a Real Concept?
As Dr Swan explores in his book, the secret to longevity is all about keeping the body physically ‘younger’. Yes, your body has a ‘biological age’. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
What we call ‘bio age’ actually involves analysis of many biomarkers. Biomarker tracking uses a blood sample to evaluate proteins, enzymes, and cellular components. Essentially, it puts your general health under a microscope.
In addition to estimating ‘bio age’, biomarker testing can help detect disease early, and quantify the results of lifestyle changes. Essentially, it tells you if you’re on the right track!
Is Intermittent Fasting Good For Anti-Ageing?
Intermittent fasting is making waves as a proposed anti-ageing strategy. However, Dr Swan advises that calorie deficit is what ‘reverses’ ageing, not fasting itself. The body also adapts to regular fasting, cancelling out the metabolic benefits.
This is particularly true for the popular 5:2 diet: restricting calories for five days of the week, then eating ‘normally’ for two. To maintain a caloric deficit, “You’ve got to combine it with fairly intense and extended exercise,” Dr Swan says. The ideal calorie gap is about 10%.
By now, we know that nutrition plays a big role in our long-term health. However, focusing too much on when you eat and not what you eat is a big mistake. Be sure not to overlook quality when focusing on quantity.
Does NAD+ Therapy Reverse Ageing?
NAD boosters are touted as a miraculous cure for ageing – but does the science stack up? We asked Dr Swan this question, and unfortunately, they aren’t a miraculous cure for ageing.
NAD is short for ‘Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide’. It’s a coenzyme the body uses for many functions, including DNA and cellular repair.
Naturally, NAD levels decline as we get older, and lower levels are linked to disease. It makes sense that boosting NAD would turn back the clock – but it’s not a miracle cure.
While you may feel energised for a few days after an NAD booster, it only takes a few days for the body to resume the status quo. Sudden high doses of any substance can also have a destabilising effect on the body, says Dr Swan.
That’s why bioactive foods are the best medicine. The beneficial compounds in whole foods come in doses and formats our bodies are equipped to handle.
Which Supplements Slow Down Ageing?
I asked Dr Swan which supplements he recommends to help you live longer. Surprisingly, his answer was ‘none at all’.
Instead, he recommends looking at lifestyle factors, like nutrition and exercise. The evidence just isn’t strong for supplementation alone. Dr Swan clarifies they’re not necessarily bad for you – as long as the dosage is right, that is.
If you’ve been taking antioxidant supplements to prevent ageing, there’s some bad news ahead. At high doses, compounds like Vitamin C can be pro-oxidants instead.
Other supplements can harm as easily as they help. For instance, David Sinclar’s Harvard studies explore growth-promoting substances for their anti-ageing potential. However, for those with a family history of cancer, it’s possible that encouraging healthy cell turnover could also stimulate cancer cells.
The verdict? Instead of supplements, look to healthy whole-foods containing natural bioactives.
Top 3 Causes of Premature Ageing (According to the Experts)
Wondering how to prevent premature ageing? You’ll need to avoid toxins that speed up degeneration, as well as avoiding life-limiting diseases.
Here are the things you’ll need to avoid to live longer:
- Smoking & Vaping: We know that smoking is poison, but research suggests vaping may be just as deadly. All forms of smoking cause premature ageing, and should be avoided for optimal health.
- Sun Damage: The effects of sun exposure aren’t skin deep. In fact, premature ageing of the skin kick-starts the process in the rest of the body – so take sun protection seriously.
- Chronic Stress: The brain-body connection is a powerful thing. Dr Swan explains that an overactive mind will kick the body (and immune system) into overdrive as well. This makes chronic stress the enemy of a long lifespan!
5 Evidence-Based Tips for a Longer and Healthier Life
Here’s what the latest scientific research has to say about living longer:
- Keep Up With Preventative Healthcare: If you’ve been waiting to get that annual check-up, think again! Early lifestyle intervention can prevent chronic disease – which causes 85% of premature deaths. Keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol, and follow all guidelines for routine testing (such as mammograms and bowel screens).
- Get Tested for Genetic Conditions: This is one way genetics can impact your lifespan. If you have a family history of cancer, heart disease, or other hereditary illness, genetic testing can give you vital information. For instance, about 5% of breast cancer patients have an inherited gene abnormality – and early detection saves lives.
- Keep Your Brain Healthy & Active: Surprisingly, there’s a strong link between longevity and education. You can ward off neurodegeneration by learning new skills, keeping your brain challenged.
- Eat a Varied, Bioactive Diet: “Your microbiome has an influence on your brain and can slow down ageing,” Dr Swan explains. Eating a diverse diet supports beneficial bacteria in the gut, providing anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Commit to Regular Intense Exercise: Dr Swan explains that stem cells in elderly people can actually be rejuvenated by intense exercise and weight training. This suggests that exercise in itself has anti-ageing properties. This can be as simple as a few minutes of higher intensity at the end of a walk.
The latest ageing research tells us that the secrets to longevity are within our control. Making healthy choices now is the best strategy for a longer lifespan – giving you more time to enjoy your golden years.