Over the past fifty years life expectancy has increased by more than twenty years. In many countries the population over 65 will eventually be greater than the population below and the number of people who will be 100 and over, is expected to increase 10-fold by the year 2050. This staggering increase in life expectancy has a lot to do with our ability to identify and treat many diseases with surgery and medications but it also has a lot to do with increased access to different types of food year-round and clean water as well as cleaner and safer living environments.
Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days, is said to be the oldest person who ever lived (on record). The second place goes to an American woman by the name of Sarah Knauss who reached a whopping 119 years and 97 days. The oldest South African on record was a woman named Johanna Booyson who was 111 years and 151 days at the time of her death in 1968 however, the average life expectancy in South Africa in 2015 was a shocking 49.72 years – the lowest life expectancy listed for any country, while the highest average life expectancy belongs to Monaco at 89.52 years. This huge difference in life expectancy between different countries indicates that it is lifestyle that plays a major role in determining how long we live. Many scientists believe that how long we live depends 25% on genetics and 75% on environmental and lifestyle – so basically there’s a lot we can do for ourselves.
Not surprisingly the record for the 10 oldest people belongs to women. In fact, out of the 43 countries ranked based on the oldest person in their nation , only 4 of the top spots belong to men with the oldest man, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, coming in at 116 years and 54 days after his death in 2013. In fact, the difference between the global average life expectancy of a man and a woman is 4.2 years and this figure is expected to increase. Even in the animal kingdom, females tend to outlive males across the board and the burning question remains – why? Although the difference between the life expectancy of men and women was noticed a very long time ago, there is no single explanation that can tell us why however, as a result of many studies aiming to answer this question, scientists have come up with some pretty interesting theories.
In humans, it seems that a major cause for the difference in life expectancy between men and women is heart disease. Men are inherently more likely to develop some form of chronic heart disease than women. The main reason for this is suggested to be because women have higher levels of the female hormone estrogen which may actually protect them from a range of diseases from coronary heart disease to atherosclerosis.
Another theory suggests that women live longer simply because their immune systems weaken at a significantly lower rate than men’s . The human immune system is made up of biological processes that protect us from diseases by identifying and fighting disease-causing pathogens. These pathogens have the ability to rapidly evolve to try and escape detection by the immune system but luckily for us, our immune systems also have the ability to evolve to identify these “adapted” pathogens. The immune system, however becomes weaker as we age and we are no longer able to fight off diseases as efficiently as before. This increased weakening of the immune system makes men much more susceptible to falling ill and developing diseases that shorten their lives. This research is instrumental in helping us find the “fountain of youth” because it means that if we want to bring up the lifespan of men, a good place to start is by strengthening their immune systems.
The Turritopsis Nutricula is a jellyfish that is considered to be biologically immortal. They possess the unique ability to cycle from the adult to the polyp stages with no limit – and this isn’t the only species considered to be biologically immortal. Sanicula is a herb found in Europe and North America, as well as certain species of sea urchins and clams, do not show any signs of an increase mortality with age – meaning that death rates are equal amongst both new and mature specimens. Antarctic sponge, which comes in second in terms of lifespan is known to live in excess of 1550 years, while the third places goes to a species of clam known as ocean quahog which are estimated to live more than 400 years. There are a number of species in existence which can live for a very, very long period of time when compared to the lifespan of a human and these species have been studied closely in an attempt to find out how they achieve such longevity. In fact, these species can also assist us in finding the secrets to a long life but also the core reason that we age in the first place.
When it comes to answering this big question, as with most age-related questions, there isn’t one, single agreed upon answer and a countless number of scientists and researchers have been trying to figure it out for decades. Research into anti-ageing has become increasingly more reliable and extensive and it seems as though every other day there is a new and ground breaking research study that has made some exciting discovery. For now, there are two distinct theories that aim to determine the core reason that we age and both are equally valid. The first theory suggests that we are simply genetically programmed to age. At the moment stress is in fact is the leading cause of a reduced premature aging and death along with smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet and lack of proper nutrition are well know to reduce life expectancy but genetics can play an equal role in determining how long we live. This means each individual possesses certain genes that will determine how long they live.
The second theory takes a slightly different approach and suggests that we age because our DNA and all the various systems within us experience wear and tear or rather, damage that inevitably overwhelms our bodies. Regardless of which theory is more accurate, there are certainly ways in which we can slow down and sometimes even reverse the aging process to a certain extent.
Since, for the time being, there isn’t much we can do about the genes we inherit it seems only logical for us to try and alter our environment and lifestyles in order to extend our lives. The most effective way to do this is – you guessed it – exercise. It may seem blatantly obvious that if you exercise on a regular basis your health will improve and hence you'll probably be less likely to develop one or more of the many age-related diseases but exactly how much time does exercise add to the clock? A recent paper written by Dr I-Min Lee a Harvard Professor states that the amount of time we get depends on both the frequency and intensity of the exercise you do. Dr Lee calculated that a middle-aged individual that spends 3 hours doing moderate-intensity exercise can expect to see, on average, a 1 to 7 return on time invested. That may at first seem highly unrealistic but the data provided in this research paper is sound and has finally given us an idea of how much time we can add to our clocks through exercise.
