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    Can You Increase Longevity? The Science Behind Living Longer

    By Molly Knudsen, MS, RDN, September 1, 2022

    Older man sitting and meditatingLongevity isn’t coded in your DNA. You have a say in how long you live. 

    Dr. Gil Blander—a leading scientist in the field of basic biology and healthy aging—founded InsideTracker in 2009 to help people realize their potential for a long, healthy productive life by optimizing their bodies from the inside out. See where the field of longevity research started, what impacts longevity, and how you can measure how well you’re aging.  

    The term longevity is synonymous with long life. And living longer doesn’t just happen by chance. Medical advancements have played a significant role in helping people reach their maximum potential age. But that’s not the only factor. Research is unveiling the influence of genetics as well as lifestyle and environmental factors on the aging process and the likelihood of developing age-related chronic diseases. Some of these influences are modifiable, such that daily dietary, supplement, or exercise habits may help or hurt, whereas other influences are more static.

    Here’s what you need to know about living the longest life possible.

    What’s the difference between longevity, lifespan, and life expectancy?

    There are a few nuances here. Longevity means a long duration of life, and a long lifespan suggests longevity. So what constitutes a long life? Life expectancy is the term you’ve probably seen in history books or on health-related news segments. Life expectancy refers to how long you can expect to live given the year you were born and other demographic factors. 

    Decades of medical innovation have extended the average life expectancy—or the average remaining years a person can expect to live based on the year that they’re born and other demographic factors (like age, sex, geographic location). For example, the average life expectancy of an adult living in the United States born in 2010 is almost 79 years of age. [1] This is just an estimate or prediction. It certainly doesn’t mean a person will live to or exceed that age. 

    Increasing life expectancy makes way for longevity research

    During the 20th century, life expectancy jumped by a significant 30 years. In 1900, the life expectancy of adults was just around 47 years. In 1990, it was around 75 years, and life expectancy reached almost 79 years in 2010. [2] This drastic increase was attributed to preventing early deaths in childhood due to medical and public health advances (improving living conditions and socioeconomic status) and is unlikely to occur again. Gains in overall life expectancy have been relatively modest since then. 

    And as people are now living longer, deaths due to age-related chronic diseases have risen. Now, increasing life expectancy and improving longevity depend on extending life later in life. 

    And that’s what longevity research focuses on. So the question lingers: How can you increase longevity?

    How does genetics influence longevity?

    Your genes don’t determine how long you’ll live. In twins, only 20-30% of the variation in years lived is hereditary. [3] And whole-genome sequencing is just now allowing for deeper analysis into genetic variants associated with aging. A 2016 study uncovered that the children of parents with long lifespans had more protective alleles—or different forms of the same gene variant—for heart health, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, triglyceride levels, type-1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. [3] 

    Although some people may be predisposed to having more protection against these conditions, many of them are still modifiable through diet and lifestyle like cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and BMI. 

    While genes may play a role in your longevity or lifespan, reaching the late decades of the human lifespan is a combination of gene-environment interactions. [4]

    How does lifestyle influence longevity?

    Certain lifestyle factors like sleep quality and quantity, what you eat—and when you do or don’t eat—movement, alcohol, and smoking can all impact how long you live. 

    Sleep

    Sleep plays an essential role in attention, cognition, mood, stress management, and cellular and muscular repair. [5] And it turns out there are some common sleep characteristics among long-lived individuals. A small 2014 study compared the sleeping habits of people aged 85 and older to adults in their 60s. Analysis showed that the older group maintained a strict sleep-wake schedule and deep sleep. They also had higher HDL-cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and lower triglyceride levels than their slightly younger counterparts. [6] 

    While this study doesn’t mean that quality sleep will add decades to your life, it does show a connection between sleep, longevity, and lipid metabolism.

    Increase your longevity by: Prioritizing quality sleep and adhering to a sleep schedule. 

    What you eat

    An abundance of evidence shows a strong connection between food, nutrition, and aging. Here are some foods that can help or hurt the aging process: 

     

    • Red meat: A study investigating the relationship between animal vs. plant-based protein sources and the risk of mortality found that both a higher ratio of animal to plant protein and overall higher meat consumption were associated with increased mortality risk. [7]
    • Coffee and green tea: Drinking coffee and tea is associated with longevity. Compared to not drinking coffee, having three cups of coffee a day is linked to a 12-17% reduced risk of death from all causes. [8,9] And drinking four cups of green tea day a day compared to none is associated with a 5% reduction in all-cause mortality 
    • Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale contain sulforaphane—a sulfur-rich compound— that activates anti-inflammatory and detoxification pathways. [10] Sulforaphane may support aging on a cellular level and help the body cope with daily stressors.

