10 Longevity Boosters: Breakthroughs and How-Tos for a Quality Life Span
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From man’s best friend to medication “upcycling,” we looked at the latest science for the best health tips and anti-aging tricks.
1. Get the Right Pet
The case for puppy love is strong. First, owners report getting 20 per cent more physical activity than non-owners. Second, having a dog has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. (Taking Fido on a brisk walk could count toward the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s recommendation of 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity.)
The benefits also extend to emotional well-being with research showing less social isolation and improved self-worth among older owners. And it turns out man’s best friend may end up extending longevity in another way if Harvard start-up Rejuvenate Bio has its way. The company is conducting gene therapy studies for heart and kidney failure, obesity and diabetes – the four major diseases of aging. Cocker spaniels and Doberman pinschers have been tested thus far but if the FDA approves, humans could be next.
2. Plant Punch
More plants, less meat – study after study shows that this type of diet can improve our health and prolong our lives. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that people who cut back on animal foods (meat, dairy, eggs) and ate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and healthy oils had a lower risk of heart disease compared to those who ate less-healthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juice, processed vegetables such as french fries and veggie chips).
And it’s not just quality that’s important but it’s also quantity. Researchers at Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences found that if people limit their meat intake to once daily while including five or more servings of vegetables and four or more of fruit, they have a 36 per cent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Click here for more on the Baycrest research, including a brain health food guide.
3. Choice Meds
Senescent cells are those that fail to die when they stop functioning properly and can cause organ damage associated with many chronic diseases. Mayo Clinic researchers are essentially upcycling exsisting drugs in their pursuit of an effective treatment. They used a combination of dasatinib (used to treat types of leukemia) and quercetin (a plant pigment, or flavonoid, said to be good for the heart and blood vessels) on “very old” mice to prevent cell dysfunction in the first place. These elderly rodents (aged 24 to 27 months) ended up living 36 per cent longer. That could mean a lot more time, in human years.
4. It’s Easy Being Green
A joint study by the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Utah found that of 108,000 nurses, those living in or near the greenest spaces had a 12 per cent lower risk of early death. Lower rates of depression were also reported. In addition to better mental health, researchers cited increased social engagement and physical activity and lower exposure to air pollution as potential longevity promoters. And it doesn’t take a move to the country — 84 per cent of participants lived in urban areas.
5. Young Blood
Rob Lowe’s character in the 1986 film Youngblood, a brash New York-native named Dean Youngblood is drafted to give a floundering Canadian minor hockey team a new lease on life. The premise may have been hard to swallow; what could an American teach us about hockey? But there is something in a name — young blood, as it turns out, may well be a competative advantage.
Ambrosia, a Silicon Valley-based company, conducted a trial involving transfusions of blood plasma from 16- to 24-year-olds to elder participants, most of whom were said to have had health improvements within a month. In a case of art imitating life — or perhaps vice versa — to preserve his edge, tech exec Gavin Belson on HBO’s Silicon Valley enlists a young “transfusion associate” for regular treatment. That’s fiction but the fact is research has shown that older mice treated with blood of younger ones had improved brain health and activity, and reduced cognitive impairment.