20 Ideas for Maximizing your Healthspan (Lessons from AACL 2015)

Yes that’s healthspan not lifespan – there’s a difference!

I was reminded of that last week, when I was privileged to attend the Anti-Aging Medical Conference in London.

Here is a round-up of some of the things I learned from the brilliant and multi-disciplinary group of professionals that spoke at the event. 

At the bottom, you’ll find a list of things you can do right away based on what the experts said.

1.  You need to start now. Yes, even you, twenty-something. 

Anti-aging medicine is fundamental for anyone that wants to be agile, lucid and independent into old age. Although we are living longer, we aren’t living longer, healthier lives. Therefore, our challenge is to ‘square the curve’. 

We also have not one, but two ages – as this video by Max Lugavere explains. Our biological age can be a lot younger than our chronological (‘or real’) age. I know, best news ever, right?

So when do we need to start actively anti-aging? Controversially, some claim at puberty, as that’s when our hormones start to atrophy (go into decline). A more traditional view is that we should start at around 35 (although the earlier the better!)

We need to start actively anti-aging at 35 (although the earlier the better!) Click To Tweet

2.  There might (just might) be a ‘ticking time bomb’ in our brains. Scientists are beginning to understand more about a teeny clock the size of a raisin in our brains, called the pineal gland.

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The mysterious little gland provides a precise program for growth, fertility, aging – tracking those things like a clock.

In fact, the neuroendocrine organ might be a ‘counter’, and the reason why so few of us live beyond 120.

The pineal gland might be the reason why so few of us live beyond 120. Click To Tweet

It is known that we develop disorders by disrupting our circadian rhythms (think jet lag). What we don’t know is how we can influence the clock, but it’s an area recognized as important and the focus of ongoing research. 

The pineal gland becomes ‘calcified’ by alcohol, caffeine, dietary hormones, mercury, processed foods, refined sugar and tobacco. We can help support ours by getting out into the sun, sleeping in darkness, meditating and sun gazing

We can decalcify using natural detoxification agents, including garlic, foods that are naturally high in K2 such as natto, and apple cider vinegar. We could also take a K2 supplement. The company Life Extension makes a good one that I have used myself (Super K with Advanced K2 Complex). 

3.  There is a health pyramid that doesn’t suck! Here is a progressive way of approaching your health, advanced by biochemist Phil Micans:

Basics – Diet, exercise, relax, stay positive and avoid pollution.

Middle –  Maximizing methylation, chelation (removing heavy metals) and detoxification (through good clean water and nutrition).

Advanced – Hormones (bioidentical), peptides and nootropics (‘smart drugs’).

Premium Stem cell treatment, telomeres extension and peptides (see ‘Pixie Dust’ below). 

Seeing things this way helps us to know what to prioritise. 

4.  Limb regeneration is already a thing. Remember the ‘Pixie Dust Peptides’? 

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In 2011, pig guts became the next bright hope for regenerating human limbs. A substance extracted from the animals appears to enable the body to 
regenerate lost tissue, including fingertips and big chunks of muscle. 

Testing on the regeneration capacity of this ‘magic dust’ continues within the military. 

5.  Nitrates in our drinking water might be giving us cancer. Conventional cancer treatments aren’t working. Chemotherapy is ineffective for 98% of patients and 4/5 oncologists wouldn’t use chemotherapy themselves.

The mutation theory of cancer (the theory that cancer happens because of DNA mutation) has long been the holy grail of most cancer research. Because of that, other theories based on non-mutation mechanisms (like nutrition and chemical contaminants) have been ignored. 

Slowly that’s changing. 

A promising (although not new) theory is being tested on the link between nitrates in our drinking water and cancer. The hypothesis is that if nitrates do not get into cancer cells, then individuals won’t die from cancer. The major source of nitrates come from discharges from sewage treatment works, so tackling the issue would require a ‘bottom up’ approach. 

