Living longer, or even forever is one of the most basic human desires. This desire for longevity is a reoccurring theme throughout history and legend. Ponce de León’s ‘fountain of youth’, Alexander the Great’s ‘water of life’, the elixir of life, the Philosopher’s stone, and so many others have (unsuccessfully) chased eternal life & longevity.
Now instead of exploring the world searching for a mythical fountain of youth, scientists are experimenting with ways to make mice live longer. Is this a foolish quest, or is it something that can be cracked with enough data and science?
Is this another fool’s errand, or is longevity finally achievable? In the last century, we’ve accomplished many impossible feats, from putting a man on the moon to putting a supercomputer in everyone’s pocket. Can these same tools be used to understand and improve the human body? How much do we know about longevity and how much can you extend your lifespan right now?
120 years old is the current world record for the oldest age, held by Jeanne Louise Calment of France. It’s unclear if humans will ever be able to collectively surpass ages like 110–120. For most people, just living to 100 would be a great accomplishment, as many people are dying much sooner from preventative diseases. We know that certain lifestyles help individuals live longer or age more slowly than they otherwise would, while other behaviors accelerate aging and lead to early death.
In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that simple lifestyle habits (such as regular physical activity, a healthy diet pattern, and having a healthy body composition) improve your lifespan by about 15 years on average!
Best of all, this doesn’t require a tradeoff of accomplishing less or not enjoying yourself in those years. What could that number be for you? Could you live to 100, or beyond? Science shows it is now very possible, though unlikely with the default habits. This guide will explore the latest in longevity research, and some practical strategies to achieve this increase in your own lifespan.
Our main sources of knowledge for this guide include...
- Experiments that have made organisms like yeast, flies, mice or monkeys live longer
- Labs experiments or observational studies that seem to affect human longevity
- Analyzing the current causes of death from common diseases
- Early testing on humans in the Gyroscope X program
- The latest research in how to lose bodyfat or gain muscle
- Analyzing what people do differently in blue zones where people live past 100
We will start with demystifying some of the technical and theoretical concepts (like telomeres, advanced glycation end products or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide levels) and connect those to simple and practical techniques you can start doing today to measure and reduce your rate of aging.
What is aging?
Longevity is the art and science of living longer, by increasing our healthspan and reducing aging. Before we jump in, we should answer a simple question: what is aging? We know from experience that aging is a real thing that happens to everyone when they get older, but how can we measure and quantify it? What is the actual difference between someone who is 20 and 80?
Scientists have defined 9 basic hallmarks of aging:
- telomere attrition
- genomic instability
- mitochondrial dysfunction
- cellular senescence
- stem cell exhaustion
- loss of proteostasis
- deregulated nutrient sensing
- epigenetic alterations
- altered intercellular communication
All of these are negative effects that happen over time. Someone who has aged more will likely have at least a few of these. In an unhealthy individual aging rapidly, these can happen at an alarming rate. On the other hand, someone who is very “healthy” (as defined by having a high health score and following most of the best practices outlined in this guide) may have minimal signs of these, even as they get older.
The goal of this guide is to enable you to live a life that reduces all of these negative effects.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to memorize all of these or even fully understand them. Just like you don’t need to fully understand electromagnetics or compilers to use your iPhone, you can still use simple techniques to manage your body. People in the blue zones may not think much about their telomeres length, or may not even know about epigenetic maintenance, but still may enjoy their benefits through their habit of staying active.
Just like understanding why your car uses oil can help you take it in for an oil change instead of neglecting it, understanding the mechanisms of how our body functions or breaks can help us better prioritize and manage our longevity. It can also help us avoid superstitions or incorrect beliefs, which in the case of managing our health can be deadly, since we won’t know we went wrong until it is too late.
Our goal is to create a complete framework for how all these complex variables fit together, so you can finally understand how every simple decision (like exercising or eating processed foods) affects the chemical pathways in your body, and eventually speeds or slows these hallmarks of aging. Eating one ice cream won’t kill you, and going to the gym once won’t make you live to a 100, but the thousands of decisions you make over time start to compound and have a significant effect on your health. Ultimately, your default habits will either extend your lifespan or speed up your aging.
The great news is you don’t need some expensive injection or surgery to start adjusting these. In fact they can and should be primarily adjusted by simple behaviors like how you breath, eat, move, and even think. Not doing these correctly but trying to repair things with supplements is a bandaid approach that is unlikely to work well. These are all things you can start changing today. The downside is that if you are doing these incorrectly or neglecting basic self-care, then your rate of aging may be accelerated, and once things start to decline they can be hard or impossible to fix later.