7 Simple Habits that could add 20 years to your life

20 extra years of life, who wouldn’t want that! Every day there are new life-extending products being launched on the market. From extreme fad diets claiming to reverse ageing to new pills that promise to keep you young forever.

All of that is pretty understandable. Longevity is a hot topic at the moment and rightly so! Never before have we as humans thought about our own mortality so earnestly. As life seems to keep accelerating, one cannot be blamed for wanting a few extra years to enjoy.

The issue with most “new” longevity products and services out at the moment is in their title. They’re new. And as with many new things, they probably haven’t been tested. It’s ridiculous to claim that something can make a person live until 100 years of age when the product itself has been around for hardly a year.

This post is not a new product

Just saying.

The 7 habits that I’m about to share with you are time-proven. They’ve been gathered from years and years of research on health and longevity. And just as the title of this post suggests, they’re simple. Too simple if you ask me! But as with many other things in life, the key is in simplicity and consistency.

Now before you get so excited and rush off to read what these habits are all about, let me just warn you. Just because they’re super simple doesn’t mean that if you incorporate them into your life for a week your job is done. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. But if you begin incorporating as many of them as possible into your daily life, that’s when the magic happens!

The 7 Habits

  1. Sleeping seven or eight hours a night
  2. Eating regular meals at regular times
  3. Not eating between meals
  4. Maintaining normal weight – i.e. not more than 5 percent underweight, and no more than 10 to 20 percent overweight (the lower number is for women and the higher for men)
  5. Regular physical activity – i.e. engaging often in active sports, long walks, gardening or any other exercise
  6. Moderate drinking – i.e. taking no more than two alcoholic drinks a day
  7. Never smoking cigarettes

This is a super brief list of simple habits, the kind that you would learn as a child and yet many of us tend to overlook them.

If you already consistently engage in 5 or more of those habits, give yourself a pat on the back. If not, do not get disheartened, it’s never too late to make positive changes to your life! Just start today!

I would be happy to answer any questions regarding the habits in the comment section below!

Why having a fast metabolism isn’t as good as you may think!

When I think of fast metabolism I automatically think of those people out there that are able to eat almost anything without gaining a single pound. How lucky they are, I used to think. I can’t complain about having a slow metabolism myself, but I certainly cannot eat anything and remain slim! For years I used to think that my average speed metabolism had me at a disadvantage when compared to those lucky few out there who operate at the speed of light. Recently, however, as my understanding of the functioning of the body and metabolism has grown I’ve come to new conclusions. Positive ones, I must say!

This post will, hopefully, bring a huge breath of relief for those with slowish/average metabolisms.

So, let’s begin at the very beginning.

What is metabolism?

The metabolism is essentially the rate at which all chemical processes occur in the body. Usually however, when we talk about metabolism in this context we are referring to resting metabolic rate. This is the number of calories that our bodies burn just to keep us alive.

The faster the metabolism the better?

Most people believe that it is desirable to have a very fast metabolism. We see it everywhere, new posts come up almost every day with the heading:

  • 5 foods to speed up your metabolism
  • Eat 8 meals a day to have a fast metabolism
  • Eat 30g of protein upon waking to rev up your metabolism

I don’t think I’d be lying if I said I’ve heard it all! Now I’m not at all trying to say that these methods do not work. They probably work too well! But, apart from burning more calories at rest, is there any other benefit of having a fast metabolism? Absolutely not! Nothing! How surprising, right!

In fact, there are actually disadvantages of a fast metabolism. Research suggests that the faster your metabolism, the shorter your lifespan. This isn’t even new research or new theory! Max Rubner came up with the rate of living theory in 1908! Buuuuut, sadly there is no money in slow metabolisms. Nothing to sell. Haha, so before we get carried away with conspiracy conversations, let’s leave this topic right where it is!

Slower metabolism, longer life?

So why is it that a slower metabolism is associated with longer life and faster metabolism with a shorter one, I hear you asking. Well, cellular energy production results in the creation of byproducts, some of which are toxic. This basically means that every time you eat and your body turns that food into energy there are some toxic byproducts that are produced. Our bodies naturally produce antioxidants to help combat those reactive oxygen species however, when everything is happening too fast, our bodies may not be able to produce enough antioxidants to keep up with the demand. That’s when oxidative damage occurs. Our DNA, our proteins and lipids get damaged. And we know one thing for sure. Oxidative damage accelerates ageing! So you can see how the story goes from here on. The faster your body ages, the shorter your life.

On the plus side, the opposite is also true. When you have a slower metabolism and enough supply of antioxidants it is expected that your lifespan will be longer.

Now before you start thinking that I am trying to basically tell you to crash your metabolism and become fat so that you live longer, let me clarify.

Eating less may be the way forward

I know! This sounds so counter-everything you’ve probably read or heard, but hear me out. In order to be slim and lean AND have a slow metabolism (you can most definitely have both!) you need to consume less food than “normal”. Because, if you have a slow metabolism and eat what you usually eat you will gain weight. So the key here is to eat less and burn less. And anyway, in modern days we are eating way too much! Think sustainability. If you slow down your metabolism slightly, your body wouldn’t need so much food. You’ll be helping the environment and you’ll also be saving money.