6.  There’s a foxy gene that you need to know about if you want to stay young. Although scientists have now identified nearly 1500 genes connected with how we age, there is only one gene that has been strongly associated with increased longevity. 

In fact, the link between a variant of the FoxO3 gene (FoxO3A) and increased longevity is ‘strong and highly significant’, say researchers. 

Professor Craig Willcox MD, who is leading up the research, explained how investigators are exploring how the gene may be ‘up-regulated’. Specifically, they are looking at the effects of curcumin (the active compound in turmeric), and green tea polyphenols. 

The longevity gene FoxO3 might be enhanced by curcumin in turmeric and green tea. Click To Tweet

A review concluded in 2015 that “the prospect of optimizing FoxO3 activity in humans to increase lifespan and reduce age-related diseases represents an exciting avenue of clinical investigation.”

7.  Really, there is only one diet for allergies, and that’s an elimination diet. 

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As many as 30-40% of us are affected by allergies such as asthma, eczema, hives and food allergies.

Trials on elimination diets show that such diets relieve symptoms and offer a longer term solution to allergies. 

Food Allergy Control in Europe offers a personalized diet for allergic and dermatological patients (called a ‘rotation diet’). 

8.  You need to care for your mitochondria. Keeping our mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cells) active has been identified as one of most important factors in healthy ageing.

Things that affect their functioning are a poor diet, insufficient antioxidants, a sedentary lifestyle, excess calories and chronic inflammation.

Three key ways to look after your mitochondria are eating less (leave 5 hours between meals), exercising, and taking supplements that mimic calorie restriction (CR). One ‘CR mimetic’ is resveratrol. Life Extension offer a high quality supplement. 

Here are seven more ways to take care of your cells. 

In terms of therapy options, there is a pioneering form known as Cell Symbiosis Therapy being used in Germany, Australia and the UK, that corrects impaired mitochondria functioning.

9.  The top nutrient for your skin is ‘keeping calm and carrying on’. When we are chronically stressed, we have high cortisol levels. High cortisol has catabolic effects on our skin – we basically start digesting it (gross). 

High stress levels cause us to go all Hannibal Lecter on our own skin. Yikes! Click To Tweet

Excess cortisol also affects our ability to absorb nutrients through the skin. So all your expensive face-creams could be doing nothing for you. 

The top 5 nutrients for our skin, according to Mr Miguel Toribio-Mateas:

  • Keeping calm – not strictly a nutrient, but essential for youthful skin. 
  • Ashwagandha – a herb you can add to smoothies or soups, or just mix into water.
  • Boswellia – another herb. 
  • Astaxanthin – this is what’s responsible for that red pigment you get in wild salmon. Miguel suggests taking 1-4mg of krill oil daily.
  • Pine bark extract – 40-200mg daily.

10.  Flicking the switch from glucose to ‘fat burning’ is probably a good thing to do for everyone. 

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Keto-adapting (changing your main source of energy from glucose to fat) could be the answer to metabolic diseases – the name for the cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

It can take individuals around 4-6 weeks to adapt – and maybe up to 6 or 12 months. The major elements of keto-adapting are (1) reducing calories by intermittent fasting and dramatically lowering sugar intake, (2) physical activity, and (3) consuming non-damaged fats and proteins.

For more information, read this article written by expert on the subject, Dr Robert Verkerk (founder of the Alliance for Natural Health Europe). 

11.  You can’t be a one trick pony with exercise. We should be training all three exercise systems to stay optimally healthy. 

We should be training all three exercise systems to stay optimally healthy. Click To Tweet

The three metabolic energy pathways are the phosphagen system, glycolysis and the aerobic system. The phosphagen system is trained during short-term, intense activities (2 sets of 8 x 5 seconds). Glycolysis is the predominant energy system used for ‘all-out’ exercise lasting from 30 seconds – 2 minutes. The aerobic system is trained by longer (60+ minute) workouts.

