The Reverse Aging Effect: How to Live Longer and Stay Healthy
For millenniums, the quest for the fountain of youth and extending life has been a frequent topic of various myths, Hollywood movies, and parables worldwide. One of the earliest accounts was from Herodotus, a Greek historian, in the 5th century BC. He reported that in the land of Macrobians, a fountain of youth gave the people extremely extended life spans.
The name connected most closely to the quest for the fountain of youth is 16th-century Spanish expeditionary Juan Ponce de Leon, who allegedly believed it would be discovered in Florida. In Japan, tales of hot springs that could restore youth and heal the body were also common and even are to this day.
Let’s face it; aging is a natural process of life that will inevitably happen to every one of us. Unfortunately, we are not going to live forever. However, our daily activities and well-being are directly dependent on the condition of our body systems. Realizing that we inevitably age, what can we do to stay fit and healthy and utilize the fountain of youth to get more time to live our vibrant lives?
I will be taking an in-depth look into the science and behavior changes associated with reverse aging to educate you on how it is possible to chronologically age forward while biologically aging backward. Human behavior and one’s environment play a key role.
Let us now examine the fascinating story of the socio-psychological experiment by Ellen Langer to prove that biological aging can be externally influenced by perception and behavior.
Discovering our biological age could be hacked
Ellen Langer, a Harvard Psychologist, conducted a novel experiment in 1981 in which she invited participants to live as if it were 22 years earlier. She arranged for eight men in their 70s to stay in a converted monastery. Some of them had arthritis and used canes, yet they entered a time warp when they passed through the doors into the monastery.
On an old radio, Perry Como sang. On a black-and-white television, Ed Sullivan greeted guests. Everything within, including the books on the shelves and scattered publications, was intended to evoke 1959.
The men in this experimental group didn’t just talk about how things were back then but were told to act as if it were actually 1959. Meanwhile, a control group lived in a comparable atmosphere but did not act as if it was decades ago and only considered their past events.
Those in the experimental group talked about historical events as if they were contemporary happenings. No accommodations were made to respect the men’s frail physical condition; no one carried their bags, assisted them up the stairs, or treated them like they were elderly.
Nothing — no mirrors, no modern clothing, no images other than portraits of their much younger selves — reminded them that they had actually aged 22 years from the current perceived year.
After a couple of days, both the control and experimental groups were assessed. Ellen Langer and her team noticed that the men from both groups improved in physical strength, manual dexterity, movement, posture, perception, memory, cognition, taste sensitivity, hearing, and vision.
However, when compared to the control group, the majority of those improvements were far more significant in the experimental group taught to live as if it were 1959, with a complete 63 percent of them having superior cognitive test results at the end of the trial than they did at the beginning.
Then, several unaffiliated volunteers were shown the before and after images of the men in the experimental group. They were then asked to identify which was the younger of the photos. They all evaluated those in the “after” photos as two years younger than those in the “before” photos.
This experiment proved that it is possible for a person to get older chronologically but get younger biologically through their mindset and corresponding behavior.
Let us now delve into the science of reverse aging and discover how you can reverse your biological age, reduce your risk of chronic disease, and extend your health span.
Understanding the science of reverse aging
As earlier stated, aging is a natural process of life that every single one of us, no matter how fit or strong or healthy, must face. As we age, we become more prone to certain ailments. It has been discovered that our biological age is the most significant risk factor for all major diseases, including dementia, cancer, and diabetes. Simply put, while contemporary medicine addresses illness, it doesn’t address the underlying reason, aging itself.
According to Dr. Kara Fitzgerald (an upcoming guest on the Passion Struck podcast) in her book Younger You, “a whopping 80 percent of adults over sixty-five have one chronic disease. And a full 77 percent have at least two!”
And in my interview earlier this week with Katy Milkman Ph.D., a behavior scientist at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, she revealed that 40% of premature deaths in the United States are due to behaviors that we could change.
Now, the question is, do we really have to endure all these illnesses, pains, and difficulties as we age?
Before I proceed with the answer to this question (which I believe is already obvious), let me highlight the type of aging we are referring to here.
We have the chronological age, which is the number of years you have been alive. And we have the biological age, also known as physiological age, which refers to the relative age of how old you seem based on how your cells have changed since you’ve been alive. Our focus is on reversing or slowing down biological aging.
So, back to the question, we do not have to go through all those difficulties as we grow older. Believe it or not, there is new hope that we can live longer, healthier, and better, and even begin to turn back the hands of our biological clock. This has particularly been proven by one Harvard longevity scientist named David Sinclair, whose biological age is about two decades younger than his chronological age.
In his book, Lifespan: Why We Age — and Why We Don’t Have To, which was the culmination of decades of endless experiments with worms, flies, mice, monkeys, and relentless research, Sinclair came to the conclusion that the nine “hallmarks” of aging — from exhausted stem cells to tangled proteins to a sluggish metabolism — didn’t actually drive the process.
Instead, they were caused by DNA damage and faulty gene control. He discovered the exact mechanism at work “in every organism in the world,” from yeast and bacteria to Homo sapiens: “Aging is just a loss of knowledge.” That is another way of explaining that aging is a disorder caused by missing or corrupted data. It’s similar to a computer program that has broken code lines and forgotten where the computer code is!
