Getting older is part of life, but aging doesn’t have to be something we dread. As I always say, the mind gets wiser as we get older, and the rest of the brain and body can follow suit, as I discuss in this week’s blog and podcast with Harvard professor, researcher and bestselling author David Sinclair.
In his new book, Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don't Have To, David, who has spent decades researching longevity and aging notes how 80% of how we age is up to us. Although many of us view aging means a decline in function over time leading to disease and death, we don’t just have to accept that as we get old we will get sick!
Once we understand why we age, as David points out, we can take preventative action against the negative effects we associate with getting older. How? We know understand that our genes don’t just switch on and off by themselves. Our epigenome reads our genes, and we can influence this process through the choices we make and how we live our lives. If we age badly, these readers get damaged, like an old DVD machine scratching a disk, which can affect our mental and physical health.
However, the great thing about the epigenome is that it can change! We are not victims of our genes and our biology. There are things we can do to activate the correct epigenetic responses in the brain and body. Like heart disease, we cannot prevent aging, but we can make the process better by taking action now and making important lifestyle changes that switch on our epigenome. These lifestyle changes can turn on the genes which make enzymes that protect the brain and body and slow down the aging process, maximizing our longevity:
- Diet. Eating well is of course necessary if we want to live a long and healthy life. But certain foods actually contain natural ingredients that help prevent the negative effects of aging on the brain and body, which David lists in his book Lifespan. For example, grape products like red wine contain resveratrol that can help the way genes express themselves, which can have a positive effect on overall health and longevity. Another example is oleic acid, which is found in foods like avocado, olive oil and nuts, and can also have a beneficial effect on the aging process. For more on longevity, diet and health, see my recent blog and podcast (episode #149) with Blue Zones author Dan Buettner.
- Exercise. Regular exercise has so many great benefits, including an increased lifespan! Many studies have shown how consistent movement positively affects the epigenome, slowing down the aging process and increasing longevity. For more on exercise and health, see my recent blog and podcast (episode #139).
- A healthy lifestyle. Avoiding smoking, excessive drinking and other negative behaviors boosts our overall wellbeing and longevity.
- Controlled hypoxia. As I discussed in a recent podcast (episode #151) and blog with the Iceman Wim Hof, deep, controlled breathing is a great way to boost our mental and physical health, and slow down the aging process by reducing our toxic stress levels, increasing blood flow and boosting our immune system.
- Heat therapies like saunas and red light, which slow down the aging process and help the body heal and repair damage naturally. For more on my favorite saunas, see my podcast (episode #102) and recent blog. To learn more about red light therapy and my favorite red light therapy devices, see my podcast (episode #91) and blog.
- Supplements and medicines derived from artificial and natural sources, such as resveratrol, which is what David currently works on.
- Mind management. How we choose to think affects the health of our brain, which can dramatically affect the way our epigenome functions and our longevity, since the brain controls how we age. This is why it is so important to manage how we think, feel and choose, that is how we use our minds—our thoughts are very real, and have real physical affects in the brain and body. My new app SWITCH is a great tool for helping people learn how to manage their mind, deal with the root of their anxiety and distress, and overcome negative thought patterns and behaviors through the mental process of reconceptualization. It is now on sale less 50% for a 3-month subscription!
David’s father, who is now in his 80s, applies all these principles in his life, and has never been healthier, fitter or mentally at ease than he is now! He enjoys life, and looks forward to the future. Age really is just a number to him!
But choosing to live a healthier lifestyle is not just about living longer. We are at a unique point in human history: never have we all been united in the face of a common enemy, that is COVID-19. And, while amazing scientists and specialists like David work on testing for the virus, finding cures and developing a vaccine, we can go to work at home, building up our strength, immunity and mental resilience through practices like mind management, learning new skills, eating well, and regular exercise! And remember, we are all in this together. We should all do the best we can, listen to the advice of experts, and be optimistic that we will come out of this, because we will!
For more information on longevity and mental health, listen to my podcast with David (episode #155), check out his new book and sign up for his newsletter, The Lifespan Insider, for the latest information on COVID-19. If you enjoy listening to my podcast please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing! And keep sharing episodes with friends and family, and on social media (don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
Podcast Time Stamps
1:50 David’s insatiable curiosity
3:54 Is aging a disease?
8:13 Why 80% of health in old age is up to you
10:13 How we can change our epigenome
23:07 How David’s father uses his son’s research
26:00 The current pandemic
36:20 Covid-19 treatments
39:20 How David overcame major life setbacks
If you would like to learn more about aging and mental health, join me at my Mental Health Solutions Summit in Dallas, TX December 3-5, 2020! This conference is for everyone: teachers, CEOs, students, parents, doctors, life coaches...everyone! For more information and to register click here. Early bird special pricing end 4/30!
Switch On Your Brain is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.