Here are some workouts to give you an idea of what needs to be done. 

12.  Helpful hardware is available. Monitoring can help us to track our ketosis progress. Some monitoring devices we can use are:

13.  ‘Breakfasting like a king’ might be old hat.

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Ghrelin and leptin, hormones that regulate appetite and food intake, may play profound and sophisticated roles in cognition.

If we can help to stimulate ghrelin and other hormones such as human growth hormone, then we can help our brains to stay sharp.

If we can learn to stimulate ghrelin, we can help our brains to stay sharp. Click To Tweet

Some key things are exercising on an empty stomach, not eating too frequently (leave more than 5 hours between meals and eating 2-3 times per day) and waiting until we feel hungry in the morning, before breaking fast with healthy fats and proteins.

You can learn more about the multi-faceted role of the hormone ghrelin in Chasing Antelopes, by Dr Robin Willcourt.

14.  Expressing wonder can help you with your middle aged spread (and your mobile phone hunchback). 

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As we age, we need to be mindful of life literally ‘getting us down’. Pretty much everyone is subconsciously spending time in the day bent over their mobile phones and laptops – living literally into the future or past. Since posture affects our mood and thoughts so much, the increase of collapsed sitting and walking—from sitting in front of our computer to looking down at our smartphones—may very much have an effect on the rise of depression in recent years.

Here is a great posture tip from Diana MacLellan, teacher of the Alexander Technique: Every now and then, in the middle of the day, look up and express wonder. Pretend that the ceiling is the most fascinating thing you’ve ever seen. Gasp and marvel at it!

When you are sat at your laptop all day, interrupt yourself to gaze in wonder at the ceiling! Click To Tweet

Find out more about Alexander technique here.

15.  You can go get your ‘omes analyzed. There are now organisations offering to assess your genomic potential (your DNA) as well as environment factors, and provide coaching in how to avoid diseases based on that assessment. 

Check out the offerings of HumanLongevityInc and Arivale.

16.  Exercise and fast to increase AMPK.

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AMPK is a pathway found in every cell in our body. It serves as the body’s ‘master regulating switch’, fending off degenerative factors by revitalizing aging cells.

Researchers are looking at how alpha-lipoic acid (ALA, found in flaxseed and walnuts) and curcumin help to increase AMPK.

As researchers continue to unravel the mysteries, we can take action to increase AMPK based on the existing evidence. The main things are exercise and fasting. 

17.  Make an effort to engage your (right) brain.

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With our technology obsessed (possessed?) culture, we are becoming overly and detrimentally left hemisphere orientated. That kind of stunts our creativity.

With our tech obsessed culture, we are becoming overly left-brain oriented at the expense of creativity levels. Click To Tweet

Neuroplasticity offers the possibility of changing our brain with will. We know that we are able to stimulate neurons in each moment (that’s neurogenesis). Being aware of that helps us to keep our brains healthy into ageing and stay focused.

To stimulate the right brain, we can do certain exercises and meditate.

18.  Learn to transcend the brain’s rewards circuit – the pay-offs are huge. 

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Just as our serotonin pathways affect our mood, our dopamine pathways affect our levels of compulsion and perseverance. This dopamine pathway is what gets stimulated when we eat, and when we receive texts, emails, and Facebook notifications.

In order to transcend the reward circuit, we need to consciously rewire ourselves to seek out pleasure in a way that serves us better.

Mastering the dopamine reward circuit is probably key to all aspects of health. Click To Tweet

Mastering this might be key to helping us to avoid obesity.

19.  Side-step cognitive decline through a low carbohydrate Mediterranean diet. Cognitive decline conditions are understood to develop in the presence of chronic low level inflammation. Inflammation happens in the body over time, due to stress and other lifestyle factors, including poor diet. 

We know that high inflammation can be reversed with good diet. A high protein diet has outperformed a high carb diet on all inflammation markers. 