Thus, he proves that your cells simply don’t have the capability to do what they’re supposed to do and that this can be corrected. Sinclair believes that “80% of our longevity and health in the future is in our own hands. Only 20% is genetic, which we cannot yet do much about. “
The role of Epigenetics and DNA Methylation in reverse aging
Epigenetics can be considered the thread connecting your diet and lifestyle habits, bio age, and disease risk.
The epigenetic clock is based on the body’s epigenome, which consists of chemical alterations to DNA, such as methyl groups. The pattern of these markers evolves over time and records a person’s biological age, which might trail or exceed chronological age.
We shall concentrate on a crucial epigenetic process known as DNA methylation. If epigenetics is a collection of several sorts of software, DNA methylation may be the most influential and long-lasting. It is undoubtedly the most researched of all epigenetic markers. To put it simply, DNA methylation is the operating system: it informs your hardware — your genes — what to do.
DNA methylation exercises power by depositing commonplace chemicals known as methyl groups on top of your genetic material. Those methyl groups control which genes are turned on and turned off and to what extent.
Dr. Kara Fitzgerald emphasizes in her book, Younger You: Reduce Your Bio Age and Live Longer, Better, that while DNA methylation has a lot of power on your health and well-being, you have a lot of impact on it. She says, “What you eat, when you go to bed, how stressed you are, how much you walk, and how much loving touch you participate in can all impact how and where those methyl groups are positioned and thus how your genes are expressed.”
Dr. Fitzgerald and my previous interviews with behavior scientists Katy Milkman and Michelle Segar point out that your daily micro choices made over a sustained period significantly impact your long-term health.
According to studies, if you give your body more of the things that promote healthy DNA methylation and less of the things that are thought to deregulate it, you can give yourself the DNA methylation patterns of a younger you.
That is how you can reduce your risk of getting diseases in the first place or how you may be able to slow or even reverse the path of illness if you are already sick. Plus, you’ll lose excess weight, restore lost vigor, and have folks wondering what you’re doing to seem so young for your age.
Six secrets to reverse aging and improve your biological age
With insight from several longevity researchers and active participants in the search for reverse aging, the following are significant ways you should instill to boost your health and reverse or slow down your biological clock:
Reverse aging starts with your mindset
There is a common belief that; “you’re only as young as you feel.” Now, science shows us it’s true! All that we do and become starts from our perceptions and belief systems. As shown in the earlier story about the experiment, we saw that when the aged men began to believe they were actually living 22 years earlier, they started to act like it and slowly became their younger and healthier selves. Because they became free from the limitations of the mindset that told them they were old and unable to function without assistance, they could find the strength they didn’t know they had and bought back some time for themselves.
So, understand that a positive mindset can reverse the aging process and intentionally build your mind to think thoughts that will get your body to start aligning with the possibility of getting biologically younger, and that is what will happen!
Reverse aging requires diet alterations
Our body systems are directly impacted by the types of food we put into them when we put it into them, and the amount. Like a car engine, if we put bad fuel into it, our system could wear out quickly and eventually stop working.
It has been suggested by Dr. Sinclair and Dr. Fitzgerald that there is a sweet spot in food consumption that shows the positive effects of eating less and boosting your detoxification systems. If Dr. Sinclair could sum up how to live longer in three words, he would say, “eat less often.”
There are a plethora of human studies that demonstrate fasting is advantageous for longevity. Research from the Baylor College of Medicine revealed that fasting reduced BMI, decreased weight circumference, improved blood pressure, and upregulated DNA repair proteins. These studies indicate that diseases like cancer, type I diabetes, and multiple sclerosis (MS), benefit from fasting.
Dr. Fitzgerald’s Younger You diet promotes xenohormetics which kick in a host of protective mechanisms, also found by Dr. Sinclair, that improve longevity. Xenohormetrics include resveratrol (found in pistachios, almonds, lentils, and betties, curcumin (found in turmeric), and sulforaphane (found in cruciferous vegetables).
She recommends organic and wild-grown produce that is pesticide-free. So, it is advised that you eat lots of a plant-based diet with vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Additionally, Whole foods like mushrooms, liver, eggs, dark leafy greens and beets provide anti-aging qualities.
Dr. Sinclair and a team from the University of Glasgow analyzed the connection between red meat and aging. Both found that high protein, red meat-based diets are not advantageous for reverse aging when examining the evidence. The results suggested that high protein levels will shut off sirtuins, inhibiting autophagy, the body’s way of cleansing damaged cells, to revive newer, healthier cells.
Also, consciously reduce your intake of starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes, and pasta. As much as possible, avoid sugary foods and drinks like sodas, candy, cakes, pastries, fruit juices, cookies, wine, and so on.
Eat proportionately, intermittently fast, and ensure you take lots of vitamins that promote DNA Methylation, including beef liver and beet supplements, greens and vegan protein powders, resveratrol, magnesium, DHA, and vitamins D and K2. Also, ensure you look for high-quality ones made by companies like Metagenics, Designs for Health, Klaire Labs, Puritan Pride, Optimum Nutrition, Life Extension, and Vital Nutrients.