Exactly how exercise accomplishes such fascinating results isn’t much of mystery. When we exercise we require an increased amount of oxygen and nutrients and in order to deliver this to all our cells our heart rates increases – meaning that our heart beats faster and we have an increase in the blood flow through our arteries, veins and capillaries. This then improves the autonomic nervous system which controls these functions and then leads to a lower resting heart rate. A person who has a lower resting heart rate can expect to live longer because their heart doesn’t have to work as hard throughout the day to keep them alive and well. It also reduces inflammation of the heart which is a major cause of heart disease however; the extent to which exercise can improve health also varies depending on genetics.
Some people will naturally derive more benefit from exercise than others and there is simply nothing we can do to alter or control this variation. Exercise can also greatly reduce the risk of developing cancer. The exact reason for this is not black and white and there are many theories however the most prominent of these is that exercise reduces body weight and this directly affects the amount of insulin that a person will produce. By lowering the amount of insulin that our bodies produce we lower the ability for cells to divide and create cancerous tumours.
Exercise is directly linked to a stronger immune system and thus plays a role in warding off cancer and a variety of other diseases. For obvious reasons, people who exercise regularly also tend to eat better, so there is a strong connection between exercise and diet. Exercise is also known to significantly decrease stress levels, which is another major factor that leads to a diminished life expectancy. Exercise strengthens muscles, coordination, brain function and even helps tone and firm up skin by improving elasticity. As we age many of the connections between neurons in our brains is lost making us less capable of processing information. Exercise increase blood flow and therefore, oxygen and nutrient supply to our brains and therefore stall metal decline. So if exercising for one minute can increase our lives by seven minutes, we should definitely consider exercise to be the “fountain of youth” we’ve all been searching for.
The second most important lifestyle change that can add decades to the clock is reducing stress by altering the way we react to stressful situations and changing our outlook on life. Apart from the devastating effect stress has on our health and looks, stress can also take a very serious toll on the brain, even leading to a reduction in the size of the hippocampus, an area of our brain that is responsible for memory. Stress has also been shown to seriously increase the level of cortisol in the bloodstream. This suppresses the immune system and can, among other things, increase your chances of developing diabetes and having a heart attack. If you’re particularly prone to stress taking a supplement such as Solal’s “Stress Damage Control” can provide you with the most technologically advanced combination of nutrients and vitamins to help manage stress and repair any damage it causes. The supplement effectively lowers the cortisol and adrenalin levels in the bloodstream which helps shield the brain and heart from stress-related cellular damage.
Sleep is absolutely critical not only in reducing stress but also in preventing premature aging and maintaining a sound mind. Although it is recommended that everyone get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night, studies have shown that people above the age of 55 would benefit greatly from an extra 1 to 1.5 hours of sleep per day, preferably in the form of an afternoon nap. Sleep also does wonders for our skin because it is during our daily shut-eye that our bodies repair and regenerate all the cells in our bodies – skin included. Keeping hydrated is also an important habit to develop and maintain because it’s absolutely critical to the health of our skin. It’s recommended that we drink between 2 – 2.5 litres of water per day but people who are extremely active, like professional athletes or labourers and those who live in hot and humid environments may require more to stay adequately hydrated.
So apart from getting at least three hours of exercise a week and reducing stress levels what else can we do to extend our lives?
Studies have also shown that sex has a number of anti-ageing benefits from lowering blood pressure to boosting your immune system and helping you sleep better. This is because during sex a form of natural painkillers called beta-endorphins are released which effectively help reduce anxiety. Regular sex, about 3 days a week has also proved to help in alleviating symptoms of arthritis, chronic migraines and even boost the immune system.
Our vision also experiences a gradual decline after 40. This age related decline affects our ability to focus on objects close by. This is called presbyopia and is a result of the hardening of the lens of the eye. Other, more sever forms of age-related eye disease include muscular degeneration and glaucoma as well as diabetic retinopathy. Cataracts are also a probable cause of age-related visual problems and can easily be corrected by surgery but there are a few things we could do to prevent such common age related eye diseases and avoid their formation. Solal’s Eyesight Protection capsules that can help prevent age-related eye damage and diseases and should be taken particularly by those who have a family history of eye disorder or who are already experiences a decline in their visual abilities. Vitamin A is important for maintaining bone health – which declines significantly with age. Vitamins cannot stop or reverse the aging process but they most defiantly can help you live a longer and healthier life all while helping you look and feel better.
In humans there are certain vitamins that are well-known and proven to have fantastic anti-ageing properties, one of the most beneficial being vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which means that it can protect the body from harmful free radicals which cause damage to cells, helps boost the immune system, prevents blood clots from forming and can even help prevent atherosclerosis. Vitamin E is also very good for maintaining youthful skin because it has a strong effect on the elasticity of skin.
