Age Better, Starting Now

Anti-aging strategies straight from top longevity researchers: 28 things you can do to stay younger and healthier, longer.

By Susan Ince
Photograph: Photo by: iStockphoto

Eat Yourself Younger

Eating what’s good for you may be at least as important as avoiding what’s bad for you. As part of Sweden’s Mammography Screening Cohort, 59,038 women age 40 to 79 told researchers how often they consumed 60 different foods. Ten years later, women who ate 16 to 17 different healthful foods (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and low-fat dairy products) on a regular basis were a striking 42 percent more likely to be alive than women who regularly ate eight or fewer from that list. "The number of less nutritious foods they ate (sugars, fats, fatty meats) did not increase death rates but were associated with more cancers of all types," notes Alicja Wolk, professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Women younger than 40 showed no relationship between diet and longevity. Here, more food for thought.

Make It Mediterranean

In a study conducted last summer by Wolk, more than 40,000 Swedish women age 30 to 49 were encouraged to follow a Mediterranean diet: They got points for eating healthful foods and lost points for eating fatty meats and other foods associated with a Western diet. For women in their 40s, an increase of more than two points on the Mediterranean diet scale led to a 13 percent reduction in mortality and a 16 percent reduction in cancer deaths.

Quaff Some Coffee

Whether decaf or high-test, coffee seems to decrease the inflammation linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease. In the Iowa Women’s Health Study of 40,000, women who drank one to three cups a day were 16 percent less likely to die in the 15-year follow-up period than coffee skippers.

Eat Almost Everything

In the Okinawa Centenarian Study, Bradley J. Willcox, MD, of the University of Hawaii, examined the Okinawan lifestyle. Instead of being admonished to "clean your plate," elders tell children to "hara hachi bu" — stop eating when they are 80 percent full.

The New Frontier: Anti-Aging Supplements

Longevity researchers are focusing on our cells’ mitochondria to slow aging. These mini combustion engines burn fat and carbohydrates to form ATP, the fuel for all your cells. With age, production falters, which creates damaging by-products: the notorious free radicals. In a vicious cycle, free radicals damage mitochondria, generating less fuel and more free radicals. "Many degenerative diseases associated with aging (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes) involve decay in the mitochondria," says Bruce Ames, PhD, a 78-year-old biochemist. Can we live longer and healthier lives with the proper care of our mitochondria? Ames and other scientists think so and have introduced some mitochondria-protecting products to the market.

Anti-Free-Radical Supplement

To boost mitochondrial fuel efficiency and decrease free-radical production, Ames combined acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid to create Juvenon (juvenon.com). Preliminary studies in humans indicate that Juvenon may lower blood pressure, and tests on memory are now under way.

Herbal Enzyme Booster

To maintain levels of antioxidant enzymes in mitochondria, University of Colorado researchers extracted active ingredients from five herbs proven to increase enzyme production to yield Protandim (protandim.com). "We have statins to lower cholesterol and medications to lower blood pressure, but until now we haven’t had a pill for free-radical damage," says Sally K. Nelson, PhD, of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Independent studies are starting to test the supplement in people with liver and heart disease.

A Daily Multivitamin

Not new per se, but according to Ames’s research, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals lead to mitochondrial decay. His fix: a daily multivitamin.

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