With advances in medical science and an increased focus on healthy living, we have more control over our lifespan and healthspan than ever before. But the key to longevity isn’t just about staying alive, it’s about thriving in our golden years. Here, we provide simple, yet effective evidence-based strategies that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine to not only add more years to your life but also enhance your vitality and well-being as you age.
Physical activity serves as a near-universal remedy for contemporary health issues. It enhances muscular strength, optimizes cardiovascular functioning, and diminishes the risk of injuries. Exercise has demonstrated multiple pathways through which it can effectively prolong one’s lifespan.
A 2022 study illustrated the life-extending benefits of frequent exercise. Researchers analyzed the exercise and activity patterns of over 416,420 adults across a 30 year period. Applying a Cox regression analysis to the self-reported activity data, researchers found that moderate aerobic exercise (defined as 150–299 minutes per week) resulted in a 19% to 25% lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and non-cardiovascular disease mortality. Vigorous exercise was less effective at reducing mortality, but still had an impact (2% to 4%).
Most notably, the gains in longevity were more pronounced for those who hadn’t exercised previously, indicating that those new to fitness stand to improve their health at a greater degree than people who’ve always exercised regularly. This is good news if you’ve just begun your physical fitness journey.
Adding muscle strengthening exercise to one’s fitness and activity routine also impacts longevity. Another study looked at activity and mortality data from 1997 to 2014, with researchers performing the same regression analysis to correlate exercise level with all-cause mortality. The study found that one hour per week of muscle strengthening exercise provided a reduction in all-cause mortality, with gains up to 3 hours, at which point the benefits begin to decline.
According to these two studies, an optimal exercise program would include five hours of aerobic activity, plus up to three hours of muscle strengthening exercise.per week. Even if you do one of these activities, you will still be lowering your risk of mortality across several areas.
If you are considering starting or adding to your current workout routine, consider adding functional fitness. The purpose of functional fitness is to mimic everyday movements so that your body is strong enough to function without injury. Good exercises to try are squats and lunges for legs, and pushups and dips for upper body and core. Using large muscle groups with these exercises not only provides strength- and muscle-building benefits, but it also raise your heartrate to give aerobic and cardiovascular benefits.
You might have seen articles on the practice called “rucking”, which is essentially walking over hills with a weighted backpack. This activity provides aerobic benefits and strengthens the lower body in two different ways. First, climbing hills works the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteus muscles. Going downhill engages the knees and hip flexors, which are very important in stopping forward motion, such as when you trip or fall. Lack of strength and flexibility in these muscles causes falls in older people, which are a leading cause of injury and illness.
Change your diet
Food is our fuel for living. It makes perfect sense that when we put better fuel into our bodies, we reap the rewards in improved health and vitality. But the food we eat often determines how well, and how long, we’ll live.
The link between diet and longevity was illustrated in a research study that correlated various healthy eating patterns, with human mortality. This study compared the mortality of a cohort of over 100,000 to their eating patterns, as defined in the chart below:
The analysis found that the less likely a person was to eat in any one of these dietary patterns, the greater their likelihood of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory disease. In addition, the Alternate Mediterranean Diet and Alternative Healthy Eating diet were inversely associated with mortality from neurodegenerative disease.
Even if you don’t follow one of the eating plans mentioned above, you can still realize longevity gains by making other changes in your diet consistent with these food regimes.
- Reduce saturated fats/increase healthy fats: Replacing all your added fats with extra-virgin olive oil is a good way to increase your monounsaturated fatty acids, which are responsible for the “good” cholesterol in your blood.
- Increase fiber: Research findings indicate that individuals who have a higher intake of dietary fiber demonstrate a notable reduction, ranging from 15% to 30%, in mortality rates related to all causes and cardiovascular incidents. Moreover, these individuals exhibit a lower prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer when compared to those with a lower fiber intake in their diet. The range for high fiber in this study was between 25 grams and 29 grams of fiber per day.
The best way to increase dietary fiber, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is to increase the amount of plant-based foods in your diet. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts are excellent sources of fiber.
Get better sleep
In the hustle and bustle of our modern lives, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a good night’s sleep. We often sacrifice those precious hours of rest for work, socializing, or binge-watching our favorite shows. But sleep is not a luxury: it is a fundamental pillar of a longer, healthier life.
While most sleep studies have investigated sleep duration as a factor in health, several studies have looked at the quality of sleep as a determining factor in longevity and mortality. One such study investigated the correlation between sleep quality and cardiovascular disease mortality. Researchers combined chronotype (one’s propensity to be a “morning person” or an “evening person”), duration, insomnia complaints, snoring, and daytime sleepiness to devise an index for measuring sleep quality.
This index was applied to over 140,000 health records, and the results showed a reduction of about two years of CVD-free life for poor sleepers when compared to those with average-quality sleep. Moreover, women and men with sleep disorders (eg, insomnia) lost 1.4 and 3.8 years free of cardiovascular disease.
Similar results were reported in another study using a multi-factorial approach to sleep quality, though looked at mortality across several conditions. In the second study, researchers created their sleep quality index using the following factors:
- ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours per night.
