When we hear people talking about longevity, we typically think that this refers to wanting to lie for a long time. In actual fact, it has nothing to do with growing old disgracefully. Longevity is about so much more than life span, it is more about health or “life extension”.
So, health extension is a combination of longevity, a body without any discomfort, and youthful energy. In simpler terms, you’d want a future where you don’t change very much and can do everything you do now (maybe with a few wrinkles).
However, it’s very difficult to measure health, especially in lab animals. They could be riddled with old age, but still, live for a long time. For instance, a mouse can’t tell you if it’s got a sore knee or if it’s having trouble in the junk department. This is why measuring life span is so much easier.
Thankfully, we share many biological pathways with animals, so studies on animal longevity correlate rather well with us humans.
Let’s find out some more about what these studies discovered and what can influence life span.
The five pillars of longevity
Well, there isn’t really much surprise here, but your diet does make a difference. Eating the right foods can lead to a longer, healthier life. There are a whole bunch of foods out there that are good for different parts of the body.
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A heart-healthy diet can help to control your weight as when we’re overweight, this is what leads to other health complications such as high blood pressure, diabetes, disease and even cancer. These types of diets include foods such as:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Skinless poultry
The likes of meat, fish and milk products are great for our brain, all protein-fuelled foods like legumes and lean meat for muscles and foods such as yogurt and low-fat cheese giving us the calcium to promote strong bones.
What may seem odd is that how long our parents live or lived doesn’t play much of a role in determining our life span. Your genes have less than 10% input.
No, we aren’t saying that you’re going to have to diet for the rest of your life. However, eating less obviously leads to a reduced body mass. This then reduces metabolic rate which then leads to a drop in free radical damage. So, it’s likely this that results in a longer life span.
We’re not able to fully determine how effective exercise is in extending life span, but it’s got to, right?
Getting our heart pumping and moving all those muscles can only do good.
There are many studies out there that have revealed certain carotenoids and polyphenols can lengthen life span and improve health. Phytochemicals containing the below are seen to be the most beneficial:
- Pomegranate – is known to help mitochondria with a process called autophagy, this simply means it eliminates damaged parts of cells
- Curcumin – has a whole host of great benefits from increased insulin sensitivity, improved cardiovascular health, boosted sexual function, and decreased joint pain
- Rosmarnic acid – this is a polyphenol found in rosemary. It is said to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
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The bottom line
So, we’ve now learned that our genes don’t have as much of an impact and that what we eat matters, although, this is not a shock.
If we want to live a long, healthy life, we need to eat well and move regularly. However, there are supplements we can also take that may help to increase our life span, so we can enjoy living even longer.
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