Though we have no control over the passage of time and hence our chronological age, the good news is that we can slow down and even reverse ageing.
Have you ever wondered whether the pandemic has left any lasting effects on your health?
Of course, there were the obvious effects of the infection on those who caught it, and the vaccines we all took as safeguards. However, it extended further in terms of life events such as bereavement, unemployment, financial upheavals, negative relationship dynamics, lost promotions, or compromised learning opportunities. Additionally, there were forced lifestyle changes such as less exercise and sun exposure, more junk food, and ineffective socializing that we had to contend with.
A combination of life events and poor lifestyle choices may have added many years to our lives making us way older than our chronological age. Dr Michael E. Roizen, the author of the book ‘RealAge’, says that facing three or more life events in a year can age us by multiple years.
Recently, a family friend visited us and as the conversation flowed, we exchanged notes on the health issues faced by our friends. We had lost a dear friend some time ago, who succumbed to dengue at the age of 56. The incident sent shock waves throughout our social circle.
Later, our friend recounted the case of his acquaintance merely 28 years old, who was admitted for angina. The cardiac markers (biomarkers that help diagnose the early onset of heart disease) were positive and a 100% block was detected in his coronaries. This entailed emergency angiography and angioplasty. Similar stories indicating that the average age of lifestyle diseases is dropping to ensnare Generation Z are becoming commonplace.
We all have a burning desire to know the answers to two pertinent questions:
- How long will we live?
- How healthy and vigorous will our life be?
So far, we all thought that we were at the mercy of our genes and feared the ailments that had afflicted our family tree. However, my dad has steadily defied the family genetics of ailments like high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart attacks. He has made it a habit to eat in moderation and chew his food well. He knows that overeating is the main reason for all lifestyle diseases. His work as an insurance professional required that he walk a good deal to cover the distance between multiple offices. This got him a healthy dose of daily exercise. His positive temperament and attitude of gratitude worked like the cherry on the cake. Thus, he has gifted himself a healthy life, unlike his siblings.
Age-reversal-obsessed tech entrepreneur Bryan Johnson shells out millions every year to reduce his biological age. He has a team of 30 scientists to advise him about a slew of diet, exercise and treatment regimes. An all-over skin laser treatment has reduced his skin age by 22 years.
However, Luke Coutinho, the celebrated Lifestyle and Integrative Medicine coach, advocates staying away from extreme measures while ageing gracefully. To quote him, “Longevity isn’t about adding years to your life. Instead, it is about adding life to your years. It isn’t about lifespan but about health span.”
According to him, accelerated ageing can be caused by lifestyle.
- Sleep deprivation: Sleep deprivation damages the cells and tissues over time. Further, it hampers the restorative and cellular repair processes.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Muscles are the only age-reversing organ. As we age, our muscle mass decreases and a sedentary lifestyle can accelerate this process.
- Constantly nibbling and overeating: Science says that even a 30% reduction of our daily calorie intake is enough to slow ageing. Constant nibbling, snacking or overeating sends our digestive system into overdrive, wearing it out faster.
- Chronic stress: Chronic stress and unresolved negative emotions could precipitate early ageing.
Luke suggests working on all these lifestyle changes in tandem to drive the aging body in reverse.
Dr. Roizen talks about how our real or biological age, not our chronological or counter age, is the authentic indicator of our health. Though we have no control over the flight of time and hence our counter age, the good news is that we can slow down the effects of time on our bodies.
Luke Coutinho, the celebrated Lifestyle and Integrative Medicine coach based in Mumbai, advocates staying away from extreme measures while ageing gracefully. “Longevity isn’t about adding years to your life. Instead, it is about adding life to your years. It isn’t about lifespan but about health span.”
10 ways to reverse aging
But is there a way to know how fast or slow our body clock is and how to get it to tick in reverse?
Yes! It’s possible.
Just making a few changes discussed below will enable us to look and feel much younger. `Hopefully, they will also reflect in the medical markers of our blood chemistry.
- Diet – A recent European study found that people who spent a year on the Mediterranean diet replete with vegetables, fruit, fish, and other lean proteins, nuts, and legumes ended up shaving off almost 1.5 years from their biological age.
- Superfoods – ‘Age in Reverse’ author Steven Schuster emphasizes the good effects of wonder foods like chia seeds and flaxseeds which contain Omega-3 fatty acids. He encourages us to eat spinach and kale for their antioxidant properties which counter damage from sun exposure. He recommends garlic to slow the hardening of arteries and green tea to reduce hyperpigmentation of the skin. Our body needs an alkaline pH of 7.35 to 7.45 for optimal functioning. He recommends regular helpings of fruits and vegetables to achieve that.
- Sleep – Researchers at the University of Zurich analyzed the MRI scans of 134 young adults with an average age of about 25 years. The results showed that a single night without sleep caused the brain to appear one to two years older than a person’s actual age. Experts recommend at least 7 hours of shut-eye every night to slow down the aging process.
- Exercise – 30-40 minutes of exercise five days a week will cut your biological age by nine years, according to a study conducted by Brigham Young University on 6,000 adults between 20 and 84 years of age. Jenna Falls, author of the book ‘Aging Backwards’ states that sitting for 10 hours a day adds to the years. But isn’t it heartening to know that a 40-minute walk can effectively counter the damage caused by working at our desks for 10 hours every day?
- Quitting alcohol, smoking and drugs – The American Cancer Society states that quitting smoking can add up to 10 years to our lives. Drug abuse and indulging in three or more drinks daily can accelerate the aging process.
- Avoid stress – A study in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ found that stress causes women’s immune systems to age by an extra 10 years.
- Support network – Dr. Roizen writes that having a support network during life events and phases of extreme stress can make us many years younger compared to those who have to endure it alone. However, seeking professional help if we are bereft of support helps. He further states that a happy marriage can make us about 6.5 years younger.
- Healthy habits – The daily breakfast habit counters the high levels of cortisol, making us younger. The improved dental hygiene resulting from flossing our teeth daily can also slow down ageing.
- Pets – Companionship even of a pet helps. Besides, walking our dog is good exercise and can make us younger than our counter age.
- Skin health – Jenna Falls says that excess use of cosmetics can rob the skin of its moisture and result in premature wrinkles. Dr Roizen advises using sunscreen to avoid damage caused by harsh sunlight.
The above facts and figures need to be processed in tandem with readings from our bloodwork to get an overall sense of our real age. To best calculate your real age, visit the website: https://www.longevityplaybook.com
I am reminded of a quote from J.K. Rowling’s book, ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.’ “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”
The words of the famous song by the pop band ‘Johnny Hates Jazz’ play in my mind. Here’s wishing you luck as you “Turn back the clock. Bring the day, the time to a stop.”
Photos courtesy: Samer Daboul/Pexels