Diet (processed foods and hydrogenated fats cause aging)
Ingesting toxins (alcohol, cigarettes)
Exposure to environmental chemicals (BPA, food additives)
Excessive physical stress
Poor blood sugar management
Nutrient deficiencies (vitamin D, zinc)
When our cells are exposed to any of these factors, oxidative stress occurs in which free radicals accumulate in the body and damage the cells, causing “aging” or cellular death. Free radicals are molecules that have a single unpaired electron in the outer shell and they are highly reactive, causing damage in the body.
When we have high levels of free radicals day after day over time, chronic inflammation will occur. Chronic inflammation is involved in the development and progression of almost every disease and it has even been called the “secret killer!” It will make you fat, slow, sore, and sick. The key to longevity is to avoid chronic inflammation.
Most people don’t know what chronic inflammation is, or how it differs from temporary inflammation. Acute or temporary inflammation is a natural and protective response by the body to fight injury and infection. It is caused by swelling and stiffness to guard an injured area so that the healing process can occur. If the body is healthy and you allow time to recover, the body will naturally heal itself and the inflammation will go away.
A very simple way to understand this is to think about the muscle damage from intense training that causes acute soreness. It also causes inflammation and a decrease in strength and power so that the body can heal and make you stronger. If you rest and have proper nutrition, the inflammation and soreness will go away, the muscle tissue will heal, and you will be a little bit stronger. But, if you don’t allow healing time and train all out day after day, the inflammation will become chronic, the body won’t be able to heal, cells will continue to break down, and “aging” will occur.
Similarly, poor diet, ingestion of toxins, and nutrient deficiencies all cause cellular damage that leads to acute inflammation, and then chronic inflammation. This in turn accelerates the progression of disease that leads to poor quality of life and death. The following ten strategies will help you prevent chronic inflammation and live a longer, better life.
1) Strength Train To Live Longer
Countless studies show that exercise will promote longevity and strength training is the best mode of exercise for a long life. Strength training has protective effects on the body, including increasing muscle mass and strength that will lead to greater mobility, better balance, and stronger bones. Plus, strength training helps you stay slim, and it leads to higher antioxidant levels, which counter those free radicals that cause aging.
Best results from strength training will come from exercising three to five days a week with ground-based exercises (in general, avoid machines that isolate one muscle). If you’re new to training, build up strength and endurance and then include heavy lifts in your program, and you’ll induce the greatest adaptations.
Another benefit of strength training for all ages is that it is less boring than steady-state aerobic training, which can be very dull for some people. Plus, strength training is an “anabolic” activity that builds muscle and connective tissue, whereas steady-state aerobic exercise is a “catabolic” activity that degrades muscle and doesn’t significantly burn fat. Nonetheless, moving more, whether it is with strength training or more aerobic style exercise does provide longevity effects.
The key is to perform as much physical activity as possible throughout your day by walking, doing a martial art, yoga, going dancing, doing chores, or anything that keeps you moving. A new analysis in the International Journal of Epidemiology that included 1.3 million people showed a very strong connection between regular intense exercise for a duration of longer than 150 minutes a week and a longer life span. People lived longest if they trained hard four or five days a week. They lived longest and were healthiest if they trained for at least 300 minutes a week at an intense level.
Take Away Tip:
Strength train three to five days a week with a periodized total body program that includes ground-based exercises and relatively heavy lifts.
2) Cultivate Good Friends To Live Longer
Make and maintain good friends and you’ll live longer. Research shows that the quality of our social relationships is closely linked to mental health, quality of life, and longevity. People with stronger social relationships have a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival than those who live more solitary lives—and the effect is consistent regardless of gender or health status!
An analysis published in the journal PLOS Medicine looked at the lives of 309,000 people across 148 studies and found that those with better friends lived longer. Researchers explained it this way: by the time half of a hypothetical sample of 100 people has died, there will be five more people alive with stronger social relationships than people with weaker social relationships.
Additionally, the strength of friendships appeared to be a stronger indicator of longevity than simply being married, which is linked to longevity for men. Research shows that men who have younger wives, live the longest. The mortality risk of a husband who is seven to nine years older than his wife is reduced by 11 percent compared to couples where both partners are the same age. For women, being married is also beneficial for a longer life, but not if she is of a different age than her husband. Women appear to fare best if they are close to the same age as their spouse.
