The goal of living forever is a common theme found in mythical tales everywhere from Greek mythology to modern action films and sci-fi novels. Whilst living forever might still be impossible, by developing a better understanding of what factors contribute to aging, scientists have made remarkable progress in extending human life by almost three decades in the last century. This article will take a dive in to the research and summarize the lifestyle and diet hacks that you can use to live the longest, healthiest life possible.
Regular exercise has beneficial effects on SIRT1, a gene that regulates cellular processes such as anti-cell death, brain protection, cellular aging, and longevity. Exercise training enhances the SIRT longevity pathway (R).
Regular exercise is known to increase muscle mass. Increased muscle mass has been shown to lower frailty index (measured by of slow walking speed, weakness, weight loss, energy expenditure and exhaustion) – a key factor in determining life expectancy (R).
The majority of these longevity benefits are from moderate exercise. Most endurance athletes perform far beyond the recommended levels of physical activity. Studies have shown that this sort of exercise is not healthy and can actually lead to a 10-20% increase in heart size and increase the risk of a sudden heart attack (R).
In fact, the longevity benefits associated with exercise might be achievable with non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) like gardening, walking or just being on ones feet all day. Like exercise, “NEPA is associated with more preferable waist circumference, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides, fasting insulin, fasting glucose, and better metabolic and heart health in men” (R).
I personally encourage a combination of NEPA (e.g. standing desk, taking walks, treadmill desks, bike desk, etc.) and high intensity interval training.
2) Heat Stress and Sauna
Those who enjoy a sauna 4-7 times per week have a 48% lower risk of fatal heart disease or heart attack over those that used the sauna once per week (R).
Worms exposed to heat stress for no more than 2 hours showed increased longevity. The heat stress appeared to protect the worms against age-related frailty (R).
Heat shock proteins produced during heat stress are important for basic cellular maintenance e.g. preventing harmful accumulations of unhealthy proteins. Flies repeatedly exposed to heat stress had a significant increase in lifespan, correlating with higher levels of heat shock proteins (Hsp70) (R).
Yeast exposed to mild heat stressors lived longer (possibly due to RAS genes) (R).
Saunas are the best way to experience thermal stress.
One study reviewed all previous population studies (total of 1,382,999 participants) and found that both too short and excessively long sleep duration were linked to a greater risk of death (R).
Individuals that slept less than 6 hours per night had a greater risk of dying that those sleeping 7 to 8 (R).
Individuals that slept more than 9 hours per night had a 30% greater risk of dying than those sleeping 7 to 8 (R).
The negative effects of not enough sleep were the same for all ages, regardless of location or social and economic status (R).
It’s probably the case that people who need to sleep longer are unhealthier, but sleeping more is not worse for your health (I think people should sleep as long as there body desires).
Lack of sleep can cause type 2 diabetes (R).
If you want to achieve optimal health you should avoid sleep deprivation. Be cautious of anyone selling you the idea that you can sleep for less than 6 hours and still be healthy.
You can optimize your sleep by improving your circadian rhythm.
If you have trouble falling asleep try these methods.
4) Stress Reduction
Mothers caring for chronically ill children experienced changes to their chromosomes equivalent to several years of extra aging (R)
A study found that chronic stress experienced by carers for people with Alzheimer’s disease shortened the caregivers’ lives by 4-8 years (R)
I recommend avoiding stressful triggers as much as possible.
You can also change what your body perceives as stress by deep breathing exercises and meditation.
A Chinese study showed that the enhanced social status associated with becoming an academic led to an average increase in lifespan of 1.2 years (R).
A very recent analysis found that greater social integration is associated with lower risk of bad health at any age. In adolescence, social isolation caused levels of inflammation equivalent with physical inactivity. In latter life, such isolation led to higher blood pressure than diabetes (R).
6) Caloric Restriction
Caloric restriction is a dietary plan that reduces total calories (usually by 20-40%) without causing malnutrition.
Studies on species such as yeast, worms, flies and small mammals have demonstrated that long term caloric restriction can, assuming adequate nutrients are present, significantly increase lifespan and reduce the risk of developing a host of diseases.
This could be because CR consistently reduces levels of growth factors, hormones (such as Growth Hormone, IGF-1, Testosterone), inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress markers associated with cancer growth (R).
CR improves the survival rates of mice that have cancer (lymphoma) by reducing cancer cell proliferation and making tumors sensitive to certain proteins (e.g Bcl-2) that regulate the death of unhealthy cells (R).
A study on CR in mice found a correlation between bodyweight and longevity, suggesting that increased metabolic efficiency from CR is related to longevity (R).
CR slows the aging process by acting as a low-grade stressor and thereby creating a hormetic response (beneficial response to low-grade stressor) (R).
One example of this is mitochondrial hormesis where CR encourages the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS serve as molecular signals that turn on defense mechanisms that encourage adaptive stress resistance (R).
Longevity researchers agree that caloric restriction is a consistently effective way to increase lifespan in laboratory animals. As a result, a lot of research has gone in to finding compounds that can mimic this effect. Many of which are mentioned below.
The negative result from the 2012 study may be because they fed a healthier diet to the control group or because the moneys were genetically different (R).
This means that if you’re eating a junk food diet or if you have a certain set of genes, CR may provide significant longevity benefits.
Ketone supplementation (beta-hydroxybutyrate) extended the lifespan of worms by around 20%. Worms on a restricted diet did not see as dramatic increases in life expectancy, indicating that supplemental ketones act on the same longevity pathways as calorie restriction (R).
As already mentioned, sirtuins help control the balance between cell death, cell survival, and cell reproduction, and play a role in the regulation of metabolism and stress, important factors that affect the process of aging (R).
See here for the best way I have found to get into ketosis.
