"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."
Henry David Thoreau
Lifespan has steadily increased over the past 100 years, but we haven't seen the same increase in healthspan - the number of healthy years you live.
Because even though new pieces of the aging puzzle are uncovered each year, we still don’t have a complete picture of why or how humans age.
But the good news is that not only do we know many of the mechanisms and pathways that contribute to aging, we also know how to control many of them via basic nutrition, lifestyle habits, supplementation, and a few other tricks.
Here are 31 of those tricks to help you naturally to slow aging, stay healthy and live longer.
1. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are structurally altered through artificial processes in order to make items shelf-stable, to alter macronutrient profile (reduce fat content), and to lower price.
However, processing also removes naturally occurring nutrients.
Any time something is taken away, something else must be added and that something else is usually unnatural and much less healthy.
Consequently, our grocery stores are packed to the brim with low-nutrient calorically-dense food that is causing food addictions, obesity, and many other food related illnesses.
The solution? Eat real food.
Whole fruits, vegetables, and meat preferably straight from the garden or farm. If it’s wrapped in plastic, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
2. Ditch Added Sugar
Sugar is the most damaging molecule you can put in your body. Sugar molecules are tiny razor sharp crystal like particles that fly around your body wreaking inflammatory havoc.
Sugar can react with amino acids in your body to form what are known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs have been linked to aging and development of chronic degenerative diseases.
Sugar also increases glucose and insulin levels causing you to gain weight and increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Sugar is highly addictive and hard to stop eating. The best thing to do is to make a clean break.
3. Stop Drinking Sodas (Yes, Diet Too)
Soda is liquid candy; pure sugar. It contains zero nutritional value and destroys your body in numerous ways.
In fact, soda is a (if not the) primary contributor to the obesity epidemic in the US.
Sugary sodas have been directly linked to cell aging and shortening of telomeres - units that protect your DNA against degradation.
Consuming just 1 additional soda per day biologically ages you by an additional 4.6 years over the course of your life, similar to the effects of smoking.
4. Eat Less Red Meat (& More Fish)
Meat consumption raises your IGF-1 levels (insulin like growth factor).
IGF-1 is a hormone that aids reproduction and regeneration of cells. It’s necessary, but excessive levels have been linked to shortened lifespan.
A Harvard study completed in 2012 showed that adding just one additional serving of red meat to your daily diet increases your chance of mortality by 13%!
But you still need some protein! Get it from healthier sources such as fish, nuts, legumes, and moderate amounts of dairy.
5. Drink Less Alcohol
Alcohol causes cancer and damages your liver, possibly leading to cirrhosis.
Most researchers agree that moderate drinking is okay, perhaps even beneficial when defined as between 4 and 7 drinks per week, which is less than average for most people.
For those of you thinking about gaming the system, it doesn’t count if you abstain all week then have 7 drinks Friday night! Nice try.
Keep it to one a day and your precious nightcap might just help you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
6. Drink Red Wine, in Moderation
Scientific research indicates that red wine may lower your risk of cancer, diabetes, ease depression, and shield your brain from stroke.
So instead of opting for resveratrol supplements, it's probably best to stick with the wine (woohoo!).
7. Drink More Water
Your body is roughly 60% water, so it’s important.
Proper hydration can reduce your risk of cancer, improve mood, aid weight loss, improve your skin, and many other benefits.
8 glasses of 8 oz. is the recommended intake (about half a gallon or two liters). Drink more if you are active and/or trying to lose weight.
The real key to staying hydrated is listening to your body; drink when you're thirsty and drink consistently throughout the day.
8. Drink Coffee
Despite popular belief, coffee is good for you.
Theories attribute this to coffee’s polyphenol content, compounds similar to those found in wine.
Coffee consumption has been linked to lower risk of disease development and mortality, and has also been shown to improve cognitive function.
Let's take a moment to be honest here, you drink coffee for the caffeine. I do too. I especially enjoy a hot cup before workouts.
The downside is that oh so coveted caffeine also causes anxiety, hyperactivity, loss of focus, and poor quality of sleep in high amounts.
Stick to a few cups per day (not pots) and avoid it after 2:00 pm.
9. Drink More Tea
Specifically green tea. The research on green tea is vast and overwhelmingly supportive of its health benefits.
The benefits are derived from polyphenols (again, contained in coffee and wine).
The polyphenols of interest found in green tea are called catechins.
These special compounds seem to lengthen lifespan - so drink up! The recommended amount is between 2 and 6 cups per day.
Oh, and don't forget that there's caffein in green tea.
10. Eat Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, contrary to popular belief, aren’t inherently fattening.
In fact, they are the least likely of the 3 macronutrients to spike insulin, the fat storage hormone.
Healthy fats are high in Omega 3s that have anti-inflammatory properties. They also support cognitive function and cellular health.
Consuming more healthy fat is easier than you may think. Snack on nuts, cook with healthy oils such as coconut oil and butter (real butter), and eat more avocado!
Here are some other creative ways to add more fat to your diet.
Take Care of Your Body
Preserving strength and range of motion keeps you younger, which happens by exercising.