For the best quality of life, do what works for you. These studies don’t mean it is wrong to live alone or enjoy one’s own company. But, humans are social creatures and if starved of contact, we can die. The key is to cultivate high-quality friends and relationships and you’ll have a better, longer, happier life.
Take Away Tip:
Friendships are just as important as healthy lifestyle habits for longevity. Make and keep good friends.
3) Vitamin D: Adequate Levels Are A Matter of Life And Death
Vitamin D may be the most important single nutrient for longevity. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to the development of numerous diseases that can kill you, including diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. There is abundant evidence that vitamin D deficiency is widespread across most demographics, and that a low vitamin D level may affect as much as 90 percent of the world’s population.
A new analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at death rates in over 62,000 individuals and related them to vitamin D levels. Researchers created a “highest compared to lowest” analysis and found that people with the lowest vitamin D levels had the greatest risk of mortality, whereas those with the highest had much greater longevity. Optimal vitamin D levels for a longer life span were above 50 ng/ml.
Other studies report similar findings and not only is vitamin D deficiency linked to greater death and disease risk, but once you have a disease, low D can accelerate mortality. A recent study in the journal Critical Care found that in people who were admitted to the hospital due to disease complications, over 75 percent were deficient in vitamin D. Those people then had a much greater risk of mortality in the hospital. Of survivors who were admitted to the hospital, the average vitamin D level was 28 ng/ml, whereas for non-survivors it was 9.7 ng/ml, which is abysmally low.
An easy way to begin to increase your vitamin D level is to take a high-quality vitamin D supplement of at least 5,000 IUs a day. The Vitamin D Council and most alternative medical practitioners suggest a level of at least 50 ng/ml for optimal health and longevity. I am a proponent of higher doses with regular tests for serum vitamin D so that you can make sure you have your level where you want it.
Take Away Tip:
Get your vitamin D level tested and supplement to ensure you have optimal levels. Tell your friends and loved ones. You’ll all live longer!
4) Sleep Well, Live Longer
Get quality sleep and minimize exhaustion for a longer, better life. People vary greatly in the amount of sleep they need, but everyone will live longer if the sleep they get is high quality.
Recent sleep research looks at a number of different relationships between sleep and lifespan. A study in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences looked at a population in Oginawa, Japan that is known for its longevity and found that those with the healthiest sleep habits had the best overall lifestyle in terms of diet, physical activity, and mental health. Participants who had poorer quality sleep and did not nap, had greater rates of obesity, poorer mental health, worse diets, and were more sedentary. They also had fewer quality social relationships—remember #2?
A second study in the archives of General Psychiatry found that the optimal sleep duration for longevity is between 6.5 and 7.5 hours, but only if the person doesn’t suffer from insomnia. Sleep duration of longer than 8.5 hours or less than 4 hours put people at greater risk of mortality. The key is getting enough, and making it count.
Getting good sleep for a longer life span makes sense because poor sleep and chronic exhaustion are linked to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes aging. Poor sleep is also linked to greater obesity rates, which puts you at risk of disease, poor health, and ultimately death.
Take Away Tip: Get better sleep and live longer by starting a grateful log in which you write down one thing you are thankful for before going to bed. Try taking magnesium—it is an essential sleep aid for the Poliquin readership. Minimize electoral exposure in your bedroom by unplugging devices such as Wi-Fi, and make your bedroom as dark as possible.
5) Take Care of Your Teeth
Take care of your teeth by flossing daily and going to the dentist annually to live a longer, better life. Poor periodontal health is linked to mortality and it puts you at greater risk for a number of serious diseases including stroke and heart attack,
One study showed that people who had their teeth cleaned professionally every two years had a 24 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to those who didn’t go to the dentist at all. A similar link was identified between regular teeth cleaning and risk of stroke. Another study of veterans found that for each 20 percent increment in bone loss in the mouth—a way of measuring periodontal health—participants had a 50 percent greater risk of mortality. Researchers suggest periodontal status is just as important as obesity or cigarette smoking for putting you at risk of death.
Poor tooth health leads to chronic inflammation in the gums, which appears to spread to the arteries and result in greater risk of heart disease. As mentioned in the veterans study, it also puts you at risk for bone loss in the mouth. Ugly, poor quality teeth results in a lower quality of life and complications that most people want to avoid.
Take Away Tip:
Keep your smile bright by flossing daily, brushing twice a day, and going to the dentist annually. You’ll live longer, be more attractive, and be happier.