    Increase your longevity by: Eating less red meat, drinking more coffee and green tea, and eating more cruciferous vegetables.  

    Physical activity

    Muscle and lean body mass naturally declines with age and can start in your 40s. [11] Resistance training stimulates muscle growth and is the best way to combat this age-related muscle loss. [12] A large observation found that middle-aged to older individuals who were expected to increase their physical activity experienced longevity benefits and were better protected than inactive individuals from all-cause mortality. [13]

    Increase your longevity by: Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week including resistance training

    Intermittent fasting

    Routine intermittent fasting—including time-restricted feeding, alternate-day fasting, or 5:2 intermittent fasting—may lead to greater longevity and has been shown to protect against age-related chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. [14,15]

    Increase your longevity by: Regularly intermittent fasting (after talking with a healthcare professional). 

    Social networks and relationships

    Social relationships influence health and longevity. Research shows that social isolation, especially in the elderly may increase the likelihood of death anywhere from 50% to 91%. [16] 

    Increase your longevity by: Building and maintaining strong social networks through every stage of life. 

    Alcohol consumption 

    A recent 2020 study found that men and women who drank half a glass to one and a half glasses of an alcoholic beverage a day were more likely to reach 90 years of age. Binge drinking was not significantly associated with longevity, however, risk estimates of the study indicate avoiding binge drinking to enhance longevity. [17] 

    Increase your longevity by: Maintaining a low intake of alcohol if you drink and don’t start drinking if you currently don’t drink alcohol.

    Smoking

    An older study found that life expectancy identified that quitting smoking at the age of 35 may extend life expectancy by seven to almost nine years in smokers—and quitting at an earlier age could result in even greater life extension. [18]

    Increase your longevity by: Not smoking cigarettes or quitting if you currently smoke. 

    How do you determine how well you’re aging? 

    You may feel like you’re taking all the right steps to age healthfully, and in this day and age, living to 100 or beyond is not out of the question. But we all age at different speeds. And your birthday isn’t the best indicator of how old you actually are. 

    Lifestyle choices like diet, physical activity, and social connectedness all play a role in either staving off death or inviting its early arrival. But before that happens, these lifestyle choices either positively or negatively impact blood biomarkers—objective indicators of your body’s internal condition. And certain biomarkers are associated with longevity and risk of age-related diseases 

    For example, eating a lot of red meat will increase the amount of bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, in your body. Having high LDL levels are linked to heart disease and risk of death from heart disease. [19,20]

    Chronically high levels of inflammation are associated with risk for multiple chronic diseases and early death. [21] One way to measure inflammation is by looking at hsCRP levels in the blood. Managing inflammation levels is one way to help you live longer. 

    Measuring blood biomarkers can reveal how old you are internally.

    InnerAge 2.0

    And that’s what InsideTracker does with our InnerAge 2.0 plan. InnerAge 2.0 measures 14 biomarkers related to aging in women and 18 biomarkers related to aging in men. The algorithm then compares your values for those biomarkers against the average of your peers (in age and sex) in the InsideTracker dataset—one of the largest datasets of healthy people in the United States. Biomarkers are weighted heavier if they are more strongly correlated with aging. And then after a few more calculations, you're provided with your InnerAge. 

    InsideTracker’s InnerAge plan can be purchased as a standalone or added to other InsideTracker plans. Click here to learn more about InnerAge 2.0. 

     

     

    References 

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26561272
    2. https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/74/Supplement_1/S7/5475145
    3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27015805/ 
    4. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.312562
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30559589
    6. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00134/full
    7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30968137/
    8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23934579/
    9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29167102/
    10. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-14520-8
    11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22113943/
    12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27134329
    13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31243014
    14. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circ.140.suppl_1.11123
    15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27810402/
    16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26729882
    17. https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article/49/3/395/5730334
    18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12036794
    19. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.034273
    20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23402469
    21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31806905

     

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