What about exercise? Exercise is fantastic obviously and it is probably the safest way to increase your metabolism. Now before you get totally confused, what I mean by safest way, is that exercise will not give you those toxic byproducts of cellular energy production and thus no oxidative damage. So exercise is good, don’t stop exercising. But, I think we can agree that most of us are consuming more food than our bodies require. What’s more is that usually that food isn’t overly healthy either!

Suggestion

The whole point behind this post is to provide an alternative view of things or a little food for thought if you like. Forget the fitness industry or the whatever industry, I’m not in the business of anything. I am solely interested in my own health and the health of others. With that in mind, here’s are a few suggestions derived from this topic:

  • Focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Consume less calories. You will notice that once you quit the junk/processed food, cutting calories will occur naturally because natural food isn’t usually calorically dense.
  • Use exercise to maintain healthy weight.

Give it a thought and do your own research.

Personally, the more I research the topic the more I see how much sense this makes. This is what those 120 year old yogis do! They live SLOWLY! They breathe slowly and deeply, they eat slowly, they move their bodies slowly and gently (yoga) and in this way they preserve themselves for longer.

There’s a saying that goes, “live fast, die young” and I think I kind of agree. Let me know your thoughts! I’d love to hear what you guys think on the topic!

 

Telomeres: What are they and what is their role in keeping you younger and healthier?

Is there a way of finding out the rate at which your body is ageing? Or more importantly, is there a way of slowing it down, stopping or, dare I say, reversing that rate? Well, telomeres may just be the answer to those questions.

When I talk about ageing, straight away most younger people would picture an elderly person and quickly dismiss the information as irrelevant to them. But, what they may be unaware of is the fact that ageing actually begins the day you’re born. Does that surprise you?

What are telomeres?

You see, every time your cells divide (which happens all the time) the repeating segments of noncoding DNA at the end of your chromosomes, shortens. This last part of the chromosome is known as a telomere, and it sort of resembles the plastic end of shoelaces which helps to keep the shoelace from unravelling.

That may sound a bit depressing, but the good news is that as well as shortening with each cell division, telomeres also have the ability to lengthen. Hence, reverse ageing! Now, what does that mean for a young person? It means; glowing, vibrant and plump skin, it means heaps of energy, it means healthier faster metabolism, stronger immune system. Essentially, it means all the bodily functions will be operating at the optimal level for your body.

There is a finite number of times that a cell can divide before it dies. Just as there is a finite number of base pairs (units of DNA) of telomeres that can be lost before your chromosomes become exposed and begin to unravel, which is where the breakdown of the body begins.

So, here is a typical trajectory for the life of a human’s telomere:

Age

Telomere Length (in base pairs)

Newborn baby

10,000 base pairs

35 years old

7,500 base pairs

65 years old

4,800 base pairs

The shortening of telomeres as the years pass is unfortunately inevitable. However, we do have a lot of control over the rate at which this happens.

The Telomere Effect

In their book, The Telomere Effect, Nobel prize winners Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel discuss some instances that they have discovered which affect the length of our telomeres. Some examples include;

  • Some of us respond to difficult situations by feeling highly threatened – and this response is linked to shorter telomeres. Hence stress is extremely devastating to our telomeres. But we can reframe our view of situations in a more positive way and thus reduce our stress levels.
  • Several mind-body techniques, including meditation and Qigong, have been shown to reduce stress and to increase telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes telomeres.
  • Exercise that promotes cardiovascular fitness is great for telomeres. So, for the folks out there hating on cardio, think again.
  • Telomeres hate processed meats like hot dogs and ham, but fresh, whole foods are good for them.
  • Neighbourhoods that are low in social cohesion – meaning that people don’t know and trust one another are bad for telomeres. This is true no matter what the income level.
  • Children who are exposed to several adverse life events have shorter telomeres. Moving children away from neglectful circumstances (like the notorious Romanian orphanages) can reverse some of the damage.
  • Telomeres on the parents’ chromosomes in the egg and sperm are directly transmitted to the developing baby. Remarkably, this means that if your parents had hard lives that shortened their telomeres, they could have passed those shortened telomeres to you.

 

There are so many factors that affect your telomeres and therefore your cell’s ability to function optimally. So in brief, what can you do from today to start slowing down or reversing cellular damage, or ageing?

Here’s a few suggestions:

Make sure you read number 7 (it’s my favourite one!)

