Dr. Verdin: “How to Live Better Longer”
Dr. Verdin summarizes the most important thing we need to know about aging — that most of us will suffer in our later years, and what to do about it. He does this with the help of five slides.
(Dr. Verdin’s lecture begins at time stamp 7:30.)
LED BY Dr. Verdin, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging is the world’s first biomedical research institution devoted solely to research on aging. They employee some of the most renown longevity scientists who do cutting-edge research at “the Buck”.
The Buck is an impressive building that sits regally at the top of a hill in sight of and west of highway 101 in a small town called Novato, in the county of Marin, about 25 minutes north of where I live.
Sometimes they host public lectures. I went to the one in February, 2019. The topic: How To Live Better, Longer. I posted the Youtube video of the lectures a the top of this post so you can view the whole enchilada if you want. But the rest of this article is about what the Buck’s CEO, Dr. Eric Verdin presented.
Dr. Verdin told his tale about how to live better, longer with the use of five slides:
- Life expectancy is longer than ever before
- We now get chronically sick well before we die
- Aging is the strongest risk factor for chronic disease
- Nine specific lifestyle behaviors will improve healthspan — those years you’re healthy
- So-called anti-aging interventions that are unproven
Let’s dig in…
Who Is Dr. Verdin?
A native of Belgium, Dr. Eric Verdin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, has published more than 210 scientific papers and holds more than 15 patents.
In addition to his management role at the Buck, Dr. Verdin runs a lab there focused on the role of epigenetic regulators in the aging process. Dr. Verdin studies how metabolism, diet, and small molecules regulate the activity of histone deacetylases and sirtuins, and thereby the aging process itself and its associated diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
That’s quite a mouthful. Thankfully, the terminology gets simpler.
We Live Longer But Live Longer Sicker
In his lecture, Dr. Verdin presented in five slides his take on how to live longer without succumbing to sickness. The first three deal with the fact that although we’re now living longer, the last trimester of our lives is often filled with illness.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that now that women (and men) are living longer, we’re spending many of our last years of life sick, as a whole series of diseases that we knew very little about back in 1900 appear. These diseases are called the “chronic diseases of aging.”
By the time you reach 65 years of age, 80% percent of people will be suffering from one of these conditions:
Essentially what has happened is that the benefits of those extra years of life have been sullied by various chronic, live-compromising afflictions. The older you get, the more you are at risk from dying from some chronic disease.
Note that the curve in the above graph is an exponential curve; it doesn’t go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, but by a factor of ten: 10, 100, 1,000. This means that the older you get, the risk for chronic disease compounds. Which nicely squares with the adage:
You don’t die of old age, but of a age-associated disease.
This means that if aging process (the gradual degradation of the body and mind) is slowed, so will be the advancement of these chronic diseases. This is the key mission among many scientists in the longevity field, including Dr. Verdin.
What Can You Do Today To Improve Your Healthspan?
The answer pretty much begins and ends with your lifestyle.
Ninety-three percent of your longevity is determined by your lifestyle, leaving 7% to your genetics, says Dr. Verdin.
If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, or keep astride what’s happening in the longevity space, you may have learned about the focus some gerontologist and their ilk have on creating an anti-aging pill.
But until any pharmaceutical or supplement is proven, you can follow the advice of Jack LaLanne:
Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
Jack knew since he became the symbol of health nearly 90 years ago that to live a long and healthy life you must move your body often at a pace that elevates your pulse, regularly lift heavy things (like your body weight), eat whole, nutritious foods — none to excess.
Jack LaLane’s advice served him well. He lived to be 96 and was exercising vigorously till about a year prior to his death.
Dr. Verdin also encourages exercise, but he adds eight other important anti-aging lifestyle behaviors that help too.
The cleanliness of your air and water are very important. If you live where the air is polluted, get an indoor air cleaner and air-cleaning plants, such as Devil’s Ivy, pothos (Epipremnum aureum), Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix Roebelenii) and Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum).
The diversity of the microbes in your gut (microbiome) is very important. Taking probiotics alone may not be a complete solution. Also eat lots of fiber, greens and fermented foods. If you can’t get yourself to consume fibrous foods, use a supplement like inulin and psyllium husk powder. If you do take probiotics, makes sure the capsules contain at least 10 billion live bacteria. Culturelle is highly rated by Labdoor.com, but Pro-25 has 13 strains, 25 billion bacteria and averages 4.7 stars out of 3,733 customer reviews last I checked.
