In his masterful book “Lifespan: Why We Age- And Why We Don’t Have To” David Sinclair asks, “What if, in our 60’s, we weren’t fretting about leaving a legacy but beginning one? What if we didn’t have to worry that the clock was ticking? In fact, he makes the case that we are closer than you think to changing what “old age” looks like, feels like, performs like. David Sinclair is an optimist of course, but he’s also a Harvard professor and one of the most prolific researchers in the area of aging, or senescence. His lab has turned out paper after paper, building and transforming our understanding of the aging process. Some of the things he has uncovered have rapidly entered the mainstream, at least the mainstream consciousness of groups willing to act on early information, before it is proven and tested in prospective trials. We have learned that a little bit of stress is good for the body, for example, periods of cold, periods of fasting, eating less volumes of food (even 12% less) than most, exercising daily. He does not preach extremes- a brisk cold walk after dinner will do.
It’s not enough to walk the dog. That is to say, there are several components to a well-executed exercise plan or prescription. For most of us, walking at 2-3 mph would best be categorized as an “activity of daily living” rather than exercise.
One reason to exercise is to improve or maintain cardiorespiratory fitness. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of “vigorous” activity. However, the American Heart Association is now recommending 300 minutes per week, and a JAMA review article in 2015 highlighted that for longevity benefits, while 150 minutes reduced all-cause risk of death by 31%, 450-700 minutes per week resulted in a 39% decreased risk of death. If you are doing the math, that is approximately 1 hour per day. There is no question that moderate to intense cardio-aerobic exercise is a powerful longevity tool, and in fact, fitness is a better predictor of lifespan than cardiovascular risk factors and labs. The heart rate must rise to 60-70% of your heart rate maximum (something we call zone 2 training) in order to count. Read more
This is a story that starts with some negative publicity for meat, fish, and eggs, but has a better ending, although much controversy remains and science is still working out pathways. Fortunately for us, all sides agree that wine and high-quality olive oil, as well as other high polyphenol foods, emerge as “fixers” of this newly discovered risk factor.
In 2013 there was renewed interest in the compound TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), which our bodies (specifically our gut bacteria and liver) make from dietary choline, carnitine, and lecithin. Those primary ingredients are enriched in meat, fish, and eggs in particular. Fish contain the highest amount of preformed TMAO of any food group. Several papers found associations between higher plasma levels of TMAO and increased risk for cardiovascular disease (heart attack or stroke) between 2013 and 2019. The papers caused a small panic in the paleo and carnivore camps, which had been advocating avoidance of grains, beans, and fruit due to the potential inflammatory effects of lectins, sugars, and processing. Also, it was difficult to square this new TMAO effect (risk) with the consistent and strong protective effects of frequent fish consumption. Other studies were published that did not always confirm the connection. The dietary ingredients (or sometimes they were given as supplements) were carnitine, choline, and lecithin. They were converted by the microbes to TMA and then by the liver to TMAO.
Matthew Walker, PhD, is one of the leading sleep scientists in the world and currently a professor at UC Berkeley. He is the author of the book “Why We Sleep” published in 2017, and has written hundreds of papers, spoken at many professional meetings, and made several TED Talks and podcasts…all to get the word out that the right sleep is critical to our health and longevity. In fact, when asked what are the three most important ingredients for a long and healthy life, such as diet, exercise, etc., he usually responds “sleep, sleep and sleep”.
Many people “feel” that their sleep is okay…after all, if they are able to get up reasonably well in the morning, finish their day, and accomplish a few tasks after dinner, what could possibly be wrong? However, what we find when we study people’s actual time in deep sleep, time in dream sleep, and overall sleep quantity, is that as a society we are desperately “sleep deprived” and not optimized whatsoever for the best brain or cognitive outcomes over our lifespan.