  1. Think kind and loving thoughts – Your cells are listening to your thoughts. Think only kind thoughts about yourself and others and you will be amazed at how lovingly your cells will respond. This is no new age business here people! This is hard science documented by pioneer researchers who’ve been awarded a Nobel Prize for their findings.
  2. Manage stress- or take a chill pill as they say. Stress takes a toll on the body in ways that is hard to imagine. It increases your risk of almost all known diseases and it shortens your telomeres. So, try to manage your stress levels through the help of meditation, mindfulness or whatever works for you.
  3. Exercise – We hear this all the time. But seriously, exercise is so important. Most of us are guilty of not doing enough. Aerobic exercise appears to be best for cellular health and longer telomeres.
  4. A healthy metabolism- Insulin resistance and belly fat are real enemies of telomeres. Try to maintain a healthy metabolism by not crash dieting and keep your serum insulin levels low by consuming less carbohydrates.
  5. Eat for optimal cell health – Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds along with high-quality sources of protein. Consume sources of omega 3 such as; salmon and tuna, leafy green vegetables and flaxseeds. Minimise red meat (especially processed meat). And avoid sugary foods and drinks.
  6. Rest – Telomeres like at least 7 hours of sleep. With sufficient sleep you will feel less hungry, less emotional and lose fewer telomere base pairs.
  7. The places and faces that support our telomeres – Whether we like it or not, or whether we accept it or not, we are interconnected to the people around us in ways that we cannot see yet our telomeres can reveal. We need each other. We are social creatures. We’re also affected in more subtle ways like by the way we feel in our neighbourhood, by the abundance of green plants and trees and by the emotional and physiological states of those around us. So let’s be nice to each other, let’s create friendly neighbourhoods, let’s plant more trees and let’s spend more time outdoors enjoying nature.

Living a long and healthy life isn’t rocket science, but it does require tuning back into our true nature. Eating real food, moving about, breathing clean, fresh air and loving the people around us. <3

 

DNA methylation and why you should know about it

Gone are the days when we thought we’re simply victims of our own genetic makeup.  More and more research now confirms that it’s not about what genes you’re carrying but rather, it’s about what genes you’re expressing.

What is DNA methylation?

Simply put, methylation is the addition of a methyl group (CH3) to DNA which does not affect the DNA sequence but affects the gene expression. If you imagine that the body is a complex operating system with many switches, then methylation and demethylation are those switches. Genes can be switched on (upregulated) or switched off (downregulated).  DNA methylation is one of several epigenetic mechanisms that cells use to control gene expression. And gene expression determines every single aspect of you.

Why is methylation important?

Actually, it is not important, it’s vital. Methylation occurs a billion times every second in the body, so yes it is absolutely crucial. It affects the transcription of genes, telling them to turn on or turn off. Methylation is also intricately connected with other biochemical pathways and its optimal function helps to regulate other functions such as;

  1. Histamine metabolism
  2. Fat metabolism
  3. Neurotransmitter production
  4. DNA production
  5. Cellular energy
  6. Detoxification
  7. Oestrogen metabolism
  8. Eye and Liver health

What’s required for optimal methylation?

The process of methylation relies on the availability of methyl groups. Methyl groups are provided by the universal methyl donor known as SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine). The system that produces SAMe however, relies on a switch being turned on by a specific vitamin B, 5-MTHF (also known as active folate).

As you can see, active folate is essential for the biochemical reaction to occur. Note that folic acid is not the same as active folate and when taken from dietary sources or supplementation it must be converted to active folate first before it can be used in methylation.

What happens when there isn’t enough active folate?

Deficiency in active folate not only affects methylation causing it to function at suboptimal levels, but the same switch that triggers methylation also triggers the production of other important molecules such as;

  • Glutathione
  • Melatonin
  • Serotonin
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • L-carnitine
  • Nitric acid

As everything is connected, one thing affecting the other, having trouble sleeping, having low energy and feeling depressed may be a result of a deficiency in active folate. However, everyone is different so it’s worth getting tested.

What can I do to optimise methylation?

There are a few things that you can do to optimise methylation. But, before we get to the steps I’d like to mention that the first thing that you need to do, which I consider very important,  is a quick DNA test to check how your methylation is currently performing. There are so many places that offer this test either alone or as part of a larger more comprehensive health test. Or you can order an online kit, do the test, send it back and get your results without having to go anywhere.

Now on to the steps to help optimise methylation.

  1. Diet – top of the list! In addition to consuming whole non-processed foods as the basis of your diet, there are some foods that are particularly good for methylation as they are methyl donors. These include; asparagus, broccoli, avocado, brussel sprouts, legumes and dark green leafy vegetables. A green smoothie for breakfast is an excellent way to get a good amount of greens into the body. Avoid sugar, alcohol and processed foods.
  2. Sleep – Rest and restore! Downtime is essential for optimal function of everything in the body.
  3. Reduce stress – As you may be aware, stress is detrimental to our health physical, psychological and spiritual. Find out about ways that you can reduce stress in your life. Some things that could help with stress are; meditation, relaxing hot bath, walking in nature etc.
  4. Regular physical activity – the key word here is “regular”. It almost doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do as long as it is being done regularly.
  5. Elevated emotions- Be happy!! 🙂 Emotions also affect the up/down regulation of genes. So straighten out that posture, put a smile on your face and look out into the world through your rose tinted glasses.