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Increasingly more scientists are beginning to look at aging as a disease. Of course, all of us are going to die one day but have you ever noticed how some people look older than others at the same age. You have probably already observed this effect in smokers and those who drink alcohol excessively or take drugs.
Is it really possible to turn back the clock? I am not talking about dyeing your hair, getting botox, fillers and assorted plastic surgery that makes you look younger. As a doctor, I am not interested in aging from a vanity point of view. I am talking about real anti-aging effects from within that will help you age healthily and reduce risk from chronic disease; a combination of not only a longer lifespan but also a longer healthspan.
Most chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, dementia, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cancers are a factor of aging. If we found a cure from cancer, that would extend life for an average of 3 years. If we found a cure for individual diseases, that may extend life for another 13 years. Dr Valter Longo is a World-renowned Professor of Gerontology, the study of aging. He was voted one of the 50 most influential people in healthcare in 2018 and is author of The Longevity Diet. He says that if we target aging then we can potentially extend life for another 30 years.
There are certain behaviours that increase aging. It stands to reason that before we embark on healthy behaviours, we should first avoid or reduce those that are counterproductive. Smoking and excessive alcohol are the best places to start.
In addition to these obvious factors, anything that promotes growth and inflammation in adults also accelerates aging. This includes a high protein diet (do not listen to the food industry telling you that you need more protein), being overweight and having an inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. Reducing growth and inflammation in certain ways has been proven to also slow down aging.
There are 5 areas of the World where people are known to have longest healthy lives; Okinawa in Japan, Icaria and Sardinia in the Mediterranean, Costa Rica and Loma Linda in California. These areas called the Blue Zones have the greatest number of centenarians, people aged 100 years or more, then anywhere else in the World.
Interestingly, they all have certain lifestyle characteristics in common that include a mainly plant-based diet, regular moderate exercise, and stress reduction behaviours. The Blue Zones give us a glimpse of what living a long and healthy life could look like.
Doctor, will I really live longer or will it just seem longer!
The average lifespan in the UK is around 81 years. The last 15 years is spent living with an average of two chronic diseases. But it does not have to be this way.
It is possible to reverse chronic disease and reduce the risk for other diseases in the future. Of course, this will need a certain amount of personalised advice and perhaps even monitoring by a doctor if medicine is involved.
Why not book an appointment and find out what you can do to to improve your chances of living a longer and healthier life.
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