Three medical doctors reveal nine anti-aging lifestyle habits that work. Take a peek and see which you’re willing to do.
EVERY ONCE in awhile a reader laments that “it sure would be sweet if you could write something short and simple”, or something to that effect.
OK dear readers, this was going to be it, glory be, but something happened. Per usual, I got carried away. But don’t despair — merely scroll down, scan stuff and put the brakes on when you encounter something of interest.
Today, I put my health journalist/content curation hat squarely upon my head and bring to you 9 anti-aging lifestyle habits that you can begin right now. You merely need to commit to doing them.
(Tip: Do it with a friend — it helps with compliance and makes it fun.)
This website is peppered with this sorta information, but it bears repeating, because we often need to encounter the same message several times before it seeps in and triggers action.
Perhaps something here will do that for you.
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- Which healthy fats to eat,
- Why protein is important,
- The value of bright and colorful fruits and veggies,
- The harm done by sugary carbs,
- What type of exercise is best to slow down aging, and
- The vital roles that inflammation and methylation play in the aging process.
To guide us in this endeavor, I’m going to review Dr. James Rouse’s 7 Anti-aging Lifestyle Strategies, and put in a word from Dr. Al Sears about inflammation. There will also be two contributions from Dr. Mark Hyman: his insights into a key biochemical process that is essential for the proper function of almost all of your body’s systems, and his personal transition from living a life that drained his energy to one that boosted it.
All in, we’re talking about nine things you can use to boost your own self along the path to healthy longevity.
Whether you’re in the first or second half of your expected lifetime, embracing some of the following nine anti-aging lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Who doesn’t want more energy and libido, fewer wrinkles, a leaner body composition, fluidly mobile joints, acute vision, a positive outlook and the capacity to experience deep sleep?
All of these can be yours. They’re within reach. You just need to tweak things a bit. So let’s dig in and turn that clock backwards a bit.
The first seven are culled from Dr. Rouse’s suggestions.
1. Eat healthy fats
Fats were once considered to be the bane of healthy living, if for no other reason that eating fats made you fat, or so it was thought. Seeing a ripe marketing opportunity, food manufacturers began making everything low fat or fat free.
This started in the 1970s. Look at the graph below and ask yourself, “coincidence or causal?”.
Yes, indeedy, obesity rates in the USA got a good boost up starting in the 70s and never looked back.
But the tide has turned.
It’s now becoming commonly understood that fats – certain fats — are essential to health. Coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, wild salmon, nuts and seeds are high quality fats that we should consume in moderation. (Even these fats will make you fat if their calorie load exceeds your caloric expenditure.)
The fats to avoid entirely are the vegetable oils (like corn oil, refined canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil), which are high in omega-6 fats that are susceptible to oxidation and increase risk for inflammation in the body.
Among many benefits, the consumption of good fats actually optimizes metabolism, supports positive mood and cognition, and benefits the skin and eyes. (Dryness can be a sign of a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids.)
2. Eat lean and clean protein
This is not an admonition to adopt a high protein diet, but rather to pay attention to the protein content of your meals. Try to include some protein in each meal.
Protein, like healthy fats, helps build the hormones and neurotransmitters needed to feel great. It supports the building of lean muscle (and prevents muscle loss), promotes balanced blood sugar, helps with concentration and a positive mood, and gives you an edge for healthy weight management.
We’re not taking Big Macs here. Yes, such a burger is high in protein, but any benefits from that are overwhelmed by the determents promoted by unhealthy fats and the probable antibiotics and hormones used to raise the cattle that were so nicely carved up into little patties that fit snuggly in those carb-rich buns.
Get your lean clean protein from:
- Pasture-raised, no-hormone, no-antibiotic animals,
- Low-mercury fish, such as Alaskan salmon, anchovies, sardines and mackerel,
- Beans, peas and lentils (sprout them a bit before cooking to gain the most nutrition), and
- High quality Protein powder.
3. Eat dark green veggies
Dark green vegetables include broccoli, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and various lettuces. Antioxidants in these vegetables help protect the skin, brain, and cells from damage by unstable molecules, and many are rich in vitamin C, which among many benefits, helps to prevent wrinkles.
4. Eat bright colored fruits and veggies
The brightly colored organic fruits and vegetables (orange, red, and yellows) contain vitamin C and carotenoids that support eye health as well as healthy skin. Fresh fruits and veggies have the added benefit of fiber, which help us maintain healthy elimination and a body composition that will serve you well over the long run.
5. Dump sugar
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) form in the body when sugar reacts with proteins and fats in the body. The more sugar (glucose or fructose) in the body, the more AGEs.
An increase of AGEs in the body can damage cells, cause inflammation, advanced aging and chronic degenerative disease. AGEs have been linked to diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.
Instead of eating sugar, consider supplementing with Berberin, Carnosine and Rose Hip Seed Oil to help get rid of the damage that sugar has already done.
