You want to be strong, healthy, thin and happy and live life to its fullest by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You want to get better and enjoy it with other people you love. So how do you go about doing it? In this blog post, you’re going to learn healthy habits linked to a long life and how you can increase your overall longevity.
Healthy Habits Linked To Longevity
Our intestines regulate the inflammatory process that is associated with the aging process. A little bit of inflammation is beneficial to the body to heal and eliminate infection.
However, if the amount of inflammation supersedes the body’s physiologic needs, scientific evidence suggests an associated higher rate of premature aging.
Refined carbohydrates have been demonstrated to increase the inflammatory process.
Think of “comfort foods” when it comes to refined carbohydrates: pasta, fries, white bread, cookies, pastries, ice cream, cakes etc.
The inflammation induced by these foods causes cellular / DNA damage which can lead to cancer.
Here are some general principals of lifestyle modifications to prolong the aging process and increase your longevity:
- Weight loss
- Excessive “belly fat” – or “central adiposity”- is linked with inflammation and insulin resistance
- Continuing to consume the “Western diet” increases your odds of unhealthy aging, frailty, and increases mortality amongst cancer survivors
- Limit “energy dense” foods (think foods at the top of the food chain)
- Limit low nutrient foods (think processed and refined foods)
- Limit red meat and processed meat
- Limit added salt and sugar
- Increase fiber intake:
- Higher amounts of fiber can reduce the risk of gut infections, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal (intestinal) cancer
- Establishes a protective healthy population of bacteria in your gut
- Increases bulk of stool which acts to dilute potential toxins and carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds
- Aim for >28g / day
- Randomized controlled trials show that increases in fiber intake can reduce body weight and waist circumference compared to low fiber Western diets (<20g/ day)
- Eat fiber rich foods over fiber supplements
- Increase phytochemical-rich minimally processed plant foods
- The Mediterranean diet >> Western diets
- Increase physical activity to most days of the week
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and waist size
- Avoid smoking
Wellness Spices That Increase Life Expectancy
Ginger has been shown to improve digestion and help with nausea – especially during pregnancy.
It also helps with intestinal gas, menstrual cramps, and anxiety relief.
When using ginger, use the fresh root rather than the powdered forms (and organic whenever possible).
Turmeric is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It can help reduce elevated cholesterol levels and pain and stiffness from arthritis.
In certain animal studies, it was shown to prevent cancer cells from developing.
Lastly, it can reduce the risk of stomach ulcers.
Cinnamon can increase energy and help treat colds, indigestion, and cramps through its antioxidant properties.
It is a great reducing chronic inflammation and can be helpful in Type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and increasing insulin production.
Spicy and sweet peppers carry antioxidant properties due to capsaicin.
Capsaicin improves pain caused by migraines and sinus headaches.
In animal studies, peppers can be effective in killing pancreatic, prostatic, and lung cancer cells.
Garlic has many great properties. It can relieve lung congestion and stiffness/ pain from arthritis.
It can help calm anxiety.
Ginger promotes menstrual regularity in women and can improve libido in men.
Raw garlic may reduce the risk of breast, prostate, stomach, and colon cancer.
According to Dr. Deepak Chopra’s book; “researchers found that people who eat >6 garlic cloves a week had a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer and a 50% lower rate of stomach cancer.” (Unfortunately, I do not have the research study to validate this claim, but it is an interesting point worth considering).
Sadly, when garlic is cooked or dried, it loses its benefits, so if you consume garlic in its raw state, chew on parsley afterward to avoid having garlic breath!
Keeping Your Heart Healthy To Live Longer
When it comes to keeping your heart healthy and increasing longevity, two of the most important points worth emphasizing are stopping smoking, and keeping your blood pressure well-controlled.
The chart below is based on new AHA/ACC 2017 High Blood Pressure guidelines:
|Normal||<120 / 80 mmHg|
|Elevated||<120-129 / < 80|
|Stage 1||130-139 / 80-89|
|Stage 2||>140 / >90|
|Hypertensive Crisis||>180 / >120 = need for prompt changes in medication / immediate hospitalizations if ill|
If your blood pressure is in the “elevated” or above categories, it is very important to implement healthy lifestyle habits.
I personally recommend a clean, low/no sugar lifestyle (think- shopping the perimeter of a grocery store), which by default reduces your intake of sodium and processed foods.
The AHA (American Heart Association) has dietary recommendations stating you can decrease your risk of heart disease by 20-33% compared to a Western diet by:
- Consuming higher quantities of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, low-fat dairy and seafood
- Limiting (or eliminating) intake of red and processed meat, refined grains, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages
Lifestyle Tips To Reduce Your Risk Of Cancer
Colorectal (intestinal) Cancer
One healthy suggestion for lowering your risk of colorectal cancer is to consume a low inflammatory diet and to increase your intake of fiber.
