Our lifespan is written in our DNA. All things being equal (no accidents or disease) we will wear out at this predetermined age. Can we measure this? Joel summarises the latest biochemistry and immunology which may or may not help. It's a tad confusing which means to me that they haven't cracked it yet.
We do know that our demise could be premature due to accidents and disease. There are also risk factors active when we are still well. So taking care could be a good idea before we retire, and certainly still beneficial well into ageing (70-79 young old, 80+ old old). We've all read about or met people who are fantastic role models in the 90s; see blogs on older people (1) and (2).
So here are the usual disease suspects; stop me if you have heard them.
Risk factors for heart attacks and stroke: sedentary lifestyle, smoking, high blood pressure, overweight/obesity, high cholesterol. None of these on their own is powerful, but it gets worrying if you begin to collect them and they are under our control with help from our friendly prescriber.
In addition, sedentary lifestyle can contribute to osteoporosis and risk of low trauma fracture - sadly being a tad unsteady is part of normal ageing. Diabetes, particularly type 2, can be a direct consequence of creeping above and beyond our ideal weight.
There is a debate around the measurement of these risk factors, which is interesting but best not used as an excuse for not taking care.
There are the 4 normal physical 'S' challenges of ageing - strength, stamina, skill and suppleness. We no longer shift pianos over 60 and our exercise capacity declines predictably from an early age. Skill is balance and dexterity, while suppleness is stiffness v. flexibility. We are all at various stages of the 'S' change.
So the Joel plan?
- Diet - there is not a lot new here. Eat less calories, eat more fish (mackerel) and plants, drink less alcohol (minimum of two water days per week), drink more green tea, eat more whole foods and cut down on processed stuff.
- Strength training - not much detail. As we have said a few times, do something and regularly. See blogs on exercise and the older person (1)(2) and (3). Joel recommends we get as stronger handshake.
- Balance - sounds like pilates which I do recommend. Try standing on one leg, eyes closed, and counting to 10 slowly. Try sitting on the floor and getting up without help from arms or knees. Stretch something whenever you can.
- Exercise - a bit thin on detail. Walk more is well documented, but check out the links above.
- Then a few extra ones for good measure. Spend more time in bed sleeping, regular sex helps skin look younger, learn a language to ward off alzheimer's, oh and, worry less.
Last words from Professor Jamie Timmons, Medical and Molecular Genetics, King's College, London.
'I think there is no evidence yet that we can alter our "biological age clock" through lifestyle, but it does seem that longevity up to an average age of 80 years is highly modifiable. We can treat the symptoms correlated with age through things like strength training and avoiding obvious toxins such as smoking. Other than that, I'd say do things today that might be sensible if they also enhance the quality of life now.'In other words, and it's a cliche for which I apologise, 'put life into years'.