Life expectancy has been increasing steadily since the Age of Enlightenment – today, all countries have a higher life expectancy than the highest country in 1800. Since 1900, life expectancy has more than doubled. In Australia, males born today can expect to live to 81, and females to 85.
Whilst we live longer, some argue this is not always desirable. In first world nations, some 30% die with dementia. Living longer may result in disease, disability frailty of advanced age and cognitive impairment. Many are focusing on quality of life, not just the quantity.
Research is now demonstrating ways to stop the ageing process, even if you are getting older. Ageing well enables a high quality of life in your senior years. Here is the emerging evidence:
- Eat less – laboratory rats in the 1930s lived longer if they were fed less. These weren’t geriatric rats, but rather, animals that were observed to delay the ageing process and defer disease. That is, they stayed younger for longer – slowing down the ageing process is possible. This finding has been replicated in humans, where a 12% calorie restriction over 2 years reduced the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke
- Don’t smoke – smoking is an ageing accelerator, speeding up disease rates, frailty and the looks of ageing
- Leafy greens – one serving a day of greens like spinach, kale or collards reduces brain ageing
- Orange veggies – alpha carotene in carrots, squash and pumpkin reduces cancer and heart disease risk
- Berries – improves muscle tone, brain function and reduces cancer risk
- Enjoy a glass of red wine with cheese – resveratrol found in red wine has anti-ageing properties and can limit epigenetic change in our cells. In a study of over 2000 participants, regular red wine resulted in greater cognitive acuity in later years (red wine also reduces depression if consumed in small quantities). Cheese is age-protective in terms of cognitive decline
- Drink green tea – reduces inflammation and oxidative stress
- Eat lamb & fish – researchers have shown lamb improves long term cognitive function when older, and fish reduces your death risk by 42%
- Use olive oil – monosaturated fats reduce heart disease and cancer risks
- Try vitamin C and pomegranate juice – anti-ageing benefits from reducing oxidation of DNA and improving cell renewal
- Exercise – ageing results in loss of muscle mass and strength and regular exercise reduces this decline. Those who exercise regularly into older age also have lower cholesterol and better immunity.
There are also many clinical studies in progress that are looking for ways to help people age well, including:
- Telomerase – this enzymes lengthens your DNA chromosomes (the ends are called telomeres) and decreases your risk of chronic disease when you age
- Stem cells – are being used in clinical trials for macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease and arthritis
- Immunity – our thymus is part of our immune system and it declines when we age. As a result seniors are more susceptible to infections such as flu or Covid. Researchers are investigating ways to stimulate our thymus and improve our immunity when we get older
- Parabiosis – giving old mice blood from younger mice causes ageing processes to reverse
- Gene therapy or epigenetic programming – targeting ageing genes in worms increased their live spans 6 times. There’s also interest in a so-called Amish gene (SERPINE1) which has demonstrated less heart disease, less diabetes and greater longevity. In 2006, a Japanese Nobel prize winner Yamanaka, discovered genes that can increase the lifespan of mice by 30%
Lastly, there are many supplements and creams on the market that sprout anti-ageing benefits – the medical research for these products are not strong so caution is needed before expensive or unnecessary purchases!