Want details? I’ve got details – read Control Your Blood Sugar With These 4 Tricks and Supplements. (Included is a personal story.)
6. Dump starchy, processed carbs
Your choice: slow it down or speed it up!
Similar to sugar, the consumption of baked goods, pasta, potatoes, crackers, pretzels, chips – the rest of that addictive lot — can literally speed up the aging process. The body quickly turns these so-called foods into sugar.
Starchy, processed carbs are high on the Glycemic Index (“GI”). GI measures the relative capacity of carbohydrate-containing food to raise blood glucose. Foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food — either glucose or white bread. A food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI.
Type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and depression are increased with higher consumption of starchy carbs because of their effect on blood sugar.
Instead of eating starchy, processed carbs, choose the high fiber, organic grains like brown rice, oats, and pseudo grains like quinoa. Better yet, skip the grains when you can.
Notice the title in the link above: “Three Nutrition and Exercise Tips”? Yes, they go together. After all, food is supposed to fuel you to do something other than sit on a couch, sit at a desk, sit at a table, sit in a car and sleep.
That said, not all exercise is equal when it comes to optimizing aging – or to put it another way, to notch down your biological age.
For instance, endurance training is surely what you need to do if you’re training for a marathon; however, if you’re training for a long and strong life, it’s not the thing to do. Over the long run (yeah, many long runs over many long years), endurance training can actually speed up the aging process. The science on this is complicated, but basically it has to do with increased cellular oxidation from all those hours of exercise stress.
Not to mention knee joint degradation.
If aging as slowly and healthily as you can is the objective, try low-impact high intensity intervals, resistance training, walking up hills, vigorous yoga (like Ashtanga), dancing and swimming. These forms of exercise increase lean muscle (though swimming, not so much unless it’s strenuous), improve mood, help maintain a healthy body weight and keeps the mind sharp.
Yeah, I made up that word. I needed a verb form for “anti-inflammation” to match the tense of the rest of the list, such as “exercise” and “dump sugar”.
Here’s the thing to know about inflammation per famed anti-aging guru, Dr. Al Sears:
[pullquote align=”normal” cite=”(source)”]The single most important thing you can do to prevent premature aging is to control inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s effort to heal itself. But too much produces disease.
In fact, most of the diseases associated with aging are essentially inflammatory diseases. That includes cancer, heart disease, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
And the truth is that we’re all inflamed thanks to a modern diet that includes inflammation-friendly ingredients like sugar, cheap vegetable oils, and refined carbohydrates.[/pullquote](source)
One great way to “de-inflammate” is to consume copious amounts of turmeric and/or supplement with curcumin, turmeric’s primary beneficial compound. Either way, you need to ensure that the turmeric or curcumin you take is bioavailable, and that means adding some black pepper to the mix. (Many curcumin supplements add black pepper derivative called “peperine”.)
I sprinkle about two teaspoons of turmeric and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper into my smoothies and my morning drink of pure water, protein powder, niacin and spirulina powder. I also buy turmeric root, cut it up and add it to several different meals.
I also supplement with Prohealth’s Longvida brand. They tweaked the bioavailablity substantially, a reported 65 times greater than regular curcumin.
If you adopt the eight anti-aging lifestyle interventions mentioned above, your methylation function is probably working just fine, assuming you’re not also doing the stuff that impairs it, which I’ll list in a minute.
(Above is an illustration of a DNA molecule that is methylated at the two center cytosines. DNA methylation plays an important role for epigenetic gene regulation in development and disease. DNA methylation is a process by which methyl groups are added to DNA.)
Methylation is important for aging slowly. Dr. Mark Hyman refers to it as “the key to health aging”. This is another one of those inscrutable subjects.
Dr. Hyman puts it this way:
[pullquote align=”normal” cite=”(source)”]Methylation is a key biochemical process that is essential for the proper function of almost all of your body’s systems. It occurs billions of times every second; it helps repair your DNA on a daily basis; it controls homocysteine (an unhealthy compound that can damage blood vessels); it helps recycle molecules needed for detoxification; and it helps maintain mood and keep inflammation in check.[/pullquote]
The bottom line is that we need our methylation process to be functioning well in order to age healthily. For that to happen do these 12 things, says Dr. Hyman:
- Eat more dark, leafy greens – (Sound familiar?) You want to eat one cup a day of vegetables like bok choy, escarole, Swiss chard, kale, watercress, spinach, or dandelion, mustard, collard, or beet greens. These are among the most abundant sources of the nutrients needed for optimal methylation.
- Get more Bs in your diet – Good food sources include sunflower seeds and wheat germ (vitamin B6); fish and eggs (vitamin B6 and B12); cheese (B12); beans and walnuts (vitamin B6 and folate); leafy dark green vegetables; asparagus, almonds, and whole grains (folate); and liver (all three).
- Minimize animal protein, sugar, and saturated fat – Animal protein directly increases homocysteine. Sugar and saturated fat deplete your body’s vitamin stores.
