It's the week of July 4th and since you are an integral part of Sweat Nation today we are going to go over ways to live longer. With more days on this journey why not fill it with more friends, family, and freedom.
It's been suggested that humans could live up to 120-140 years old. The current average U.S. lifespan has stalled at about 76 years. Chronic disease is the main culprit at this moment in the human story. Today we are going to talk about longevity, how to have more quality in that longevity with some simple lifestyle hacks.
How does aging happen?
Biologically speaking, aging can be described as an accumulation of damage and mutations in your DNA repair processes, breakages in the molecular machinery of cells leads to a build-up of metabolic waste products that your body can't break down, and that failure of biological systems leads to a jam that your body is increasingly unable to handle.
Over time, aging affects every cell in every organ, structure, and tissue in your body. For example, male bone density starts to diminish around age thirty-five, and that of women peaks right around thirty years old. After thirty, muscle mass declines more than twenty percent in the absence of regular strength exercise. Constipation becomes more frequent in older adults, due to the loss of proper digestive function. After twenty-five years old, maximum lung capacity begins to diminish. Between thirty and forty, two-thirds of humans undergo a gradual decline in the rate that the kidneys filter blood, leading to a number of urinary complications. At thirty years old, human growth hormone begins its regression and falls at a rate of fourteen percent per decade. Around forty years old, the heart muscles thicken and blood vessels stiffen, making it harder for your heart to pump blood, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
In the face of this biological onslaught, what can you do? What strategies can you implement to limit your body from the process of aging?
Longevity Secrets Of The Blue Zones
The truth is, even though what your body is doing is natural, it’s only the natural response to its environment and nutrition supply. Aging is accelerated by things like poor diet choices, chronic inflammation, smoking, chronic stress, improper physical activity (too little or too much), toxin exposure, sleep deprivation, and more. The Western lifestyle often seems like a buffet of all of the above and your body can only handle negative conditions for so long before dis-ease sets in and quality of your life is compromised.
This accepted state of aging – where the brain degrades, physical fitness drastically declines, and disease is inevitable doesn't have to be your story– The aforementioned are hardly seen in the Blue Zones. Blue Zones are five geographic areas identified as having the highest longevity among human populations on earth.
Blue Zones were made popular by Dan Buettner who traveled all over the world to identify the characteristic environments and lifestyles that different populations with the highest longevity have cultivated over centuries. He outlined his findings in his book called The Blue Zones. Buettner’s Blue Zones refer to Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (California, USA), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), and Icaria (Greece).
Let's take a glimpse into one of the Blue Zones – Sardinia, Italy. During the mid-1990s, an Italian doctor named Gianni Pes traced the history of 1,000 Sardinian centenarians. In one village of just 2,500 people, he found seven centenarians. This is an incredible amount when compared to America where there’s only about one centenarian per 5,000 people. Upon being interviewed, a number of these super-agers said that they’d spent their lives moving a lot. Working hard as farmers, shepherds, following the seasons, raising families, and leading, for the most part, their ordinary lives. On the surface, nothing really seems to make them special. The answer doesn’t seem to lie completely in their genetics. What is it that sets them apart from the rest of the world?
When you look at the blue zones across the globe and pinpoint all the little things they’re doing that seem to extend lifespan, there are five takeaways that stand out the most. These don’t just help them live longer – they live better. They cultivate strong connections with their family and friends. They’re active. They wake up in the morning with a purpose that allows them to move onward through life. An overwhelming majority of them still enjoy life. And despite all of them being of different races, nationalities, and religions from all over the world, they enjoy fulfilled lives, with their feet planted firmly in the realm of basic ancestral living. So, without further ado, here are the five common choices among some of the longest-lived people on the face of the planet.
Lifestyle Factors For Living Longer
These are the five most common lifestyle factors for increased longevity that have been identified through surveys and research, but let's always remember that there are many pieces to the puzzle of optimizing health. Implementing these five are a great start. Remember that these are just a beginning you can go much further in optimizing your lifestyle and increase your chances of becoming a super ager!
