For many of us, ageing can be a source of anxiety. Quite often, we overlook the fact that getting older is a privilege, one that bestows upon us countless advantages, such as life experiences that help us make better decisions, a greater sense of acceptance of self and others and last, but not least, knowledge.
Albert Einstein famously said that "a person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so", and, whilst his statement was truthful almost a century ago, it is highly inaccurate in the times we live in, when life spans are longer and most Nobel Prize winners in physics are 50.3 years of age in average.
The older we get, the more skilful we become, not only in the art of living well but also in all areas we choose to spend time on: professional, scientific, entrepreneurial and familial. With this in mind, it becomes even more fundamental to optimise our bodies to ensure we can continue enjoying life for as long as possible.
As life span increases, it is essential to take control of the ageing process, optimising our bodies to remain healthy for as long as possible whilst keeping in mind that the earliest we start proactively managing our health, the more chances we have to expand our health span.
Embracing the ageing process whilst proactively working to age well is the key to unlocking longer, happier and more productive lives.
We all know that a sedentary lifestyle increases chronic disease risks having a negative impact on life expectancy. However, you may not know that there are actual cellular changes associated with regular exercise that keeps you younger. A study with 6,000 adults from Brigham Young University has linked exercise habits to the biology of aging - meaning being active directly influences how quickly you age.
The study found that the telomeres, the end caps on chromosomes that shorten with age, were more prolonged in active people than in sedentary people. This correlates to about a 9-year difference in cell aging between those who were physically active versus those who were inactive.
Declining muscle mass is part of ageing. After the age of 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% of muscle mass per decade. The good news is there is always time to build your strength. One example is from Researchers at the University of Birmingham who compared athletes in their seventies and eighties with non-exercising seniors. Regardless of previous conditioning levels, the seniors' ability to increase muscle mass is the same. This inspiring news is an important reminder that improving your health is possible at any age.
Maintaining muscle mass is vital to maintain mobility, increase metabolism, reduce the risk of chronic disease development, and keep your bones healthy. It also helps to regulate blood pressure and body fat levels. Most importantly, increased muscle strength can also prevent cognitive decline.
In summary, more muscle mass helps you live a longer, healthier life. (Abramowitz et al. 2018).
A recent study published in 2022 concluded that eating healthier could extend lifespan by six to seven years in middle-aged adults, and in young adults, it could increase lifespan by about ten years. In older adults, the gains may be smaller but still substantial, with an increased life expectancy of 7% for both men and women.
According to the study, the key to improving your diet for longevity is to reduce the consumption of processed foods and red meat and increase the intake of legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole grains (oats, barley and brown rice) and nuts.
A 2019 JAMA Network Open study found that among a group of nearly 7,000 adults over age 50, those who scored highest on a scale that measured "life purpose" were less likely to die during the four-year study period. They were also less likely to die during the same period from heart, circulatory, or blood conditions, compared with those who scored lower.
So, what exactly is life purpose? The below items are common answers:
Research tells us that a person is more likely to make a positive health behaviour change if their partner joins in on the effort. As a couple, maintaining a healthy lifestyle into the future can be made significantly easier if you are both on the same page. Two people working toward the same goal enhances motivation and provides great support.
Consider what things you could be doing together to improve the health of both you and your partner. Find common ground and implement changes you both enjoy. Ensuring the changes you implement are enjoyable for both of you makes consistency far more likely.
“A change in one partner’s health behaviour is often associated with a change in the other partner’s behaviour” Jackson, Steptoe & Wardle 2015.
Research is showing that "changing together" can be associated with even better outcomes for a person than having a partner with a consistently healthy lifestyle.
Finding your baseline health and tracking changes over time helps you take stock of your progress, guiding and motivating you to make positive lifestyle changes. Not only will this aid in preventing age-related diseases and slow biological ageing, but it will also help you feel better physically, mentally and emotionally. So you can start showing up for yourself and others in a more proactive way.
A biomarker is a biological indicator of your body's internal condition. Biomarkers play an essential role in health because they are objective, quantifiable characteristics of biological processes. In our body's journey through time, there are certain indicators that can tell us how well we're ageing. These indicators, known as biological ageing biomarkers, provide valuable insights into our internal health. They help us understand the ageing process and its impact on our bodies.
The WellBeing Test combines at-home, finger-prick blood biomarker tracking with a lifestyle survey to help you discover how your daily habits are impacting your body in core categories related to long term health: Energy, Sleep, Stress, Inflammation, Fitness, Body Fat Composition and Biological Ageing. The WellBeing Test is a private blood test designed to help you optimise and take control of the ageing process.
Chemerin is a molecule produced in fat tissue. It plays a crucial role in immune function and regulating insulin secretion. This blood biomarker levels increase with age. Fat tissue plays a pivotal role in age-related metabolic dysfunction, insulin resistance and longevity.
ICAM-1 is a protein crucial for inflammation, immunity, and wound healing. ICAM-1 levels increase with age due to its presence in senescent cells and aged tissues.
Improving lifestyle habits promotes healthy ageing and can aid in avoiding age-related diseases.
NGAL is involved in regulating the immune system, heart and kidney function. This blood biomarker’s levels increase with age. Higher NGAL levels have been linked to heart and kidney function deterioration.
PAI-1 is a protein that regulates blood clotting. PAI-1 levels increase with age and impair core biological processes such as fibrinolysis, cell migration, and cell deterioration.
Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1 (PAI-1)increases with ageing but is also significantly induced in a variety of pathologies associated with the process of aging.
CRP is produced by the liver and measures inflammation in the body. A long-lasting pro-inflammatory status is a pervasive feature of ageing. This blood biomarker is also associated with ageing-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and kidney disease.