6) Rebalance Fat Intake With Omega-3 Fish Oil
Rebalance your fat intake with as much omega-3 fish oil as possible because the omega-3 fats are the healthiest fats for your cells. Healthier cells mean less chronic inflammation, less disease, and greater longevity.
Every cell in your body has a double lipid layer protecting the DNA inside—a lipid layer is basically a fat layer—and the lipid layers will be made up of the kinds of fat you eat. If you eat large amounts of trans fats, your cell layers will be made of these fats, which is bad because they are a sludgy, impermeable fat that prevent effective cell signialing and binding—a very important part of optimal cellular health. Plus, if your cells are made of bad fats, more oxidatveie stress will be produced. In contrast, the omega-3 fats are the most permeable, liquid fats, and they allow for effective binding, signaling, and overall cell health.
Trans fats are the biggest problem when it comes to fat intake, but other fats that are commonly thought of as healthy, such as omega-6 fats, are also problematic because they make up such a large proportion of the typical Western diet. The omega-6 fats are found in abundance in vegetale oils (corn, sesame, safflower, peanut, etc.). These oils are typically healthier than those derived from animals like butter, margarine, or trans fats, but because humans evolved on a diet that had a near equal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, that’s what we need for longevity.
The typical diet today has a ratio that is skewed to anywhere between 15:1 to as bad as 50:1 of omega-6 fats to omega-3s.The goal is to shift that ratio back to equal. Omega-6s are not “bad fats;” they are just not as “good” for promoting health as omega-3s. A skewed ratio is linked to greater risk of serious disease, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease.
Take Away Tip:
For optimal health and longevity, take an omega-3 fish oil supplement and try to rebalance your fat intake so that your ratio of omega-3 to -6 fats is near equal. Read more about this topic in Nine Steps to Rebalance Your Fat Intake.
7) Don’t Let Your Diet Kill You: Eliminate Gluten For A Long Life
Shaping your diet so it protects your cells and minimizes inflammation is absolutely essential for longevity. There are a lot of dietary mistakes you can make that will trip you up, but along with rebalancing fat intake (#6), eliminating gluten is a near fool-proof change that can help you live longer.
Gluten, naturally occurring in wheat, barley, and other grains, is a highly inflammatory food that agitates the intestine. It has also been shown to cause inflammation in the brain, producing poor cognitive function and dementia. Many people are actually allergic to gluten and will have chronic symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal pain, random weight fluctuations, and insulin resistance.
Even if you’re not allergic to gluten, getting it out of your diet is a good move and will lower chronic inflammation. Additionally, many foods that contain gluten also have refined white flour, which raise the blood sugar levels quickly in the same way as sugar, meaning they cause a quick spike in insulin and put you at risk of fat gain and diabetes. Both will lead to a shorter life span, and anytime you have too much insulin present that isn’t bound to cells, it causes oxidative stress and inflammation.
In addition, eating a high-protein diet is generally best for health and well-being, although people vary in terms of the actual optimal breakdown of protein, carbs, and fat. Still, good quality, organic protein will promote muscle and tissue maintainance as you age and counter fat gain. Get your carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits because they provide fiber and many are packed with antioxidants, which are the primary line of defense to fight inflammation and abolish free radicals.
Take Away Tip:
Limit gluten and all refined foods as much as possible. Eat a high protein diet with carbs from fruits and vegetables. See #10 for a list of my favorite antioxidant-rich foods.
8) Limit Your Exposure to Environmental Chemicals
Limit your exposure to environmental chemicals that are everywhere in our daily lives and you will live longer. Environmental chemicals include everything from Bisephenol A (BPA) that is in plastics, to gasoline, to chemicals that are in personal care products, to food additives and dyes. The list is massive and these toxins will cause serious oxidative stress and cellular damage to many organs in the body. These chemicals are linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, poor reproductive health, and Alzheimer’s, among other things.
Environmental chemicals are so bad for you because the majority of them mimic the hormone estrogen when they enter the body. These chemicals, such as BPA, bind with hormone receptors on your cells and change your hormonal make up. They can literally raise estrogen and alter the levels of related sex hormones such as testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin. They affect men, women, and children. This extra estrogen affects everything from metabolism, to brain function, to reproduction, to cellular health. Bad, bad news!