According to cognitive decline specialist Deborah Colson, some of us would rather develop dementia than give up sugar or lower alcohol intake. That probably correlates to how connected we are to purpose in life (what the Japanese call ‘Ikigai’) and our success in mastering that pleasure/reward circuit (see no.18). 

For those of us that are motivated to avoid cognitive decline, we know we can reduce sugar drastically to great effect. Watch ‘That Sugar Film‘ for extra inspiration.

20.  Soon we’ll be able to hack chronic stress through a trigeminal rebalancing device. A device has just been patented that targets chronic stress through the trigeminal nerves. These nerves control the physiological changes that happen when we get stressed – manifesting in our hips, necks and diaphragms.

The product is something you place in your mouth that recreates a balanced resting state.

21.  We are all on heavy metals – and we need to get off. We’re up to our necks in metals. They’re coming at us through our dental work, medicines (which are all coated in metal), cosmetics, food, vaccines, smoking and implants.  

We're up to our necks in metals. And it's causing us huge problems. Click To Tweet

Metal toxicity is implicated in various chronic diseases including MS, fibromyalgia, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

To avoid mercury toxicity, we need to get our fillings removed – even the silver ones, which are around 50% mercury. Like me, you may need to find yourself a decent holistic dentist. Be aware that metals are present in surprising places. Titanium, for example, is found in foods such as skimmed milk and mozzarella. It’s also in skin creams and toothpaste.

In terms of testing, Melisa is a test that is preferred by experts over a patch test. 

22.  Vitamin C might selectively destroy cancer cells. Scientists are currently looking at the capacity for vitamin C and other plant compounds to kill cancer cells. They are understood to do this by targeting the metal in cancer cells (cancer cells have been shown to have high levels). And the results are extremely promising.

I’ll avoid going too technical, but the magic happens because of vitamin C’s dual function as an antioxidant and a ‘pro-oxidant’.

23.  Using BMI for ideal body weight is an outdated model. Remember when Body Mass Index was the benchmark in assessing your best weight? Functional doctors are most concerned with overall metabolic health now.

That means that defining your ideal weight requires looking at:

  • Muscle mass (this should be 15% for females, and as much as 40% more than that for men); and
  • Storage and essential fat. (Storage should be around 12/15% for male and females. Essential fat should be around 3/12% for male and females.)

There are various measuring devices available – body fat calipers are probably a good place to start. 

Here are some actions you can take now based on the advice from the experts!

  1. Realize that anti-aging medicine applies to you. 
  2. Eat garlic, apple cider vinegar and natto to help your internal body clock function well.
  3. Take a K2 supplement.
  4. Deal with your diet, exercise and stress management before you worry about detoxing, etc. 
  5. Clean up your water supply. Buy a filter if you need to.  
  6. Take a curcumin supplement and drink green tea (the slow dried Japanese and Chinese kind). 
  7. If you suffer with allergies, try an elimination diet.
  8. Take a resveratrol supplement. 
  9. De-stress and use herbal adaptogens, such as ashwagandha, to keep skin young.
  10. Switch to a ketogenic diet. Buy some ketone strips to help you keep track.
  11. Wait until you’re hungry for breakfast, then eat eggs or healthy fats. 
  12. Leave 5 hours between meals.
  13. Take regular breaks from your laptop to express wonder!
  14. Consider visiting one of the new US super clinics to get your ‘omes tested.
  15. Increase AMPK by intermittent fasting and exercise.
  16. Meditate to improve right brain functioning.
  17. Master delaying gratification.
  18. Watch ‘That Sugar’ film if you need some inspiration to help you stop eating it. 
  19. Switch to natural toothpastes, and get your silver fillings removed. 
  20. Buy body fat calipers.

Read my previous article ‘An Integrative Guide to Growing Younger‘ if you are really interested in this subject. 

Time for a spot of intermittent fasting for me! What action would you take today based on these lessons from anti-aging medical experts? 

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