Exercise reduces insulin resistance and inflammation, and stimulates growth factor production—chemicals that preserve brain health.
Exercise also improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.
There are three broad functions of exercise; the goal is to practice all three.
11. Do (Some) Cardio
Cardio exercise strengthens the heart (a muscle) improving its blood pumping efficiency, which increases the efficiency of everything else.
The most significant benefit of cardio exercise is the reduction of cardiovascular disease risk.
When it comes to cardio most people fall into one of the extremes, either all cordio or none.
The goal is for everyone to do some, because not enough or too much can inhibit longevity.
12. Train Strength
I can’t think of a single time when being strong is not good. Grip strength is even used as an indicator of lifespan.
To get stronger you have to lift heavy things! And no ladies, it won’t make you bulky. Just ask the next buff guy you see how easy it is to get all those gains (it’s not 😢).
Lifting tones and tightens, which prevents sagging. It also improves bone density and prevents osteoporosis.
Furthermore, strength training will increase your levels of Growth Hormone and Testosterone, essential ingredients for maintaining body mass and normal metabolic function.
Increased metabolic function means more fat burning, and a better looking you. A better looking you means a better feeling, more confident you.
13. Train Mobility
Now that your heart’s pumping and you’re strong it’s time to take care of the last piece of the puzzle, mobility.
This is my weakest area (Nope, I lied. Cardio is), but what good is strength and conditioning if you don’t have sufficient range of motion (ROM) to put it to use!
I chose the term mobility because it encompasses flexibility, but also how strong and fluid you are through your entire ROM.
Having a wide ROM (squatting all the way to the floor easily, for example) means being physically capable of safely performing daily tasks. This leads to less injury, and less injury means a longer life with fewer complications.
The reported health benefits of yoga are astounding, much of which may be attributed to yoga’s meditative nature, which brings me to my next point.
Guard Your Mind
Meditation encompasses various styles and definitions. I think of meditation as the practice of mindfulness, calm inward focus, self-examination, stillness.
Reported benefits include improved emotional stability, reduction in anxiety and depression, greater sense of appreciation, and heightened physical vitality.
Scientific research recently contributed to explaining this phenomena when it recorded meditation increasing telomerase activity.
Telomerase is an enzyme that helps preserve the integrity of your genetic makeup. It keeps your body from deteriorating (aging). More is better and one surefire way to get more is to meditate.
Meditation also greatly improves stress resistance, which slows the aging process. It's as powerful for de-stressing as vacation.
If you are looking for a place to start, I recommend Headspace (no affiliation). One tip: do less than you think you can.
15. Reduce Chronic Stress
There are good types of stress. Chronic stress is the bad kind.
It arises from prolonged or repeated stressful situations such as a job, or an unhappy relationship.
Chronic stress increases your level of cortisol, a hormone that negatively affects blood sugar, fat regulation, blood pressure, and other metabolic pathways.
Stress degrades memory, damages your immune system, and spikes blood sugar making you more susceptible to weight gain and diabetes. All things you don’t want.
A few ways to shed some stress: get outdoors, go for a walk, get a massage, listen to your favorite music, give someone a hug!
Make it priority to spend more time doing not stressful things.
Not sure if you are stressed? Here are a few warning signs.
16. Cultivate Positivity
Positive people are generally more successful, better able to handle challenges and adversity calmly, are happier, less susceptible to stress, and ultimately live longer.
Positivity leads to emotional well being, which reduces cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Cultivating positivity is as simple as acknowledging the good in your life.
I use is a thankfulness journal; each morning I write down 3 things I am thankful for. That’s it.
You’ll be surprised how powerful something this small can be for helping you look past negative circumstances towards the abundant blessings of everyday life.
Here are 10 more things that could be holding you back from the positivity and happiness you deserve.
17. Challenge Your Brain
Brains that are stimulated are bigger and significantly more active than brains that are not. Healthy brains produce long healthy lives.
You stimulate your brain by using it! Challenge your brain to do new things.
Solve a puzzle, try a new route to work, or learn a new instrument or language. Most importantly, find something that you enjoy.
Cultivate a Balanced LifeStyle
18. Spend More Time with Friends
Humans are social creatures. Spending more time with friends and family can help you live longer and live healthier.
Senior adults who withdraw from social interaction after retirement experience rapid health-decline as compared with those that are socially engaged with friends and family.
Make it a point to be social at least once per week!
19. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep directly predicts longevity. Sleeping less than 6 hours per night adds 10% to mortality chances and more than 8 hours adds up to 20%.
Quality sleep raises leptin levels and lowers insulin resistance, reducing your risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Here are some easy ways to improve your sleep.
Get a blue-light filter for your computer, like Flux, here.
20. Watch Less TV
Studies comparing mortality and average daily hours spent watching TV show that more than 3 hours a day in front of a TV screen doubles the mortality rate.
More importantly, watching TV is worse for your health than other sedentary activities such as computer work and sitting for extended periods.
Researchers speculate that excessive TV time is associated with social isolation and “junk food binging”, adding to the negative effects on lifespan and mortality rates.
Try filling your evening time with other hobbies like playing an instrument or reading a book.
21. Stop Smoking
Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths> each year in the United States, making it the single most important factor in life-extension.
Smoking will, without a doubt, shorten your life.
Smokers are more likely to succumb to chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and cancer.
Talk to your doctor about medication to help with the quitting process.
Consider taking a supplement of Omega-3s. This technique seems to assist quitting.
22. E-Cigs Aren’t Healthy Either (or Cool)
E-cigarettes contain the same cancer-causing carcinogens as traditional tobacco.
Many e-cig users also use traditional tobacco in conjunction, suggesting that they are not actually a viable aid for quitting smoking.
Electronic vapor alternatives contain additional threats not found in traditional cigarettes, possibly making them even more detrimental to your health.
23. Don't Text and Drive
Cell phone distraction is involved in 64% of all road accidents. Eliminating texting would reduce the accident toll by 1.6 million accidents per year.
Avoiding accidental deaths is a key to longevity, and since texting is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving cutting that out is an easy way to improve your chances.
24. Rethink Scented Candles
This may seem trivial (maybe it is), but here goes.
Most candles are made with paraffin or inorganically derived soy wax, and the artificial scents are derived from petroleum.
If you love candles like I do, just look for options with 100% organic beeswax, cotton wicks, and scented with essential oils (like these).
Protect Your Face
If you’re going to live forever then you gotta look good doing it! Here are a few ways to look your best self.
25. Limit Sun Exposure
While 5 minutes of sunlight in the morning is a great way to get your system going, prolonged exposure is damaging.
Sun exposure is responsible for the majority of skin aging and wrinkles. It’s ultraviolet light penetrates the skin and damages collagen, the material that keeps your skin tight.
Furthermore, too much sun exposure leads to melanoma skin cancer.
If you know you’re going to be outside, wear sunscreen!
It’s as important to hydrate the outside as it is the inside. Dry skin is more prone to wrinkling.
Look for moisturizers containing antioxidants such as Vitamin B, D, and E.
27. Consider Topical Retinoids
Retinoids are a family of Vitamin A (retinol) and its derivatives that influence cellular growth.
They improve photo-aging (complexion) and limit collagen loss (elasticity), keeping your skin healthier and younger (read tighter and less wrinkly).
The most popular retinoid is tretinoin, commonly referred to as Retin-A.
28. Get Into Essential Oils
Essential oils are a time-honored tradition in natural healing that are beginning the be supported by scientific research.
I like essential oils for their ability to reduce stress, anxiety and inflammation.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Lavender: Relieves stress and improves mood.
- Frankincense: Supports cognitive brain function.
- Ginger: Reduces inflammation and supports joint health.
- Peppermint: Relieves stress, eases head- and muscle-aches.
29. Wear Makeup Less Often
Most makeup brands contain chemicals carcinogens that damage and dry out your skin. Taking some time off will clean your skin and restore its natural healthy properties.
The best place to start is by not sleeping in your makeup, doing so creates wrinkles and causes breakouts and inflammation.
You also shouldn’t wear makeup to the gym. It blocks your skin’s ability to breath and clogs pores, leading to irritation and more breakouts.
If you want to take it a step further, consider swapping out some makeup for natural organic products.
Lastly, The Ultimate Anti-Aging Weapon
Fasting is the single most powerful way to slow aging, yet sadly it is generally misunderstood and even feared. There are many different methods of fasting; I’m going to discuss two.
30. Intermittent Fasting
There are various types of intermittent fasting (IF) such as alternate day fasting, or the 5:2 diet. The most common is 18:6 - 18 hours fasting, followed by a 6 hour feeding window.
18:6 is the method I use. For example, I only eat within a 6 hour feeding window from 2:00p to 8:00p; I don’t eat before 2:00p or after 8:00p.
IF improves insulin and leptin sensitivity and lowers overall insulin levels, allowing your body to more efficiently utilize nutrients while facilitating fat burning, ultimately creating an environment conducive to permanent weight loss.
And that barely scratches the surface. IF also improves brain health, muscle protein synthesis, hormone regulation, and emotional state among others.
31. Extended Fasting
If you really want to slow the hands of father time, extended fasting is your go to.
I define extended fasting as 3 or more days abstained from food. I set this limit because it’s the approximate amount of time required for your body to transition into fasting ketosis.
Two important processes occur in this state: the up-regulation of autophagy (your body’s recycling program for old and worn out cells), and activation of the hematopoietic system in your bone marrow that produces shiny new stem cells (to replace the old ones that are thrown out).
Through these and other processes, fasting rejuvenates your body on a cellular level, literally turning back time.
There has yet to be found a limit of what fasting can improve; it is currently used to treat epilepsy, to reduce immune system suppression caused by chemotherapy cancer treatment, to cure type II diabetes, and much more.
If you only incorporate one thing from this list into your life, make it fasting.
One last thing, as you incorporate these changes into your life, take on one at a time. Practice it for 30 days or until you are confident that it is an ingrained habit, then move on to the next one!
The best change is the one you make.
Thanks for reading! I hope you found this informative and actionable.
I’d love to hear which item you found most surprising? Did I leave something out? What would you like to know more about?
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