What if there was one thing that you could do today to delay or improve the natural aging process in your body and mind?
At Emerge we are constantly seeking collaboration with the best minds in the world for helpful and practical advice on how to stay physically, mentally and financially healthy. Today we explore the concept of what it would be like to totally reimagine aging.
We’ve spent weeks rounding-up the top experts from around the world in various aging (also referred to as senescence) fields and asked them one question for our highly health conscious audience:
What is the best habit for staying physically or mentally young that most people do not know?
The results were as informative as they are diverse and cover the top anti-aging, human longevity and staying young techniques known to us today. Let’s meet the experts!
Contrary to what is often said in popular books and promoted on TV and the internet, neither antioxidants, nor resveratrol, nor human growth hormone, nor any exercise or conventional dietary regimen even “slow down” the aging process, let alone reverse it; and, actually, I’m afraid your options are limited even in terms of slowing it down.
It’s important to understand that no conventional diet, no fitness regimen, no supplement affects the aging process “itself,” or will have more than a marginal impact on life expectancy or years of end-stage frailty and decay.
The only possible exception to this is calorie restriction (CR) — i.e., eating a diet that is unnaturally low in calories, but carefully engineered to have 100% of the organism’s requirements for vitamins, minerals, protein, and essential fatty acids — which as you may know is the most robust of the very small number of interventions available now that is known to slow down biological aging in mammals. Aside from that uncertain gamble, and to have a really substantial effect in people who are already of middle age and above, we need radical anti-aging biomedicine.
Aging is, by its nature, a product of basic metabolic processes which aren’t appreciably altered by environmental influences, and it’s for this reason that, whereas genes only account for about 25% of your chances of reaching an age of about 75, they are a HUGE factor in your odds of becoming a centenarian once you have already lived that long, rather than dying shortly thereafter: at that point, it’s all about basic aging, with little influence of environmental factors.
That doesn’t mean that taking care of yourself is worthless. Eating well and exercising will greatly reduce your odds of suffering “prematurely” with many “age-associated” disabilities and diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers), and because of that, lifestyle factors are major predictors of your odds of reaching what was once ‘old age’ — 75 years or so, which is now actually below average. However, this has relatively little to do with aging, and a lot to do with killing yourself early with self-abuse.
As to what to do to avoid hastening age-related disease: boring as it sounds, the best advice is the stuff on which the public health people and all the diet gurus from Atkins to Ornish all basically converge: not smoking, lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, keeping yourself slim, olive oil as your main fat source along with fatty fish or a little flax oil, a glass or 2 of wine with dinner, avoidance of trans- and (over Atkins’ equivocations) saturated fat, “moderate” cardio and resistance training, a positive outlook, and so on.
Best-Selling Author, Science Writer
SENS Research Foundation
Michael Rae is the author of five scientific articles and commentaries in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Much of his work has been devoted to elucidating the SENS platform for anti-aging biomedicine for a popular audience. He is a long-time member and one-time Board Member of the Calorie Restriction Society, a main contributor to the Society’s “How-to Guide”, and was core scientific investigator with the CR Society Cohort Study. Co-author of Ending Aging with Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation.
The best habit for staying young is to stay out of debt. Debt makes you a slave to your impulses and reduces your future options. It causes you to make decisions that are in somebody else’s interest and rarely your own. Reduced options are a cause of reduced “luck”. Good “luck” makes one happier. Avoiding debt requires that one understand, develop and practice self control and avoid impulsive decisions. It makes you more independent in your thinking. It prevents you from deciding things based on other’s often uninformed opinions.
Avoidance of debt eliminates the majority of anxiety, reduces stress, reduces cortisol, reduces blood pressure, improves sleep, reduces binge eating. Makes savings a priority, savings produces opportunities to help others which can generate joy. Joy reduces blood pressure and increases positive self-image. Debt is one of the unrecognized aging accelerants. Avoid it. Shun it. Evade it. If you have it, consider it a disease to become rid of – it is literally a parasite.
Co-founder and CEO
The best habit to stay physically and mentally well that most people don’t know is to do a sport that beats you up. It can be boxing, or marathon running, or big wave surfing. But it must be something that scares you, challenges you, and can be practiced frequently.
I’m a surfer, and when the water is coldest, the waves biggest, and the conditions harshest, I feel the best. The reason is that all the frivolities of life fade aways once your body and psyche is actually be challenged to such a serious degree.