Finally, ensure you hydrate a lot. Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily to keep your body system fresh and toxins-free.
Reversing aging is dependent upon a healthy exercise routine
Your lifestyle obviously impacts your health and chances for slow or reverse-aging. Simply put, a healthy exercise routine will benefit your body, while an unhealthy one will damage it.
When you think of exercise, you commonly see it as a way to reduce stress, build muscles, burn calories, and improve your cardiovascular system. It is actually all of these things and so much more. Exercise actually provides core nourishment of your DNA methylation and is an anti-aging elixir.
A 2018 study published in the European Heart Journal indicates that cardio has the most significant impact on anti-aging. It found that endurance exercises–like swimming, bicycling, running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and swimming slowed signs of aging compared to weightlifting on the cellular level.
So, actively engage in exercise and physical activities like hiking, swimming, and so on to keep your muscles and overall body strong and fit.
A proper sleep routine is essential for reducing our biological age
Sleep is essential to health and especially epigenetic health.
A growing body of science from studying both humans and animals illustrates that not getting enough can accelerate aging in addition to benefits linked to sleep. According to recent research published in Sleep Health, sleepless nights were shown to change your biological age. Both short duration and poor quality were shown to accelerate aging.
A study by UCLA researchers uncovered that a single night of inadequate sleep can make older adults’ cells age faster. This might not seem like a huge deal, but it has the potential to bring on a lot of other diseases, including multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer, just to name a few.
2019 research published in Nature indicated that people who slept less than five hours a night compared to those who slept seven had significantly shorter telomeres. If you are unfamiliar with telomeres, they protect the ends of chromosomes from becoming frayed or tangled). A shortened telomere is known to be a biomarker for accelerated aging.
The key to excellent sleep hygiene is consistency. So, ensure you have a sleep routine to prevent chronic deprivation. Getting at least 6–8 hours of sleep per day is advised, along with periods in the downstate, a topic we will be covering in detail in an upcoming interview with Dr. Sara Mednick.
Realize that lifestyle changes like these have an outsized impact on your health, energy, vigor, and longevity, and make sure you effectively put them into practice.
Stress has a direct impact on our biological age.
Knowing what is going on in your body at every point is imperative so you can quickly detect when something is not right before it gets out of hand or beyond treatment and repair. Don’t get too carried away with work or everyday activities that you do not give sufficient time to the body through which you get to do all you do.
According to Dr. Fitzgerald’s research, stress plays an enormous role in DNA methylation, impacting almost 25 percent of the methylation sites in the epigenetic clock she and her team used to determine biological age.
It may be difficult to control the things that cause you to stress, but you do have a lot of influence on how you respond to stress. Please check out my recent deep dive on this in episode 142 on why you must feel to heal.
A stable environment has a psychological and physiological impact on aging
From the earlier story of the experiment, we saw how much of a role the environment in which the aged men were placed influenced their perception and, in turn, their lives. Likewise, the things around you have a direct impact psychological and physiological impact on your health and aging.
An unhealthy environment prevalent with filth, vices, and negativity will naturally be a breeding ground for diseases and will inevitably cause you illness and rapid aging. In contrast, a clean and healthy environment filled with positivity and possibility will improve your state of being and boost your chances of reverse aging. So, ensure you consciously choose to stay in the right environment to benefit your overall health.
Our biological clock and future health are in our own hands
Now, you may be wondering, given I am not a doctor. How do I know if these suggestions actually work? I honestly had my doubts as well. So, I implemented them and had myself tested by Inside Tracker to determine my biological age.
I used their InnerAge analysis (including a blood test) to examine the 17 biomarkers for men to calculate my biological age. I should note that the are 13 biomarkers for women. Their system uses over ten years and tens of thousands of data samples to compare each biomarker to my peers and analyzes the contribution of each one to my biological age.
What I discovered was pretty mind-blowing. My biological age was actually over ten years younger than my chronological age.
My goal for writing this article was to dive deeply into the science of reversing the aging process and provide you with some techniques you can incorporate into your life to help you live a longer, healthier life. These include optimizing your diet, the benefits of exercise, the role of reduced stress, the significance of your mindset, the vital importance of sleep, suggestions on supplements, and more.
More importantly, I wanted to illustrate that it’s never too late to slow the aging process and that it can be done.
The combination of the recommendations I laid out will help you balance your DNA methylation, lower your biological age, and help build resilience to disease.
The result is a younger you!
This article is based on an episode of Passion Struck with John R. Miles. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform.
- Read my recent article on why the real prisons exist in the mind and what we believe.
- Are you having trouble prioritizing yourself? I discuss where you invest your love; you invest your life in Episode 104
- I explain why materialism is impacting your success and happiness in episode 96.
- Do you know the science of healthy habits? I explore this in-depth in Episode 108.
- Suppose you missed my interview with Jen Bricker-Bauer on Everything is Possible. Don’t panic! You can catch up by downloading it here.
- How do you strengthen your relationship with your best self? Explore episode 110.
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