Solving for Longevity
When I hear the term 'longevity', I used to shrug it off as I synonymized longevity with age at death. 40+ years from now. I didn't even think about something so far down the road. Now, I understand 'longevity' differently: Maximizing both age-at-death (lifespan) and quality-of-life (healthspan).
- Lifespan is the age to which a person lives. Simple. The current average is almost 80 years in the US.
- Healthspan is the quality of life over time maximizing well-being in the following categories .
- Mind & cognition (executive function, processing speed, short term memory)
- Body (maintenance of muscle mass, functional movement, freedom from pain)
- Distress tolerance (emotional pain, dealing with daily annoyances)
- Sense of purpose & social support (philosophical meaning of life)
The graph below best illustrates the relationship between healthspan and lifespan . The y-axis (left) is % scale of healthspan and x-axis (bottom) is age.
The red line shows today's average person, maximizing healthspan around 40 years, and slowly declining until death around 80. If you think about this practically, this decline in quality of life is someone who deteriorates in health becoming immobile with dementia needing costly assistance to survive - not preferable.
The desired line in blue shows the goal of maximizing longevity by pushing the whole curve to the right, maximizing the peak from 40 to 60 years, and making the healthspan decline as steep as possible. This is representative of the 90 year old effortlessly mowing their yard and still witty as they were at age 40. Then to painlessly pass in their sleep of a heart attack at 100 years young - preferable ... at age 100!
Healthspan vs Age
At 30, I'm not thinking about death much, but I understand the importance of maintaining a high quality of life as I get older. This is due to witnessing loved ones mentally and physically deteriorate and pass on in their early 60's (an even more condensed red line per the above graph). I share their same genes ... maximizing and elongating my healthspan 'peak' has become my goal.
"When you look at the people who live the longest, when you look at these people who live to 100 and beyond, for the most part they die of the exact same diseases as the rest of us schleps. They just get them later. That’s really important. Because I think it offers an insight into longevity that is often overlooked."
Peter Attia, M.D. via FoundMyFitness
To maximize longevity, we need to account for our actions today to delay the onset of three largest killers of humans: cerebrovascular and cardiovascular, cancer, and neurodegenerative seen below . These three causes of death will kill 75% of us.
- Cerebrovascular and cardiovascular - strokes, aneurysms, heart attacks
- Cancer - pancreatic, testicular, liver, brain, prostate, colon, and everything else under the sun (melanoma)
- Neurodegenerative - brain and memory diseases such as ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Huntington's
I know what you're thinking. This sounds so obvious it's uninteresting. But understand it this way. Diseases are compounding. They ramp up over time. Harder to stop later down the road.
If you've ever owned an older-nice-import car, you can understand the compounding troubles with each mile driven. For me, it was a 1990 BMW 525si and later a 2006 BMW X5. I encountered issues with the water pump, radiator, suspension, engine mounts, stuck window, and the list goes on as well as all the money down the drain. After buying a car for $10k and spending double that in maintenance costs over 2 years, you begin to grasp what good ownership and maintenance plan does to the longevity of the car.
Us as humans are prone to this same process, but with the deterioration of our own body. Our maintenance plan needs to focus on stopping or slowing the diseases' harmful, painful and fatal compounding effects. This is why implementing healthy behaviors, our maintenance plan, is so beneficial and can halt the compounding degenerating effects of heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer. - Jacob
To delay the onset, research shows there are five fundamental areas of concern that we must optimize. From the highest level, it is the ability to promote healthy cellular growth and limit inflammatory agents via diet and activities.
- Low fasting blood glucose levels and limit postmeal glycemia (blood glucose spike)
- High mitochondria function / mitochondria flexibility - ability to effectively switch between fuel sources: fat and glucose (carbs/sugars)
- Least amount of protein you need to consume to build and maintain muscle mass
- Limit toxic exposure
- Low inflammation levels
Tactically we can control these 5 via, you guessed it, food intake and physical exercise of some sort. There are intricacies to applying the following approach from person to person, but it is a good place to start if this is the first time you've prioritized longevity. The following are respective to the 5 areas listed above.
- Limit sugary/sweet/refined carb foods. If you ingest a large carb load, burn it off with exercise, TRE, and sleep.
- Only eat within a 10 hour window. Go on a 3 day fast. Focus on ingesting a 7:2:1 ratio of fats:proteins:carbs. It's easier to flex metabolically when food sources are from healthy fats.
- Focus on ingesting a 7:2:1 ratio of fats:proteins:carbs. If you’re focus is building muscle your protein intake may need to look like 6:3:1, but maintain the order of fat:protein:carbs. Carbs (and even proteins) raise insulin levels hindering the goal of #1.
- Anything in extreme excess can be 'toxic'. Avoid over-enjoying yourself at the bar. Watch out for over-sterilizing your home. Get adequate sleep, exercise, and sauna time to enable autophagy (recycling of cellular components - #comingsoon) and clean yourself of any daily absorbed toxins you encounter.
- Adequate water intake. Maintain fat:protein:carb balance. Supplement help. Exercise, sauna, thermal conditioning all lower inflammatory markers.
Does this seem like a lot? Do you need a method to implement these behaviors?
To go beyond this high level list, join our 6 week training and weekly blog where we aim to maximize your healthspan by diving into the details and prioritizing each step.
Living to an old age is one thing. But I don't want to just 'survive'. I want to thrive. Join us in this journey.