Radical Science and Technology Visionary; Futurist; California Gubernatorial Candidate (2018).
As a global leader of the transhumanism movement and world leader in his field, Istvan’s consulted for the US Navy, spoke at the World Bank, advised executives at multi-billion dollar corporations, moderated panels, hosted television segments, and publicly debated celebrities and policy experts. Istvan also gives talks about his success as an entrepreneur, media personality, bestselling author, and on his past adventures as a journalist for
While we are constantly being offered the latest technologies and innovations to keep us vibrant and independent, the greatest contributions to staying physically and mentally young still come back to the basics: stay mentally active, engage in social connections, find ways to contribute, and of course emphasize exercise and good nutrition.
David Lindeman, PhD
Director, CITRIS Health
CITRIS and the Banatao Institute
Dr. David Lindeman is Director of the CITRIS Health Initiative. He also serves as Director of the Center for Technology and Aging, which was developed with support from The SCAN Foundation. He is Co-Director of the Center for Innovation and Technology in Public Health, which advances the use of technology to support population health.
I will discuss sleep. I should note that I am an aging researcher who specializes in telomeres and mitochondria and not a sleep scientist. I have, however, given the subject some amount of hobbyist attention, from the perspective of aging and health. The dogma that I want to challenge is that people need *more* sleep. I believe that there is a bell curve around sleep with a sweet spot of sleep fitness that we should aim for. This means that we should aim to achieve the right amount of high quality sleep, rather than as much as possible.
What is the ideal amount of sleep? Most attention goes to studies demonstrating the health disadvantages of insufficient sleep. To my knowledge, all of these studies looked at people who slept 5 or fewer hours per night. These studies are certainly correct and accurate. The conclusion of the scientists and physicians who perform and interpret these studies, however, is almost always that people should aim for at least 8 hours of sleep per night. I do not believe that this conclusion is justified by the data.
In fact, some number of lifespan studies have analyzed large cohorts of people and found that maximal mean lifespan does not peak at 8 hours per day, but rather between 6 and 7 hours per day. Furthermore, the studies show that lifespan drops precipitously as people get more sleep than they need, with folks who sleep 10+ hrs / night having as poor health spans as those who sleep 5 or fewer hours per night. Thus it would seem that sleep is like food: it is easy to get both too much and too little.
Another sleep tip I have is about napping: it’s good for you! Many studies have demonstrated the health benefits of mid-day naps. The “power nap” has both many benefits on brain function and memory and is practical for people to fit into their schedules. A power nap should be at least 10 mins long and no more than 30 mins. The reason that you want to limit the length of your nap is that if you sleep for longer than 30 mins you can fall into N2 or “deep” sleep. If you then wake up during N2 or N3 sleep you may find yourself groggy for quite some time after your nap rather than feeling refreshed. Power napping is a skill that needs to be cultivated so people should realize that they need to practice it rather than giving up if they find it difficult. There are many guides to power napping on the internet.
Unfortunately all of the correlative science on health and sleep relies on population averages as the field of sleep has been slow to discover personalized medicine. I am hopeful that the advent of more accurate portable sleep monitors (particularly ones that measure EEG rather than inaccurate actigraphs) will allow researchers, health enthusiasts, and citizen scientists to discover optimal sleep patterns for individuals. Personally I think that the ideal sleep schedule for me, and probably most people is 6-6.5 hrs / night supplemented with a 20′ power nap in the afternoon.
Matthew “Oki” O’Connor, Ph.D.
Head of Research
SENS Research Foundation
Matthew was awarded his Master’s degree at Northwestern Medical in 1999 for his work studying behavioral neuroscience in aged rodents. In 2005, at Baylor College of Medicine he received a PhD in Biochemistry for his work on proteins that regulate human telomeres. Postdoctoral research includes work at UC Berkeley on muscle stem cells and aging. Since 2010, Dr. O’Connor has headed up the MitoSENS project at the research center in Mountain View, California. His research is focused on “allotopic expression” of mitochondrial genes where his team is engineering mitochondrial genes to be expressed from the nucleus and targeted to the mitochondia. Since 2012 Dr. O’Connor has had broad oversight over many areas of research at SRF. Matthew O’Connor is passionate about performing basic research to combat the diseases and disabilities of aging.