- Avoid processed foods and canned foods – These are depleted in vitamins.
- Avoid caffeine – Excess amounts can deplete your B vitamin levels.
- Limit alcohol to 3 drinks a week – More than this can deplete your B vitamin levels.
- Don’t smoke – As noted above, smoking inactivates vitamin B6
- Avoid medications that interfere with methylation – See notes on this above.
- Keep the bacteria in your gut healthy – Take probiotic supplements and use other measures to make sure the bacteria in your gut are healthy so you can properly absorb the vitamins you do get.
- Improve stomach acid – Use herbal digestives (bitters) or taking supplemental HCl.
- Take supplements that prevent damage from homocysteine – Antioxidants protect you from homocysteine damage. Also make sure you support methylation with supplements like magnesium and zinc.
- Supplement to help support proper homocysteine metabolism – Talk to your doctor to determine the best doses and forms for you. Here are a few suggestions:
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Folate (folic acid): Amounts can vary based on individual needs from 200 mcg to 1 mg. Some people may also need to take preformed folate (folinic acid or 5 formylTHF) to bypass some of the steps in activating folic acid.
Vitamin B6: Take 2 to 5 mg a day. Some people may need up to 250 mg or even special “active” B6 (pyridoxyl-5-phosphate) to achieve the greatest effect. Doses higher than 500 mg may cause nerve injury.
Vitamin B12: Doses of 500 mcg may be needed to protect against heart disease. Oral vitamin B12 isn’t well absorbed; you may need up to 1 or 2 mg daily. Ask your doctor about B12 shots.
Betaine: This amino acid derivative is needed in doses from 500 to 3,000 mg a day, depending on the person. [/thrive_text_block]
How do you know if your methylation process is working well? Dr. Hyman lists these eight factors, some that you can’t directly measure (genetics) and some that you can (poor diet):
- Genetics – Like an estimated 20 percent of us, you could be genetically predisposed to high homocysteine.
- Poor diet – The word “folate” comes from “foliage.” You need to eat plenty of leafy greens, beans, fruit, and whole grains to get adequate levels of vitamins B6 and B12, betaine, and folate. Egg yolks, meat, liver, and oily fish are the main dietary sources of vitamin B12 — so long-term vegan diets can be a problem. Plus, certain compounds can raise levels of homocysteine and deplete the B vitamins. These include excess animal protein, sugar, saturated fat, coffee, and alcohol. Irradiation of food depletes nutrients, so foods treated this way may be lower in B vitamins, too.
- Smoking – The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke inactivates vitamin B6.
- Malabsorption – Conditions like digestive diseases, food allergies, and even aging can reduce absorption of nutrients.
- Decreased stomach acid – Aging and other conditions can reduce stomach acid — and therefore absorption of vitamin B12.
- Medications – Drugs like acid blockers, methotrexate (for cancer and arthritis and other autoimmune diseases), oral contraceptives, HCTZ (for high blood pressure), and Dilantin (for seizures) can all affect levels of B vitamins.
- Other conditions – These include hypothyroidism, kidney failure or having only one kidney, cancer, and pregnancy.
- Toxic exposures – Some toxins can interfere with vitamin production.
Given this list of conditions that thwart proper methylation function, if you think you’re at risk, get tested. Ask your doctor for the following tests:
- Complete blood count – Large red blood cells or anemia can be a sign of poor methylation. Red blood cells with a mean corpuscular volume (MCV) greater than 95 can signal a methylation problem.
- Homocysteine – This is one of the most important tests you can ask for. The normal level is less than 13, but the ideal level is likely between six and eight.
- Serum or urinary methylmalonic acid – This is a more specific test for vitamin B12 insufficiency. Your levels may be elevated even if you have a normal serum vitamin B12 or homocysteine level.
- Specific urinary amino acids – These can be used to look for unusual metabolism disorders involving vitamins B6 or B12 or folate, which may not show up just by checking methylmalonic acid or homocysteine.
As long as we’re channeling Dr. Hyman, let’s take a peak on how he changed his life and health for the better, just to show you that he drinks his own cool aide.
In Six Ways I Changed My Life and How You Can Change Yours, the good doctor writes about how unhealthy he once was from the perspective of having energy or vitality, how this affected him and what he did about it – all of which lends itself to this handy table I put together for your delight and amazement:
Dr. Mark Hyman’s Energy Drains and Gains
Do you have any of these “drains” in your life?
If so, check the “gains” list and choose a couple that can reverse your drain into a gain.
I leave you with this challenge:
Choose one thing from this list of nine and do it until it becomes habitual. Then choose another until that too is a habit. Then choose another, etc.
Your life will thank you.
Got questions or comments?
I’ve got answers or deft non-answers. Other readers do too, so let us know what’s on your mind in the Comments below.
Last Updated on July 7, 2023 by Joe Garma