1) No Smoking
No surprise here. You don’t have to go far to find a handful of co-workers taking a smoke break outside the office or young people hanging around on a street corner puffing their way through a few smokes. You may have even been one of those "young'ns back in the day. Smoking affects what are called free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Free radicals are molecular species capable of existing independently. These molecules are actually naturally generated by your body under different circumstances. But they serve a purpose and aren’t necessarily a huge problem unless your body can’t keep up with their production.
Radicals of particular concern are ROS. These can lead to oxidative damage in both DNA and RNA, specifically in the mitochondria, where cellular energy is produced. As you get older, free radical reactions can cause aging in different parts of the body by increasing the rate of shortening of your DNA’s telomeres, the end caps that keep your DNA from unraveling. And while there are measures you can take to counteract that effect (e.g., strength training), the fact that you have to counteract them at all means that you should probably put the cigarette down. This damage is connected to cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and direct observation of the effects of smoking on centenarians demonstrated that smoking is correlated almost exclusively to bad health and non-auto sufficiency (auto-sufficiency a state of ultimate bodily efficiency and independence).
Granted, there’s research out there that may suggest that things like nicotine gum could improve the efficiency of your brain. But in terms of actually lighting up and smoking carcinogens, it shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise that it's not the best of choices. There’s really no reason to accelerate the rate at which you age because even if you’re able to reduce the impact of smoking, the quality of the years you do have will be affected.
2) Consume Legumes
Slow-burning carbohydrates, like lentils and peas, seem to be a prevailing theme in the diets of many of the world’s longest-lived people. Fava beans are one of three or four staples in the traditional, shepherd/farmer Sardinian diet. And it’s a little funny, because in some health/nutrition circles today, it’s against the rules to eat legumes – For some, they supposedly can damage the gut and are difficult to digest. The fact is, however, that many legumes, when fermented, soaked, and sprouted, can actually contribute to your overall health and youthfulness by doing two things: stabilizing blood sugar, and providing adequate amounts of fiber with a protein kicker.
Legumes are low-glycemic foods (lower than “70” on the glycemic index), which means that over time, as they break down in your body, they don’t cause a major spike in blood glucose levels. According to one study, "peak rise in blood glucose concentration after consumption of legumes was 23% lower than that caused by other foods like bread, spaghetti, rice, and cereals." When your blood sugar spikes too high, your body starts producing large amounts of insulin to get it out of your blood and into your cells.
When your insulin levels get too high, it's like a traffic jam that can lead to things like obesity, sleep problems, and hypertension. By reducing the effects of high blood sugar and insulin, legumes can help to keep your blood, and therefore you, healthy.
Legumes also contain the highest total amount of dietary fiber. Fibers that are either slowly fermented or not digestible at all help to promote healthy bathroom activity, as well as prevent diverticulitis (inflammation in the digestive tract, particularly the intestines). Foods that are rich in fiber are processed more slowly, which helps to control the appetite, and it’s also important for lowering blood cholesterol levels and also normalizing blood glucose and insulin levels.
Even saponins, which are the supposed “bad” part of legumes, can be beneficial. Despite the gut damaging effects, which definitely occur when they’re consumed in large amounts by a genetic system that can't break them down quick enough. You see it's kind of like the overeating of sugar causing too much insulin. The body works in very cyclical styles like what we're talking about. It’s been suggested that the saponins that occur naturally in the cells of legumes affect the immune system in a way that helps to protect the body against cancer, as well as lower cholesterol levels. Saponins also lower the blood glucose response, and may even help to reduce the incidence of kidney stones. All this means that perhaps even the more deleterious parts of legumes could be beneficial in small amounts or doses. You may take a hint from the centenarians, and start eating more legumes.