When fiber is fermented by the bacteria in your gut, it produces butyrate which blocks cancer cells from starting and progressing.
Remember the wellness spices we mentioned above? Ginger may prevent the growth of colorectal cancer cells.
Lifestyle factors that are associated with an INCREASED risk of cancer (especially in postmenopausal women):
- Having an “overweight” or “obese BMI” based on the chart below (excluding outliers such as performance athletes with high muscle mass):
- Weight gain >15 lbs over 4 years
- Physical inactivity
- Western diet, which typically consists of:
- High intake of red and processed meats
- High energy dense foods
- Foods/beverages with high glycemic indexes
- The Glycemic Index (GI) is scale that measures how carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood sugar relative to glucose or white bread. You can find more information at diabetes.org
- >1 alcoholic beverage / day
- High consumption of alcohol
Lifestyle modifications to REDUCE your risk of breast cancer
- Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and vegan diet (see comparison chart below)
- Intake of highly colored non-starchy vegetables
Diet Tweaks To Improve Your Brain Health & Longevity
Diet and lifestyle are major contributors to the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
One hypothesis by Dr. Peter Attias is that if insulin (in the context of Type 2 Diabetes) is doing a poor job reducing your blood sugar levels (termed “insulin insensitivity”) , this can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A term they used to describe diseases like Alzheimer’s is “Brain Diabetes.”
Richard Isaacson- a Neurologist at Cornell- states that dementia starts decades in advance of the first sign of memory loss, allowing you ample time to intervene on your health.
Here are some recommendations to get a head-start (pun intended!) on health and longevity:
- Exercise: Dr. Isaacson emphasizes interval training or an intensity of exercise where you are unable to text or talk on the phone
- Controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol, and body fat % to lower your risk of dementia
- Eating omega-3 fatty acids (ie: fatty fish- lake trout, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, wild salmon, sardines)
- Including olive oil, strawberries, blueberries, avocado, and leafy greens into your diet
- Getting adequate sleep to allow for “detoxing” of your brain and removal of harmful compounds
- Researchers have demonstrated (in mice experiments) that while you sleep, your spinal cord fluid soaks your brain and “takes out the garbage” (ie: removes protein such as amyloid plaques that are linked with Alzheimer’s disease). This is known as our “Glymphatic System.”
In reviewing the information, it is clear that recommendations typically boil down to a few healthy behaviors for improving your health and longevity: moving your body at a high enough intensity where it is challenging to multi-task, keeping your weight at an appropriate BMI, consuming low density foods with a wide range of colors in their whole and natural state as possible (with as little added sugar as possible), and getting enough sleep.
That sounds great, right?
Easy to implement, maybe?
What happens when your life is full of responsibilities to others?
How do you implement these healthy habits consistently when you feel like you lack willpower and need to learn how to find better balance in your life?
How do you learn to make healthy changes to your lifestyle in an environment where you also have to learn how to effectively coexist socially with those around you that have different habits than you?
If you need to lose weight and establish a healthy relationship with food, or are looking to be more accountable and committed to a healthier lifestyle than the one you’re living today, then NOW is the time to get started.
If you want to see a CHANGE in your life, you need to MAKE that change, TODAY!
Attia, Peter. “Peter Attia, M.D. on Macronutrient Thresholds for Longevity and Performance, Cancer & More.” FoundMyFitness, 14 Mar. 2016, www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/peter-attia.
“Calculate Your BMI – Standard BMI Calculator.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm.
de Grey, Aubrey. “Dr. Aubrey De Grey and Dr. Rhonda Patrick Talk Aging.” FoundMyFitness, 13 Aug. 2015, www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/aubrey-de-grey.
Dreher M.L. (2018) Dietary Patterns, Whole Plant Foods, Nutrients and Phytochemicals in Breast Cancer Prevention and Management. In: Dietary Patterns and Whole Plant Foods in Aging and Disease. Nutrition and Health. Humana Press, Cham
Dreher M.L. (2018) Dietary Patterns in Aging and Disease. In: Dietary Patterns and Whole Plant Foods in Aging and Disease. Nutrition and Health. Humana Press, Cham
Isaacson, Richard. “Protect Your Brain against Alzheimer’s Disease.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 24 Aug. 2016, www.reuters.com/video/2016/08/24/protect-your-brain-against-alzheimers-di?videoId=369658888&videoChannel=118240&channelName=Health%2BWatch.
Whelton, Paul K et al. “2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology Nov 2017, 24430; DOI:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.006