Increase your healthspan
In his book “Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old”, author Andrew Steele talks about not just lifespan, but healthspan, or the prolonging the period of life lived without disease or disability.
The average person gets approximately one billion beats of their heart before they die. Steele not only talks about ways to increase the quantity of your heart beats (your lifespan), but also the quality of the life you live (your healthspan). He explains this through biogerontology, the study of the biology of aging, as well as, through physics.
Physics explains aging through the second law of thermodynamics which says that entropy tends to increase, in other words things become more disordered and fall apart with time. The risk of death in humans doubles every eight years. The key is finding ways to lessen this risk and ways to increase one’s quality of life.
While much of what Steele discusses in his book is novel, most of it reinforces what most of us should already know. His key advice is summed up in the following: don’t smoke, don’t eat too much, get some exercise, get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, wash your hands, take care of your teeth, wear sunscreen, monitor your heart rate and blood pressure, don’t bother with supplements and be a woman (an explanation comes later).
Most of this advice is just a good reminder. We know we should avoid smoking and eating too much. Calorie-restricted mice in studies were healthier and less fragile than mice who had unrestricted eating habits. It seemed almost as though eating less slowed down the aging process itself.
Studies also prove that the best treatment for a high resting heart rate, incidentally, is almost certainly to do more exercise. Interestingly, researchers found that old mice tied to young mice in cages were benefactors of the young mice enforcing their exercise regimen on the older mice. It seems that the older you get, the more you should hang around younger people to keep you active.
Skin researchers equate skin aging with sun exposure, so be sure to wear your sunscreen. Steele also claims that most supplements are pointless, and their only benefit is that of a placebo treatment.
His final advice is harder to follow for half of the population —be a woman. Women have less testosterone than men and “testosterone is conspiring to kill us.” This hormone has certain benefits but can also increase the aging process. Secondly, women have XX chromosomes, while men have XY chromosomes. The Y chromosome is a third of the size of the X, containing dramatically fewer genes. This means that men don’t have a “backup” copy of a gene if there’s a problem with one of those on their single X chromosome.
This is why, for example, color blindness is more common in men. While changing your chromosomes isn’t possible, taking steps to slow down aging, for example by reducing chronic inflammation is.
As the old saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is today.” Another great quote is, “The candle that burns half as bright burns twice as long.”
Start today to follow the steps to increase your healthspan. Go slow. Make a plan and stick with it. 1 Kings 3:14 says, “If you walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”