3) Constant, Low-Level Movement
In our first-world modern experience, there’s this "norm" of going to the gym for really hard workouts, either at the beginning or the end of the day. But for the rest of your waking hours, you’re pretty much on your butt, sending emails, scrolling through social media. This leads to a majority of your time spent in poor posture, creating inactive muscles. A sedentary lifestyle, which has become the norm today, is leading to a culture of weight gain and obesity, which in turn is leading down the path to intense complications.
People who live in the blue zones aren’t doing any hardcore exercise sessions for an hour or so a day. They are just engaging in low-level movement – gardening, hunting, gathering, shepherding – all day long. This is a hack Sweat Nation advocates for you. Making sure to get in lots of low-intensity activity throughout the day keeps your muscles primed and firing. Wander around outside for a bit, and you’ll discover it's a better choice to let your inner wanderer out for hours on end, crawling over stuff, making your way through trees, and traversing open terrain to get your move on.
I have a few kettlebells and a pull-up bar at home. When I pass them I think of it as paying a toll. Just start and go till you feel your heart is pumping. Once you feel that, keep on going with your day. For general health mindful movement throughout the day is a great practice.
Try the tips I suggested to hack your own environment to simulate a movement lifestyle, even if you’re just typing up emails or making calls. You could purchase a standing workstation, a treadmill workstation, go for a walk while you make some calls, or take breaks throughout the day for mini exercise sessions like burpees. Just keep yourself in a state of mild, physical activity for a nice portion of your day.
4) Plant-Based Diet
No, I by no means am saying that anyone has to become a vegan or vegetarian. I actually have been hearing a lot of talk about exclusively meat diets, and would you believe some people are having positive health benefits from this diet. I digress, it is evidently clear that the inclusion of large amounts of plant matter into your daily choices seems to lend itself to longevity. This goes far beyond tip one of eating legumes.
What makes plant-based diets so effective are the nutrients and micronutrients that plants contain: n-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and plant proteins, just to name a few. In particular, phytochemicals derived from fruits and vegetables are potent antioxidants and cancer-preventing compounds, due to their synergistic effects.
If you’re up for it in and in an urban setting, you’d expect to have a bit more difficulty finding wild plants to incorporate into your diet, but you might be surprised. Look around for a community garden or grab a field guide, and keep an eye out for things like dandelion or plantain that could be growing nearby. This way you can wander around outside for a couple of hours, and you’ll discover all sorts of tasty treats, and get in some low-level, movement. It's a win/win!
5) Strong Relationships
Shout out to my homie James who brings together a group of us to play board games. He has dubbed this day "Blue Zone Game Day" This style of behavior is also heavily emphasized in blue zone populations. Developing relationships with your inner circle matter for quality of life and longevity.
Social relationships impact mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk, both in the short- and long-term. They seem to boost the immune system since genes that are impacted by social connection also code for immune function and inflammation.
One study observed that inflammation rises with relationship conflict and low social support. This can set you up for depression, emotional stress, and detrimental health behaviors.
These effects begin as early as adolescence and are cumulative over time. Now, granted, it’s easy to let relationships slide; problems with friends and family are almost assumed today. Regardless, though, you should make a concerted effort to create solid connections. Take your little sister or friend out for coffee. Call your parents once a week. Visit your grandma. Organize family dinners. Swap stories. Absorb wisdom and experience. Connect purposefully.
Take-Aways & Tips
While the practices we just went over are foundational and incredibly important to leading a long, healthy life, remember you have the benefit of living in the first world in a time and place where you can combine time-tested methods with advanced hacks used by the science-y, geeky anti-aging community. You can do intermittent fasting, cyclic ketogenesis, cryotherapy, stem cell enhancement, and infrared therapy.
But for now, this is where it's at: start out easy by identifying just one family member who you could probably do a better job at maintaining or building a relationship with. Call them up, text them, email them, send a handwritten letter, do whatever you have to do to set a moment for connecting. Build love, build relationships and interact on deep and meaningful levels. Not only will your lifespan increase, but you’ll also have at least one person that you want to live long for.
Peace & Love!
Track Of The Day - If There's Love - Citizen Cope