Put Ag­ing on Ice

It’s pos­si­ble to slow down the body’s ag­ing process, ground­break­ing new re­search re­veals. These science-backed strate­gies de­liver more en­ergy, hap­pier moods, and a longer, health­ier life.

SHAPE (USA) - - Contents - by Mirel Ketchiff pho­to­graph by Yasu+Junko

Start now with these proven—and so sim­ple—strate­gies

It might sound like some­thing out of a sci-fi movie, but de­layed ag­ing is now a re­al­ity, thanks to new ad­vances in science and re­search. Amer­i­cans are stay­ing younger longer, found a re­cent study from the USC Leonard Davis School of Geron­tol­ogy. “We mea­sured peo­ple’s bi­o­log­i­cal age through dif­fer­ent mark­ers of good health and found that the pace of ag­ing has slowed over the past 20 years,” ex­plains re­searcher Eileen M. Crim­mins, Ph.D. Peo­ple are not just liv­ing longer but also en­joy­ing more years of prime men­tal and phys­i­cal vi­tal­ity, she says. While ge­net­ics plays a role in how fast we age, new re­search shows be­hav­ioral changes also make an im­pact. “There’s a lot we can con­trol through diet, ex­er­cise, and life­style,” says S. Jay Ol­shan­sky, Ph.D., a pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago School of Pub­lic Health and chief sci­en­tist at Lape­tus So­lu­tions. Here, based on the lat­est science, are the five smartest things you can do to get the most pow­er­ful an­ti­ag­ing ben­e­fits.

Take a bal­anced ap­proach to fat

Omega-3 fatty acids have ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects on two mark­ers of bi­o­log­i­cal ag­ing, re­ports the jour­nal Brain, Be­hav­ior, and Im­mu­nity. Higher in­takes are linked to both a 15 per­cent re­duc­tion in dam­ag­ing ox­ida­tive stress and longer telom­eres, protein caps that pro­tect the chro­mo­somes and nor­mally shorten as we age. You should also cut down on omega-6 fatty acids, found in grape­seed, corn, and sesame oils. In the study, peo­ple who had a lower ra­tio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids had the long­est (or youngest) telom­eres and the low­est lev­els of ox­ida­tive stress. Omega-6s have been shown to in­crease the in­flam­ma­tion that harms cells, while omega-3s re­duce it. The trou­ble is, our di­ets tend to fa­vor omega-6s. To rem­edy that, aim to get at least 1.25 grams of omega-3s a day (the amount in about three ounces of salmon), and limit your in­take of high-omega-6 veg­etable oils.

Eat smaller meals more of­ten

“This is a way to con­trol your in­sulin lev­els—one of the likely de­ter­mi­nants of the rate of ag­ing,” Ol­shan­sky says. “When you eat, your body pro­duces in­sulin, a hor­mone that prompts your mus­cles and liver to ab­sorb the glu­cose from your blood. Too much in­sulin over time can harm the mi­to­chon­dria—lit­tle pow­er­houses in our cells that fuel the body—and also lead to the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of dam­aged pro­teins,” says Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D., an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the De­part­ment of Phys­i­ol­ogy and Bio­med­i­cal En­gi­neer­ing at Mayo Clinic. “This can trig­ger the devel­op­ment of dis­ease.” Pre­vent­ing big spikes in in­sulin can help min­i­mize cel­lu­lar harm. Ol­shan­sky sug­gests hav­ing six small meals a day. “And stop eat­ing af­ter din­ner be­cause the me­tab­o­lism slows just be­fore sleep,” he says. Or con­sider eat­ing all your meals and snacks within an eight- to 10-hour win­dow of time each day, a method known as time-re­stricted feed­ing. Early re­search sug­gests that this ap­proach may have in­sulin-sen­si­tiz­ing and an­ti­ag­ing ben­e­fits, LeBrasseur says.

Work out al­most ev­ery day

“Ex­er­cise is the clos­est thing we have to the foun­tain of youth so far,” Ol­shan­sky says. Peo­ple who did car­dio for 30 min­utes five days a week had a bi­o­log­i­cal age that was nearly nine years younger than those who were seden­tary, the jour­nal Pre­ven­tive Medicine re­ports. Work­ing out re­duces in­flam­ma­tion and ox­ida­tive stress, two fac­tors that age cells and shorten telom­eres. Other re­search has shown that do­ing two strength-train­ing work­outs a week is also ben­e­fi­cial. “Ex­er­cise rebuilds mus­cle and makes the body and mind op­er­ate more ef­fi­ciently over­all,” Ol­shan­sky says. Strength and en­durance train­ing also im­proves your body’s in­sulin re­sponse, LeBrasseur says. “Mus­cle stores about 80 per­cent of the sugar you con­sume through foods,” he ex­plains. “When you train, you make your mus­cles more ef­fec­tive at ab­sorb­ing the sugar from your blood, so your body re­quires less in­sulin.” Your goal: Thirty min­utes or more of mod­er­ate to in­tense car­dio and re­sis­tance ex­er­cise most days of the week.

Stay on your feet

While ex­er­cise has a huge im­pact on ag­ing, how much you move through­out the rest of the day is crit­i­cal too. In a re­cent study, re­searchers from Maas­tricht Uni­ver­sity in the Nether­lands asked dif­fer­ent groups of peo­ple to sit for 14 hours a day, sit for 13 hours and ex­er­cise for one hour, and sit for eight to nine hours a day and stand or walk for seven to eight hours. Af­ter four days, be­ing com­pletely seden­tary in­creased in­sulin re­sis­tance and choles­terol lev­els and dam­aged the en­dothe­lial cells, which line the blood ves­sels. When peo­ple ex­er­cised, they had healthy en­dothe­lial cells, but their in­sulin re­sis­tance and choles­terol still rose. When those peo­ple stood and walked more, though, they sidestepped the in­sulin re­sis­tance and choles­terol in­crease but not en­dothe­lial dam­age. The mes­sage: Both ex­er­cise and move­ment through­out the day are nec­es­sary for op­ti­mal health, says lead au­thor Bernard Du­vivier, M.D., Ph.D. If you have a seden­tary job, try to re­place two hours a day of sit­ting time with stand­ing and walk­ing, he says. Find some­thing that works for you, whether that’s work­ing at a stand­ing desk, get­ting on your feet when you take a phone call, go­ing for a long walk at lunch, or a com­bi­na­tion of these.

Deal with your ten­sion

“Cu­mu­la­tive life­time stress ac­cel­er­ates epi­ge­netic ag­ing, a pre­dic­tor of the rate of bi­o­log­i­cal ag­ing,” says Perla Kal­i­man, Ph.D., a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­si­tat Oberta de Catalunya in Spain. Med­i­ta­tion is one way to pro­tect your­self from stress. “Our re­search sug­gests that the epi­ge­netic clock runs slower in long-term med­i­ta­tors than in those who don’t med­i­tate,” she ex­plains. In the study, the peo­ple who med­i­tated daily for at least three years were the ones who ben­e­fited. If that sounds daunt­ing, start small. Try the In­sight Timer app (free, itunes.com and play.google.com). It tracks your med­i­ta­tion streaks and mile­stones to give you an in­cen­tive to keep go­ing.

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