Take Away Tip:
For longevity and health, limit your chemical exposure by eating organic (less pesticides and growth hormones), use natural cleaning and personal care products, avoid plastic food containers in favor of glass, and avoid scented candles and air fresheners, especially if they say “fragrance” on the label. Read more about the dangers of environmental chemicals in Warning: The Dangers of Plastics and BPAs.
9) Protect Your Brain With Antioxidants
Protect your brain by boosting antioxidant levels that support brain health and cognitive function and have been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented with surgical or medical intervention. Since 2000, death rates have declined for most major diseases, but deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have risen by 66 percent according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
It is unclear why Alzheimer’s is increasing, but it’s possible it has to do with increases in brain inflammation from environmental chemical and heavy metal exposure. The brain is drastically affected by damage from heavy metals and chemicals and both have been shown to build up in the brain if nutrient deficiencies are present. One strategy to protect brain health and prevent inflammation is to ensure you are not deficient in key nutrients and to protect yourself with added antioxidants that fight free radicals in the brain.
The most important nutrients for the brain that people are commonly deficient in are zinc, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. I already covered the importance of omega-3s and vitamin D. Zinc is a powerful antioxidant that detoxifies heavy metals so they don’t build up in the brain. Zinc has been shown to be an effective brain nutrient for increasing cognitive function, lowering ADHD symptoms, and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Magnesium is another nutrient that is commonly low in all populations, and it plays a role in brain electrical activity. Magnesium supports memory and brain plasticity—two key elements in the prevention of dementia.
Take Away Tip:
Ensure Zinc, Magnesium, Omega-3 and Vitamin D levels are up to par to prevent Alzheimer’s and protect the brain. Consider supplementing with Acetyl-L-Carnitine and R-Form Alpha Lipoic Acid because both potent antioxidants for the brain. I don’t go into depth here, but you can read more about these brain boosting wonders in the article Boost Your Brain Power: Part 1
10) Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods To Delay Aging
Eat foods that are high in antioxidants to delay aging and live longer. Some of the most flavorful, delectable foods are actually very high in antioxidants and should be a major focus of your diet if you want to live a long, healthy, and tasty life.
To review, antioxidants neutralize free radicals that damage tissues and cause inflammation. They are all the rage in the supplement world and research shows that some antioxidants are highly effective at abolishing oxidative stress, while others are complete duds. The best, most cost-effective way to get a lot of antioxidants is to start by getting them through high-quality food. Then, if you want to expand your antioxidant intake, high-quality supplements that are food-based like a powder that is filled with antioxidant-rich berries may be a good addition.
Five of the best antioxidant-rich foods you should include in your diet are the following:
Raspberries contain a rare but powerful antioxidant called ellagitannins. They are a powerful cancer fighter, have been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improve insulin health, and are a sure bet for longevity.
Green Tea is extremely high in antioxidants, and the special thing about green tea is that the antioxidants it contains have been shown to actually take action in the body to prevent oxidative stress. Green tea can improve the health of most organs, including the liver, brain, kidneys, and heart. Using a toothpaste or gum with green tea can also promote periodontal health. Drink organic green tea or get it in a supplement. Avoid nonorganic, decaf (the chemical used to decaffeinate tea and coffee may cause cancer), or tea bags that have been bleached.
Olive Oil is a wonderful oil that is packed with antioxidants that have been shown to promote health, well-being, and longevity. A lot of research has been done to determine why a Mediterranean diet is linked to a lower disease risk and longevity. Extra virgin olive oil appears to be the answer. It counters chronic inflammation, supports heart health, fights diabetes, and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Dark Chocolate may be the most delicious high-antioxidant food that conveys health benefits and a long life. The thing about chocolate is it needs to be eaten in moderation because it does contain a high fat content, and may have a lot of sugar. Look for dark chocolate that has over 70 percent cocoa solids—the higher the percentage, the more antioxidants. Research shows chocolate can lower high blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
Walnuts are one of the healthiest nuts and they have been linked to better brain plasticity and cognitive function and may prevent colon and breast cancer. They are very high in omega-3 fatty acids and are a low-glycemic food, meaning they help to manage insulin and blood sugar health—both essential for longevity. Walnuts are the second highest antioxidant-containing nut after pecans. Just like chocolate, eat them in small quantities.
Take Away Tip:
Get the majority of your antioxidants from food to fight inflammation. Removing antioxidants from food may diminish their ability to fight oxidative stress in the body. In addition to these five favorite foods, coffee also provides a ton of antioxidants and has been shown to lower cancer risk.
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