Studies show that sleep has been an underrated contributor to healthspan. Many of us are sleep deprived due to long working hours, artificial light and the blue light emitted from screens, such as television, computers and cell phones. Shut down all the blue light emitters at least one hour before bedtime. If you’re helpless before the power of screens, use blue light blocking glasses, such as KLIM Optics. If you can’t block all light entering your bedroom before sleeping, wear an eye mask.
Get social. Dr. Verdin explains that among the most important understudied aspects of longevity is your social networks, which includes friends and organizations within which there’s a social component. Loneliness is among the highest risk factors for premature death.
Smoking! I’m going to assume that I no more need to explain this than why playing Russian Roulette all day long would be inadvisable.
Vaccines are a divisive topic, but Dr. Verdin underscores that they are the most important aspect of our healthcare, responsible for the dramatic decrease in mortality.
Annual check-ups with your doctor are important to keep tabs on the basics, such as colon health (colonoscopies), pap smear breast examinations, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
Beware What’s Unproven
As a scientist, Dr. Verdin is highly skeptical of anything that’s unproven. His parting words in his Buck Institute presentation were an admonition to beware a host of products and terms marketed as being health-enhancing and/or longevity-promoting.
Here’s a screenshot that lists what he finds questionable:
Since the picture isn’t clear, the list is:
- Revitalizing serum
- Cellular defense
- Life extension
- Growth hormone
Am I not guilty of promoting some of these, you ask? In a word, “yes”, but with some qualification.
Dr. Verdin needs proof. I need potential. Although I too look askance at hyped up claims, my focus is on what scientific studies say “might” be true, as opposed to needing complete certainty.
Take “antioxidants” and “cellular defense” for example.
Give Your Own Antioxidants A Chance
In my article, If The Free Radical Theory of Aging Is Dead, Do Your Need Antioxidants?, I explain that consuming excessive amounts of antioxidants can diminish the capability of your body to produce its own antioxidants to deal with oxidative stress. You therefore must be judicious of your use of antioxidants, and cycle in and out of using them.
Cellular Defense Begins In The Mitochondria
What the heck does “cellular defense” mean? It seems to be a catch-all phrase that basically communicates that some product is good for our cells, and thereby good for us. I take large doses of the NAD+ precursors NMN and NR, along with PQQ and CoQ10 Ubiquinol, not due to some amorphous claim like “cellular defense”, but because:
>NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is a coenzyme found in all living cells, and it’s required for the fundamental biological processes that make life possible. You can’t live without it, and yet by age 50 a typical person may have only half the NAD+ they did in youth. By age 80, NAD+ levels drop to only 1% to 10% expressed in youth. (1)
In studies from worms to mice to humans, supplementing with NR replenishes NAD+, and does NMN in all animal studies, with a human trial underway. Moreover, one of the world’s most prominent NMN researchers, Dr. David Sinclair (and his family) supplement with NMN. That’s enough evidence for me, particularly since there doesn’t seem to be any harmful effects.
>PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone) is a small molecule that can alter protein function and signalling pathways that may enhance mitochondrial function. Our mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell. They are organelles that act like a digestive system which takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates energy rich molecules for the cell. Human trials are limited, but suggest that in addition to enhancing mitochondrial function, PQQ may have neuroprotective role in the aged, and be anti-inflammatory. (2)
I use Prohealth ProMito PQQ *
>CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) is another vital molecule produced by the body that aids mitochondria during energy production. CoQ10 can enhance blood flow and protect the blood vessels. This mechanism is related to nitric oxide preservation, as seen with grape seed extract, pycnogenol, and resveratrol. CoQ10 can also reduce the damage oxidized Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL) can do to blood vessels, as well as reduce plaque buildup in the arteries. Although our body makes CoQ10, it’s production can be compromised by various cardiovascular issues, fibromyalgia, migraines and Parkinson’s — and statins! (3) According to NBC News, about 28% of American men and women over age 40 take a statin, most completely unaware that statins deplete COQ10 levels.
My point in going through the details about NMN, NR, PQQ and CoQ10 is to express my agreement with Dr. Verdin that taglines like “cellular defense” are non-descriptive and an insufficient reason to buy a particular supplement. It’s worth your while to dig deeper using resources like PubMed, Examine.com and ConsumerLab.com. The same is true for all the other products and terms on his list.
* Disclaimer: I’m a consultant to Prohealth and may be biased.
Remember these three things:
- We’re living longer than ever before, but it comes at a cost because about 80% of us will have to deal with some chronic disease over the last ten to 20 years of our lives if we don’t adopt specific lifestyle interventions as described above.
- Underscoring #1, how well you age is largely up to you — in fact, 93% up to you!
- There’s much hype, misinformation about supplements. Many even mislabel the ingredients. You must research if the supplement can potentially do as advertised, and only buy from reputable brand.