Vitamin C also does wonders for the skin and like Vitamin E, can combat free radicals. Vitamin C can help prevent some types of cancer and some studies have shown it to also reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. It also prevents cataracts from developing with increased age and helps to heal wounds. Niacin or more specifically vitamin B-3 has a myriad of anti-aging benefits – from increasing “good cholesterol” to lowering levels of triglycerides niacin can help prevent hardening and thickening of artery walls and also reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis. Green tea has also shown to have great anti-aging properties. It not only helps protect against free radicals but it also helps maintain a healthy inflammatory balance in the body.
A good diet is a key part of an effective anti-aging lifestyle but the latest research has brought to light some unexpected results in regards to how much we should eat to extend our lives to the maximum. The research shows that a calorie-restricted diet has the best effect on lifespan. To be more precise, a diet in which we would eat about 30% below what is considered “normal” for an average adult will result in the most increase in lifespan. This calorie-restrictive diet is believed to extend lifespan by altering the type and kind of microbes present in our guts. In addition to a longer lifespan mice that were kept on low-fat and low-calorie diets also showed improved metabolic rates an optimised serum lipid profile. A serum lipid profile is basically a group of blood tests that are taken to assess the risk of an individual developing heart disease. In addition, these mice had an increase in beneficial bacteria and a decrease in harmful bacteria in their systems. However, before you begin cutting down on your food please note that tests were done on mice and the safety and effectiveness of a severely restricted diet on humans, has not yet been established.
To find out what foods to eat as part of an effective anti-aging lifestyle we should look to the Japanese for inspiration. With the second highest life expectancy in the world, many research studies have shown that their raw food, vitamin rich diets are the reason for their top spot. Raw fruit and vegetables are a very important part of any anti-aging lifestyle however, it is important to take your own biological needs into account before deciding to significantly alter your diet. It is important to note that genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors must all be taken into account when attempting to change your diet. There are three important things to consider when deciding on what type of diet to follow. Firstly, what is your nutritional type? Does your body thrive on carbohydrates or protein or a combination of the two? What is the quality of the food that you consume? Are the meats and vegetables naturally grown? How do you cook or prepare the food? We know that raw fruit and vegetables provide a great deal more nutrition than heavily cooked foods so if you’re looking to improve your health increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetable, nuts, fish and natural cold-pressed oil such as olive oil will have a very good impact on your health.
Olive oil is considered to be a super anti-ageing food because it contains polyphenols, a very powerful antioxidant that can prevent many age-related diseases and monounsaturated fats that are important to maintain a healthy heart. Nuts also contain many of the same unsaturated fats as olive oil and also contain many vitamins and antioxidants. Yogurt is also a very powerful anti-aging food because it contains probiotics or “good bacteria” that is crucial for healthy intestines. Yogurt is also rich in calcium which is an important nutrient for the prevention of osteoporosis. Fish is one of the best sources of mega-3 fatty acids which helps lower cholesterol and has also been proven to act as a weapon against abnormal heart beat rhythms. Omega-3 fatty acids help keeps wrinkles at bay while also have benefits for your heart and brain. Black chocolate is rich in flavanoids crucial for healthy functioning of blood vessels which can prevent diabetes, dementia and kidney disease.
As we age our ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases. Vitamin B12 is critical in maintaining proper red blood cell functionality as well as brain health. Solal’s Advanced Cellular Anti-Aging Antioxidant provides a combination of the most effective antioxidants that will protect your cells and DNA from free radical damage. Another crucial product for those looking for the most advanced anti-ageing benefits is Co-Enzyme Q10. This enzyme is naturally produced in the body and functions as fuel however; as we age levels decline and this may have a detrimental effect on the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and even the immune system. This is a critical dietary supplement particularly for those who are on a cholesterol-lowering prescription. Although further research is still required to confirm the link between a deficiency in co-enzyme Q10 and a greater risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, scientist suggest that it may prevent and delay the onset of these diseases. In regard to Alzheimer’s and dementia, research has also proven that keeping the mind stimulated can go a long way in both preventing the onset and, reducing symptoms .Activities such as learning a new language, playing strategy and memory games, reading engaging material and keeping socially active all have positive effects.
It is important that you ensure you get the right amount of probiotics into your daily meals. Probiotics help prevent malnutrition, increase calcium absorption and improve immune system functionality. Omega 3 fats are definitely a must for all those on a anti-ageing lifestyle because it helps lengthen and preserve DNA parts known as telomeres which are a primary cause of aging.
Whichever way you choose to look at ageing, in order to derive the maximum benefits of all the research and technology developed to date – you must approach anti-aging as a lifestyle. In conclusion there are many factors that influence how long we live and how well we live but, exercising at least three hours a week, eating a healthy diet, ensuring you get the right vitamins and minerals, sleeping 7-8 hours per night, staying hydrated and keeping stress to a minimum are the most effective anti-ageing weapons.