- difficulty falling asleep no more than two times per week.
- trouble staying asleep no more than two times per week.
- not using any sleep medication.
- feeling well rested after waking up at least five days per week.
The results of this study revealed that subjects who had all five of the characteristics above (high quality) were 30% less likely to die from any cause than those with zero or one characteristic. These individuals with high sleep quality were 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19% less likely to die from cancer, and 40% less likely to die of causes other than heart disease or cancer.
Longevity expert and Fountain Life founder Dr. Peter Diamandis counts sleep as one of his longevity pillars and uses several techniques to ensure he gets eight hours of high-quality sleep.
- Unplug: turn off electronic devices and the television 30 minutes before bed. Diamandis’ wind down includes donning blue-light-blocking glasses, which help the body produce enough melatonin to get and stay asleep, and dimming the lights.
- Establish a sleep routine: go to bed/sleep at the same time each day. You can also create other bedtime practices that signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
- Stop snoring: Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops and starts during the night. Using devices that keep your airway open, like a CPAP machine or mandibular alignment device, can help you get a better night’s sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation also maintains guidelines for good sleep which center around tools to assess and manage sleep satisfaction, sleep quality, and sleep duration. You can use these tools and suggestions to better manage the effectiveness of your sleep.
Get your mind right
Mental health is a crucial component of overall wellness, profoundly impacting lifespan. Research has indicated that mental health conditions, especially depression and anxiety, can shorten life expectancy due to the heightened risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Moreover, sound mental health fosters healthier lifestyle choices and habits, including regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep, all contributing to an extended lifespan. It is also observed that a positive mental state bolsters the immune system, enhancing the body’s resistance to various diseases. Hence, investing in mental health isn’t solely about enriching the quality of life, but it’s also a step towards longevity.
One life factor that affects your mental health is happiness. Happiness researchers have illustrated the connection between living a happy life and longevity. One study followed a group of elderly people for either 10 or 30 years to track their health and well-being. Over the course of that time, they were given a survey each year to measure their level of happiness and optimism. The results revealed that the subjects who lived the longest reported the highest levels of positive emotion.
An estimated 5% of adults experience depression, and almost 17% of adults will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. Depression has a direct result on physiological function, as it is often accompanied by various physical symptoms such as sleep disturbances, changes in appetite and weight, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Scientists have investigated the connection between depression. In a study published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology, the respondents’ performance on strength and functional tests was plotted against the respondents’ level of depression. The results showed that those who suffered from depression performed statistically significantly worse on functional tests than those without.
Another aspect of mental health is overall cognitive function, which declines with age as well as with the onset of various types of dementia. While there are treatments that can improve cognitive decline once it starts, the best defense is prevention. Harvard-affiliated, Massachusetts General Hospital neuroscientist Rudolph Tanzi has developed an acronym – SHIELD – as a mnemonic for remembering how to protect your brain from deterioration:
- Handle stress
- Interact with friends
- Exercise daily
- Learn new things
- Daily exercise
Practice preventive healthcare
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventive healthcare plays a fundamental role in extending longevity by allowing early detection and management of potential health issues. Regular check-ups and screenings can effectively identify problems in their initial stages when they are usually easier and less expensive to treat. Preventive healthcare also promotes healthier lifestyles, encouraging individuals to adopt habits like a balanced diet, regular exercise, and good sleep hygiene. These habits help to mitigate the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, which are leading causes of premature death.
Longevity medicine is an important part of preventive care. It is an emerging branch of medical science focusing on the promotion of healthy aging via the prevention of the maladies that come with getting sick and getting older. Its primary aim is not just to prolong human life but to extend the years of health, productivity, and quality of life. Longevity medicine targets the biological process of aging itself, comprising strategies and therapies that slow the rate of aging and decrease the risk of age-associated diseases.
This field of medicine takes a comprehensive approach to health, considering the whole body and its intricate systems, and uses the latest advancements in genomics, biotechnology, and molecular biology to decipher the underlying causes of aging and related diseases. The goal of longevity medicine is not just to increase our lifespan, but to allow us to live healthier for a longer time.
Fountain Life employs preventive and longevity medicine through advanced diagnostics that help detect pre-symptomatic disease so that you can live a healthier, longer life.
Fountain Life’s diagnostics are centered around the diseases and conditions that are the most salient causes of premature death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Preventive diagnostics are proven to have an impact on catching and curing these conditions.
The impact of preventative diagnostics in assessing the risk for cardiovascular disease has been illustrated in the scientific community. In the “Framingham experiment”, a well-known, multigenerational study of a specific population in Massachusetts, revealed the genetic component involved in cardiovascular disease risk, proving that CVD is tied to inheritable traits. Fountain Life’s test for heart disease risk factors can now use a blood test to determine whether certain genes are present in your body.
Cancer screening using genetic biomarkers is also a part of Fountain Life’s preventive diagnostics and is available with all Fountain Life programs. Our testing uses blood serum and advanced machine learning to detect and analyze a person’s risk for developing certain cancers.