Currently the best habits for staying physically healthy and young are precisely the ones most people DO already know: exercise, sleep well, and keep stress low. Eventually the improvement of biomedical technologies may allow other activities, such as going for a routine clearance of senescent cells, or infusion of healthy somatic stem cell factors, to take he lead — but for now your best bet is to take care of your body in the most obvious ways.’’ As for mental health: never stop learning — the moment you find your current endeavors easy is the moment you should start learning something new.
President Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF)
Keith Comito is a computer programmer and mathematician whose work brings together a variety of disciplines to provoke thought and promote social change. He has created video games, bioinformatics programs, musical applications, and biotechnology projects featured in Forbes and NPR. In addition to developing high-profile mobile applications such as HBO Now and MLB AtBat, he explores the intersection of technology and biology at the Brooklyn community lab Genspace, where he helped to create games which allow players to direct the motion of microscopic organisms. Seeing age-related disease as one of the most profound problems facing humanity, he now works to accelerate and democratize longevity research efforts through initiatives such as Lifespan.io.
There are two words to stay physically and mentally young – get online. Older Americans are increasingly accessing the internet for its plethora of resources, ranging from educational, commerce, to entertainment content. Luddites, however, often oppose such rampant digital use among all people, suggesting that the more people are hiding behind the façade of their smartphones and tablets instead of physically interacting with others.
Yet, seniors can actually fare better when they are connected, which is why this is one habit to have. Social media, like Facebook, enables seniors to bridge geographical gaps between their families and friends, often contributing to lighter spirits. Advances in telemedicine can allow seniors to make use of remote health-monitoring devices to improve communication with doctors.
In-home sensors can assist older adults who want to age in place by alerting our caregivers and family members to a fall. And, playing Candy Crush on your smartphone has its benefits in keeping one’s mind active, especially when the computer is outwitted.To stay mentally young and physically fit, seniors should enlist themselves in the technology revolution – the innovation is not only transcending our wildest dreams, but it’s also keeping us alert and well connected to resources that help keep us alive.
Nicol Turner Lee, Ph.D.
Fellow, Center for Technology Innovation, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution
Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee is a fellow in the program’s Center for Technology Innovation and a contributor to TechTank. She comes to Brookings from the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), a national non-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media, telecommunications, and broadband industries, where she served as vice president and chief research and policy officer.
The single best habit for staying young and living longer is exercise. Any exercise is better than none, but brief hours of maximal exertion, followed by a few minutes rest, repeated several times, has been shown to be more effective than gentler exercise of long duration. But any exercise is better than none.
Other interventions, from statins to metformin to diet to supplements have varying degrees of effectiveness and utility, but none have been shown to be as effective at extending healthy lifespan as physical activity.
Lifespan.io researchers post projects related to longevity or age related disease, and receive funds from contributors to fulfill their goals. Contributors, in turn, are able to exercise agency in the development of potentially life changing research, as well as receiving rewards specified by the project creators.
There are lifestyle habits that you can adopt to maintain or potentially improve your health as you age. These habits, spanning four categories — physical health and exercise, diet and nutrition, cognitive activity, and social engagement — can help keep your body and brain healthy and potentially reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity. At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014, a two-year clinical trial of older adults at risk for cognitive impairment showed that a combination of physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors slowed cognitive decline.
10 Ways to Love Your Brain
Growing evidence indicates that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits. When possible, combine these habits to achieve maximum benefit for the brain and body. It’s never too late or too early to incorporate healthy habits.
Break a sweat.
Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
Hit the books.
Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.
Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
Follow your heart.
Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
Fuel up right.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction.
Catch some Zzz’s.
Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
Take care of your mental health.
Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community — if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an afterschool program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.
Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
Quitting smoking and excessive drinking, alongside avoiding an excess of calories and processed, high sugar foods, with a plentiful supply of high nutrient, high fibre foods such as vegetables and many fruits. Regular exercise and adequate sleep are also extremely important.
Overall however while lifestyle changes are excellent risk modifiers, the best suggestion is to advocate and invest in technologies being developed to alleviate biological aging and age-related disease. These are likely to have far more impact in the long term.
Founder and CEO of BioViva
Several evidence-based studies, led by AFAR experts, show that exercise has both cardiovascular and cognitive benefits.
American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR)
The best thing(s) that anyone can do, and we all know this, is to eat a healthy diet and keep physically active. I always sum this upas ‘Eat less, move more’.
British Society for Research on Ageing