Religious & traditional cultures have long recognized that fasting has spiritual and bodily benefits.
In 1956, a Spanish study, which looked at 60 elderly men and women who fasted every other day for three years, found that there were less than half as many deaths and trips to the hospital in the fasted group than the non-fasted group (R).
Intermittent fasting increases the lifespan of worms by altering gene transcription (by changing transcription factors KGB-1/AP-1 and DAF-16) (R).
Fasting causes mild stress within the body as it produces free radicals, molecules often linked with aging. This causes the SIRT3 gene to up the production of sirtuins, proteins associated with longevity (R).
Free radicals can actually increase lifespan by acting as low grade stressors and making the body adapt accordingly (hormetic response). So taking “healthy” antioxidants like Vitamin C and E might not be such a good idea for longevity (R).
In rats, periodic fasting protects brain neurons against damaging stress. Alternate-day fasting made the rats’ brains resistant to toxins that cause cellular damage (R).
9) Methionine Restriction
Methionine is an essential amino acid.
High amount of methionine is very toxic to both young and adult mammals, and this toxicity far exceeds that produced by the excess intake of any other amino acid (R).
In flies, methionine restriction (by 67%) extended maximum and mean lifespan by 2.4% and 10.5%, respectively (R).
In rats, methionine restriction (by 80%) increased median and maximum lifespan by 30% and 40%, respectively (R).
Although the mechanisms of methionine restriction induced lifespan extension was not fully understood, a few studies suggested that it was different to Calorie Restriction at the molecular level in mammals (R).
10) Glucose Restriction
In worms, glucose restriction increases lifespan (R).
Reduced glucose availability promotes formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), induces catalase activity, and increases oxidative stress resistance and survival rates. These effects lead to “mitochondrial hormesis” (R).
Feeding a form of butyrate to flies increased their maximum lifespan by 30-50% (R).
Similar life extension properties of butyrate have been observed in worms (R).
Internal Butyrate levels can be increased via supplementation, or by eating more resistant starch and non-digestible fibers that encourage colonic fermentation.
Researchers looked at 16 years worth of data on 2,700 healthy adults over the age of 65. They found that individuals with higher levels of all three fatty acids found in fish (DHA, EPA, DPA) had a lower risk of death (R):
- DHA was linked to a 40% reduction in risk of death by heart disease.
- EPA was associated with lower risk of heart attacks.
- DPA was associated with lower risk of death from stroke.
Those with high levels of all of these fatty acids were 27% less likely to die during the study. They also lived 2 years longer, on average (R).
- Eating seafood,
- Taking a DHA supplement if you don’t eat seafood daily.
13) Olive Oil
A study split rats up in to two groups: one was fed sunflower oil and the other consumed olive oil. Over 40% of the sunflower oil group died of cancer. There were very few cancerous deaths in the rats that were fed olive oil. A number of similar studies have found that animals live longer also have a reduced risk of cancer when fed olive oil (R1, R2).
Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants (phenols, secoiridoids and lignans). These antioxidants might increase lifespan by scavenging inflammatory free radicals (R).
Olive oil can oxidize and go rancid. It is always best to buy olive oil in dark bottles. Try not to expose the olive oil to unnecessary exposure to air or heat. Try to buy single source olive oils.
A study at Harvard found that people who consumed nuts daily were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease and were, overall, 20% less likely to die during the study than nut avoiders (R).
People should not consume nuts if on a lectin avoidance diet.
In one study researchers found that Cacao extended lifespan and improve cognitive performance in rats, when fed at daily doses of 24 mg/kg of body weight (R).
Another study split 470 men in to two categories: those than eat a lot of chocolate and those that don’t eat much chocolate. The study found that men were twice as likely to die from a heart attack in the chocolate-phobic group (R).
The high cocoa group had lower blood pressure and improved insulin sensitivity. In general, men who ate the most chocolate were less likely to die from any cause (R).
An 18 year study of just under 8,000 Harvard graduates revealed that men, but not women, who ate chocolate lived almost a year longer than those who did not.
A recent British study found that middle-aged and older adults who consume up to 3.5 ounces of chocolate a day have lower rates of heart disease. 12% of chocolate eaters died of heart disease during the study, compared to 17.4% of non-chocolate eaters (R).
16) Black Rice
People should not consume rice if on a lectin avoidance diet, unless it’s pressure cooked.
Blueberry extracts given to fruit flies resulted in a 10% increase in lifespan (R).
Another study found that blueberry polyphenols given to worms increased lifespan in a way that was not explainable solely by the high antioxidant content of blueberries (R)
Nectarine can enhance lifespan and healthspan by positively affecting glucose metabolism and limiting oxidative damage (R).
People who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had a 15% lower risk of early death than those who didn’t (R).
Habitual coffee consumption is associated with reduced mortality (R)
A Swedish study found that moderate coffee consumption increased the chances of live to 100 years old (R).
People should not consume coffee if on a lectin avoidance diet.
Pomegranate juice increases lifespan in worms (R).
Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.
That’s why I decided to create tools that will help others cut down the guesswork:
- Lab Test Analyzer – a software tool that will analyze your labs and tell you what the optimal values are for each marker — as well as provide you with actionable tips and personalized health and lifestyle recommendations to help you get there.
- SelfDecode – a software tool that will help you analyze your genetic data from companies such as 23andme and ancestry. You will learn how your health is being impacted by your genes, and how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
- SelfHacked Secrets – an ebook where we examine and explain the biggest overlooked environmental factors that cause disease. This ebook is a great place to start your journey if you want to learn the essential steps to optimizing your health.
- SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
- Selfhacked Inflammation course – a video course on inflammation and how to bring it down
- Biohacking insomnia – an ebook on how to get great sleep
- Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
- BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
- SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics