The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert – Professor Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab – reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep, explaining how we can harness its transformative power to change our lives for the better.
Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life – eating, drinking, and reproducing – the purpose of sleep remained elusive.
But an explosion of scientific discoveries in the last 20 years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Among so many other things, within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.
Walker answers important questions about sleep: How do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us, and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and immensely accessible, Why We Sleep is the crucial account on sleep that will forever change listeners’ minds on the subject.
About the author Matthew Walker
Walker was born in Liverpool, England. Dr. Walker earned his degree in neuroscience from Nottingham University, UK, and his PhD in neurophysiology from the Medical Research Council, London, UK. He subsequently became a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, USA.
Currently, he is Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. Dr. Walker’s research examines the impact of sleep on human health and disease. He has received numerous funding awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and is a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Ultimate Guide to Gratitude, appreciation-bio-hacking tools, and the effects of focusing on the blessings in our lives on our health.
Repetitive negative thoughts can kill us. Slowly but surely. The mechanism by which a thought pattern can cut our healthspan short so effectively is that thoughts evoke emotions. And emotions directly effect production of hormones. When we focus more on the negative things in life, we suffer over exposure to the stress hormone Cortisol. This leads to high blood pressure, poor sleep patterns, harmful coping habits, like overeating, and a host of other issues that are all, at the end of the day, health related.
On the upside, if our thoughts can kill, they can also heal! Shifting our negative thought patterns to focus on the good things in our lives can counteract the damage. In this article, we’ll go over:
How we are biologically programmed with a negativity bias
How gratitude physically reprograms us for better health
Simple actions you can take today to extend your healthspan through gratitude
What is Negativity Bias?
Negativity bias is our natural, biological tendency to focus on negative factors around us. It is a survival mechanism that helped our ancient ancestors survive by anticipating danger before it happened. This survival mechanism required our ancestors to pay more attention to the bad things than the good things. They could afford for good things to come again later. However, if a threat caught them unaware, they might not live to try again .
In the modern-day, we do not have a saber tooth tiger lurking around the corner. Instead, we have a host of other uncertainties like the pandemic, novel viruses, toxic workplaces, uncertain economies, job instability, manipulative family members, divorce, heartbreak and other threats to our well-being. It often feels like we can not ‘unplug’ even for a moment or we will be caught unaware.
How Does Negativity Bias Affect Our Health?
Negativity bias creates stress and anxiety. Short, brief doses can be good for the body, as it encourages us to do something about the source of the stress. However, our modern society produces severe and chronic levels of stress.
Here are a few troubling statistics about how stress directly affects your health :
In a study by Everyday Health, over 33% of the respondents reported going to the doctor for stress-related health issues.
57% of respondents to another study reported they were paralyzed by stress.
Stress caused sleep deprivation in 66% of American workers in 2018.
Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths yearly
Both women and men cope with stress through habits bad for our healthspan like drinking extra caffeine (37%), smoking (27%), overeating and snacking (46% women, 26% men), and illicit drugs (12% men and 2% women).
Why does stress cause health problems?
Our bodies are made to use stress as a short-term boost to help us overcome a threat. Chronic stress, however, leads to a lot of wear and tear on our bodies in the form of high blood pressure, fat-building cortisol, and fatigue. We also tend to let our healthy habits falter as we seek to cope with that stress. As a result, our quality of life and eventually our healthspan suffers.
Our bodies are made to use stress as a short-term boost to help us overcome a threat. Chronic stress, however, leads to a lot of wear and tear on our bodies in the form of high blood pressure, fat-building cortisol, and fatigue. We also tend to let our healthy habits falter as we seek to cope with that stress. As a result, our quality of life and eventually our healthspan suffers.
Luckily, the biological effects of stress, anxiety, and negativity can be counteracted without drugs or expensive treatments. We can change our thought processes by focusing on the things in our life that we are grateful for.
How Does Practicing Gratitude Overcome Negativity Bias?
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is actively expressing our appreciation for what we have. Rather than focus on the stressors and uncertainties in life, we acknowledge there are good things in the world. We also acknowledge the gifts and benefits we have received from other people, circumstances, and higher powers .
What Does Gratitude Look Like?
Just like stress has physical symptoms like headaches, tightness in the chest, and tension, gratitude can be consciously felt.
Jing Lee, founder of @pacificpause describes it as “…warmth in the body, a sense of grounded-ness, a slowing of the breath, spaciousness in the chest and heart, uncontrollable tears or an automatic smile. I know when I am experiencing gratitude because it’s not just a concept in my head, I can feel it in my body. ”
How Does Gratitude Affect Health?
Breaking the stress of negative bias has profound effects on our healthspan:
Reduces stress and improves sleep quality, which helps build resilience .
People who regularly express gratitude have more grey brain matter 
Gratitude acts as a natural anti-depressant, and you can build the neural pathways to make the anti-depressive benefits permanent! 
Stops stress on the limbic system, which controls emotions, memory, and body functions. Activating the system with gratitude is reported to shorten recovery times and contribute to better feelings of well-being .
Gratitude releases dopamine, which helps regulate and reduce pain .
Gratitude dramatically reduces the stress hormone cortisol. This stress hormone is a big contributor to belly fat, high ‘bad’ cholesterol and blood pressure, and other health factors .
These are just the tip of the iceberg in how a change in how we view the world affects the condition of our health.
Bio-Hacks to Practice Gratitude Today
Practicing gratitude is an easy and inexpensive way to improve your healthspan. Here are a few tips and practices to try today!
Be Patient With Yourself
Gratitude is a process. It will not work its magic all at once, and you will find yourself sliding into old negative thought patterns at first. Like any habit or a new skill, it will take time to master. Be kind to yourself when you find yourself stressing over the negative things in life. The last think you want is to add that to your list of stressors. Take a deep breath, acknowledge yourself for the awareness, and gently course correct. Gratitude is a muscle that builds overtime.
Try Out Journaling
For most people, journaling all the positive things you experience can help bring on a more positive bias thought pattern. It is more than listing out the good things though- you need to reflect on them and allow yourself to feel that appreciation and calm of having good things in your life.
Try listing out five things you are happy to have in your life in the morning. Record good memories after an event. End the day with a brief letter to yourself about something good about the day. This will help your mind keep on the lookout for good things to write down and distract yourself from some of the negative.
Write a Letter of Gratitude
Sit down and write to someone who has contributed to your day (or life) in a positive way. You do not have to send it unless you want to. Just the act of writing out the letter will be enough to evoke positive thoughts and emotions.
Going a step further from a letter, visit someone who has had a positive effect in your life to express your gratitude face to face. Maybe treat them to their favorite tea or reminisce about a moment that they made a huge impact on you. This activity fulfills both a focus on positives in life and a social need to be around positive and supportive people.
Find a Gratitude Buddy
It could be a spouse, child, friend, or companion online. The goal is to check in daily and spend a minute or two sharing positive news and things you are grateful for.
Take a Walk
Mixing the practice of observing the beautiful and positive parts of your surroundings with the endorphins produced with light walking, cycling, or wheelchair travel can significantly improve your mood and feelings of well-being.
Take a few minutes of your day to focus on the good things you are grateful for. Find a distraction-free area, put your phone on silent, close your eyes, and just focus on the good things in your life.
Assist at a homeless center, a soup kitchen, a children’s hospital, or another good cause. Seeing the struggles of others and helping them in a small but meaningful way helps us put our own troubles and blessings into perspective!
An Attitude of Gratitude Extends Your Healthspan
Negative bias and the stress it produces is easy and inexpensive to counter. Live a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life by focusing on the things you are grateful for. The psychological and physical benefits will greatly improve your healthspan!
Want more practical tips to increase your healthspan and longevity? [Insert a call to action you want the reader to do next here].
Collagen is the main structural protein in our body. As we age collagen production declines. Research shows that collagen consumption from nutrition or supplements could improve skin health and reduce wrinkles visibility. Collagen could also lower the impact of damage from sun exposure and time on our skin.
Most man and women would like to look and feel younger than their chronological age. Some of you might say: I am quite okay with looking older, white hair is sexy and wrinkles are a sign of a life fully lived. But what if I’ll ask you, what if their was a pill that would make us look and feel younger and healthier, wouldn’t you take it?
When looking at the 50 billion dollars a year cosmetics industry in the US, we can assume thet the answer is probably yes. The cosmetics industry can be divided into six main categories with skin care being the largest out them all and accounts for 36% percent of the global cosmetics market (1). The cosmetics products in their well designed packages promises their consumers they would stay young for many more years. But what do they actually do?
How do skin care products work?
To understand the way skin care products work, we need to first understand how wrinkles are created. In the tissues of humans and animals there is a structural support network surrounding the cells called the extracellular matrix (ECM). In our skin, the ECM also relates to the elasticity of the cells.
Cells are created from the loss of the ECM. Sun exposure, especially to UVA radiation and other environmental factors like cigarette smoke and pollution, breaks the collagen molecules and its surrounding elastic tissues in the ECM. The loss of these, according to theory, causes wrinkles.
Skin care products address this problem in different ways. Some products contains anti-oxidants that improve UV protection like vitamins C and E. Other products contain retinoic acid, a metabolite of vitamin A1 that promotes collagen and fibrillin in the skin cells (2).
This are outside in approaches but if the problem relates to the inside of our cells would it be logical to add an inside out approach to skin care?
What is collagen?
Collagen is the main structural protein in the body’s of animals and humans. Collagen has an important role in the health of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. Collagen makes from 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content and 80% of the proteins in facial skin. Collagen is produced in our body naturally but from the ages of 18-29 its production declines, as we reach 40 we can lose up to 1% of our collagen a year, and around age 80 collagen production could get up to 75% less than in teens (3,4).
Recent studies show that consumption of collagen from external sources has potential benefit for skin health, joint pain, and bone density. In this article we’ll focus on the possible benefit of collagen for skin health and wrinkle visibility.
What is Nutricosmetics and how does it work?
Research shows that we can rely not only on expensive cosmetics products and use food for improving our skin health. We can add collagen to our nutrition by eating animal products like meat, fish, chicken skin and bone broth. The down side of this approach is that collagen molecules from natural sources are usually too big to enter intact to our skin cells.
Why it is important to consume hydrolyzed collagen?
For maximal effect we should add to our nutrition hydrolyzed collagen. Studies show that after hydrolysis, collagen peptides molecules are small enough to enter completely into our cells and promote collagen production in our body.
But not all types of hydrolyzed collagen are identical in their bioactive qualities. The type and location of the cutting of collagen is also important. In recent years researchers developed collagen that gets more efficiently into the bloodstream and that can work on the deep layers of the skin. This is a breakthrough in nutricosmetics because when bioactive collagen segments reach the deep into the skin they change the balance of collagen production. They promote faster production of new collagen in the cell and at the same time delay its destruction.
Collagen improves skin health
A double blind study, which included 105 woman in the ages of 45-65, examined the effect of 2.5 grams of bioactive collagen peptides. The participants who received collagen showed significant improvement in elastin and pro-collagen in the skin cells. Most interestingly, was the visible decrease in the depth of the wrinkles in the sides of the eyes.
Further research from the recent years showed lowering in laugh lines (6), increased skin moisturization (7), and deceases cellulite visibility (8).
How to add collagen to our nutrition
The mentioned studies show that we can rely not only on expensive cosmetics products and add an inside-out approach to skin care. We can add collagen to our nutrition by eating animal products like meat, fish, chicken skin and bone broth. The down side of this approach is that collagen molecules from natural sources are usually too big to enter intact to our skin cells.
For maximal effect we should add to our nutrition hydrolyzed collagen. Studies show that after hydrolysis, collagen peptides molecules are small enough to enter completely into our cells and promote collagen production in our body (5).
Most studies show that the minimal amount for visible effect is 2.5 grams.
Using collagen supplements is usually safe rarely have any side effects, but just in case, consult with a health professional that can customize the amount taken for you individual needs.
In our blog we offer many health and lifestyle habits for promoting health span. It seems like collagen can help not only to age better but to look good while doing it.
At the age of 70, Joan MacDonald was at her doctor’s office, when she was told that her health was deteriorating rapidly. She was on multiple medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and acid reflux. Her doctor insisted on upping the dosages of her chronic medications, unless she made a drastic lifestyle change.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d really focused on her health, and she knew that if she wanted to make a change, it was now or never.
“Strength Training Helped Me Transform My Body in My 70s. Even though you can’t turn back the clock, you can wind it up again.”
MacDonald began going on walks as her form of cardio, practicing yoga, and she even started weight lifting. “I remember picking up a 10-pound weight and thinking it felt really heavy,” shares MacDonald.
At the age 74, MacDonald has lost more than 30 pounds, and her doctors have given her a clean bill of health. Plus, she no longer needs to take all those medications for her blood pressure, acid reflux, and cholesterol.
“I make sure to drink my first liter of water when I wake up, a collagen mix, Omega’3 Fatty Acids and Multi-Vitamins. I firmly believe in drinking plenty of water and taking some good, basic supplements. It makes a big difference if done daily, over time.”
Today, MacDonald launched a ‘Train With Joan’ website where others can read about her journey. If there’s any advice MacDonald has for older women who want to get into fitness, it’s this: Age is just a number, and you don’t always need to be “coddled” through workouts just because you’re in your 70s.
Ágnes Keleti, the remarkable Hungarian former gymnast and the world’s oldest living Olympic champion, who survived the Nazis and went on to win 10 Olympic medals, 5 of them gold, turned 100 years old.
“I love life, health is the essence. Without it, there is nothing.”
Keleti explaining her longevity.
Ms Keleti was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2002 and was awarded the Israel Prize in 2017 for her contribution to the sport in her adopted country. She is the most successful female Jewish athlete in Olympic history, with only one Jewish athlete – swimmer Mark Spitz – having won more Olympic medals.
“These 100 years felt to me like 60”
Today, Keleti follows her doctor’s recent advice to avoid performing full leg splits, and her near-perpetual smile and infectious laughter are reminders that even in times of great hardship, there remains the immutable potential for perseverance and the joy of life.
We tend to think about lifestyle factors as what you eat and how often you work out. But we now know the quality of your social life plays a big role in longevity too.
I’ve seen up close and personal the horrific effects social isolation can do. And as we go into another lockdown, I remind myself to make it a daily habit to connect with the people in my life who will be spending it alone.
The Italian island of Sardinia has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America. Why? According to psychologist Susan Pinker, it’s not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders healthy — it’s their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions.
Genes account for 25% of healthspan. The other 75%? The answer Susan Pinker suggests may surprise you, and COVID-19 makes this insight relevant than ever.
This talk is highly recommended as pre-lockdown entertainment:
Let’s face it; there’s nothing pleasant about jumping into a freezing lake or turning on a cold shower. So, if we’re going to do it, there had better be some pretty compelling reasons to do so. It turns out that there are – cold shock therapy has been shown to assist with fat loss, boost immunity, fight inflammation, combat oxidative stress and, potentially, support longevity.
In this article, we take a closer look at the anti aging and healthspan hacking benefits of cold shock therapy.
What is Cold Shock Therapy?
There are a number of different cold shock therapy methods. They include jumping into a cold lake or pool, taking a cold shower or entering a cryotherapy chamber. Each of these methods will place cold stress on the body.
Just like heat stress, cold stress is a type of hormetic stress. It activates a number of genetic pathways that help us to deal with stress.
How Does the Body Respond to Cold Stress?
One of the most immediate reactions that the body has to cold stress is the increased release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter plays a key role in controlling our focus, attention and mood. The more of it that is released, the better we feel. As a result it is used pharmacologically to treat depression and ADHD. Yet, it can be released naturally through cold shock therapy.
Twenty seconds of submersion in a 4.4 degrees celsius bath has been shown to increase the levels of norepinephrine by 200-300 percent.
Norepinephrine also acts as a hormone in the body. It causes vasoconstriction, which is a method that we use to conserve heat when we are cold. Another way we conserve heat when we are extremely cold is to increase mitochondrial biogenesis in fat and muscle tissue. That means that new mitochondria is produced. Mitochondria are the energy producing units inside our cells. The process of generating energy also generates heat and burns stored body fat. (1)
Increased mitochondria in muscle tissue allows a person to more effectively use oxygen. As a result, improved mitochondria in the muscle through the use of cold shock therapy has been seen to improve aerobic capacity. Cold exposure has also been shown to improve endurance performance.
Cold Shock Therapy & Longevity
A number of recent animal studies suggest that cold shock therapy may have a positive effect on longevity in humans. One study showed that reducing the environmental temperature of flies from 27 degrees to 21 degrees doubled their life span. A number of similar studies on other creatures has found a negative correlation between temperature and lifespan. (2 ) (3)
Researchers have postulated that the increased life span that results from cold shock therapy could be due to the concept known as hormesis. This refers to the process of introducing a shock to the body in order to elicit a reaction from the body in order to prepare it for an even more acute form of the stress in the future. This is the same concept by which muscles get bigger and stronger after the stress of exercise in order to prepare for the next workout. (4)
One of the hormesis induced responses to cold shock therapy is the slowing down of metabolic processes. A result of this is that there are a reduced number of metabolic by-products, such as reactive oxygen species that results in oxidative stress. (5)
Cold shock therapy has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is not only a key factor in disease and illness, it has also been shown to a major factor in aging. In addition to all of its other properties, the neurotransmitter/hormone norepinephrine has been shown to reduce inflammation. It does so by decreasing an inflammation causing molecule called TNF-Alpha, as well as inflammatory cytokines that cause such inflammatory responses as arthritis.(6)
Cold shock therapy has also been seen to enhance immune function. One of the reactions to the shock of cold therapy is the increased production of white blood cells as well as other immunologically beneficial cells. One of these is cytotoxic T lymphocytes, which have the ability to kill cancer cells. (7)
To the uninitiated, cold shock therapy may appear to be a pointless exercise in self administered pain. To those in the know, however, it is a fantastic biohacking method that has proven itself in terms of anti-aging, fat loss, energy enhancement and mood elevation.
Heat Shock Therapy has been shown to be a powerful booster of health and a key tool in the fight against aging. Find out how incorporating heat therapy into your life can make you a happier, healthier person.
When we were young we were taught to avoid heat. Touching the element on the oven would burn us, getting too close to the fire would soon become uncomfortable and having the heater up too high would blow out the power bill. It turns out, though, that heat, when used the right way, can be extremely beneficial. In this article we delve into the topic of heat shock therapy. We’ll answer 3 key questions:
What is it
Why we should do it
How to get started
What is Heat Shock Therapy?
Heat shock treatment is application of heat stress to the body in order to elicit positive responses in the body. When heat stress is applied to the body, we respond by going into a state of shock. The body then goes undergoes the fight or flight response in order to meet the crisis. It will undertake a number of mechanisms to meet the crisis in future. This is very similar to the body’s response to cold exposure. It is also the mechanism that the muscles of your body go through when you exercise. During the recovery process, the muscles will get bigger and stronger to meet the challenges of the next workout.
How Does Heat Shock Treatment Act as a Lifespan Hack?
There are many benefits related to heat shock treatment such as daily sauna use. Here are four that are directly related to longevity.
A number of studies have shown the heat shock therapy is beneficial for heart health. In one study, Finnish researchers followed 2,300 men over a period of 20 years. They found that an increased incidence of sauna usage was directly related to a lower risk of coronary heart disease. Other research has revealed that a 30 minute sauna session post exercise significantly increases oxygen consumption and red blood cell count. This leads to increased cardio output and stronger heart muscles. (1)
Enhanced Immune System
Research that was published in the Journal of Human Kinetics showed that sauna use is able to enhance white blood cell count, cortisol and lymphocyte levels. These markers are all indicators of improved immune system functioning. Another study showed that regular sauna use can reduce the incidence of getting a cold or influenza by as much as 30%. (2)
Anti Aging Proteins
One of the ways the body responds to heat stress is by producing a special type of proteins called, naturally, Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs). These proteins are extremely beneficial. One thing they do is to help the immune system to stabilize all of the other proteins in the body. This is instrumental to the prevention of such age related conditions as Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. (3)
Heat stress also stimulates the production of what is called the FOXO3 gene. This gene has been shown to have a positive effect on reducing aging. It is also instrumental in the repair of DNA. (4)
Human Growth Hormone Production
A number of studies have shown that regular sauna use can stimulate the body’s natural production of human growth hormone. This hormone stimulates growth and cell reproduction and is responsible for a whole host of other health related benefits that combat aging. (5)
How to Get Started with Heat Shock Therapy
Having established that heart shock therapy in the form of regular sauna treatments is extremely beneficial in terms of longevity, let’s talk about how to get started.
The first thing is to choose the right type of sauna. Research has shown that infra red saunas provide the most benefit. That’s because they don’t heat the surrounding air. Through the use of infra red lamps they directly penetrate to your body. Infra red saunas are also more comfortable, as you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed by the dry, hot, stuffy air in the sauna. Infrared saunas also allow your core body to rise. As a result, you can benefit from lower temperatures than a conventional sauna.
Unless you purchase your own infra red sauna, you will need to find a local health club that includes their use in the membership. Many gyms will offer this. Before entering the sauna, drink two to four glasses of water. Bring a towel with you to sit upon. Start with 10 minutes of sauna use, increasing to a maximum of 20 minutes. If you feel dizzy or nauseous, leave the sauna immediately.
When you have finished with your sauna, take a relaxing shower and then relax for 10-15 minutes before getting on with your day.
In places like Equador, Armenia and the Himalayas, a lot more people live beyond one hundred than in places like New York, London, or Paris . . .Not many of us can up and move to Ecuador. But we can incorporate small lifestyle changes in order to make our environment more compatible to extending our lifespan.
Is your environment slowly but inexorably robbing you of your future years? What can you do to turn things around? Read on to find out . . .
Human longevity is determined by two factors . . .
In this article, we focus on the second of those factors. We include lifestyle factors within the definition of environment. We’ll discover how important environment is to longevity and what you can do to make your environment as compatible to anti-aging as possible.
During the 19th century, humankind made huge strides in terms of the availability of food and clean drinking water, along with improved living conditions and access to medical care and the reduced exposure to disease. As a result, the lifespan of humans improved. The current average lifespan for people living in developed countries in 82.3 years.
It is interesting to note, however, that there are an inordinate amount of super agers, over the age of 100, who live in environments that can be best described as pristine. In places like Equador, Armenia and the Himalayas, a lot more people live beyond one hundred than in places like New York, London, or Paris. The fresh air, clean flowing water, low stress levels and simple, non-materialistic lifestyles have undoubtedly extended the lives of these people.
A recent study that was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health backs up these observations. The researchers studied data about the deaths of around 145,000 people living in Washington State in the USA. It was found that people who lived in an environment that supports healthy aging were more likely to live to a hundred years of age. (1) (2) (3)
Study author Rajan Bhardwaj, a second-year WSU medical student, concluded that . . .
Our study adds to the growing body of evidence that social and environmental factors contribute significantly to longevity, has estimated that heritable factors only explain about 20 to 35% of an individual’s chances of reaching centenarian age.
It was found that mixed age communities were very beneficial to living longer. Bhardwaj says . . .
These findings indicate that mixed-age communities are very beneficial for everyone involved. They also support the big push in growing urban centers toward making streets more walkable, which makes exercise more accessible to older adults and makes it easier for them to access medical care and grocery stores.
Twin Studies Show That Environment Matters
The effect of environment on lifespan vs genetic disposition is also shown by the example of identical twins who grow up in different environments. In many cases, the environment has been seen to play a significant part in determining the lifespan of the individual. Those twins who live in a calmer, more rural and more mixed age group environments tend to live longer. (4)
Not many of us can up and move to Ecuador. But we can incorporate small lifestyle changes in order to make our environment more compatible to extending our lifespan. Those small changes add up to have a significant cumulative effect which will help us to delay the onset of chronic illness.
How to Optimize Your Environment for Longevity
The following environmental factors have been shown to have a positive impact on longevity:
Be sociable across age groups – having meaningful friendships with people of all ages is a key to healthy living and longevity. Strive to mix with younger and older people, getting to know them on more than a surface level.
Breath fresh air – if you have the choice, move to an area that is amog free and where clean air permeates. If not, make the effort to escape to the mountains as often as possible, where you can breath that beautiful fresh air deep into your lungs.
Drink pure filtered water – aim to take in half a gallon of water daily. Investing in a water filter or purifier will help you ingest that health giving H2O without the associated toxins.
Volunteer – volunteering has a direct relationship with happiness and, not surprisingly, the happier we are, the longer we tend to live. The joy of giving, whether it is our time or our material possessions, brings us more joy than the actual act of giving. So, look for opportunities to get involved with local volunteer work in your community.
Reduce your stress levels – use such methods as exercise, mindful meditation, listening to music, taking walks on the beach and journaling to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety.
Can you remember who you were and how you felt a couple of decades ago? And, if so, can that information help you to reverse aging?
We often hear the phrase ‘act your age’ and interpret it to mean to stop acting like a child. Yet, research by distinguished Harvard Social Psychologist Ellen Langer has turned that notion on its head. Professor Langer is convinced that our thoughts have a lot to do with the ageing process. This has led her to focus her research efforts on unifying the mind and the body in order to reverse the aging process. This is in contrast to the conventional medical process of treating the mind and body separately.
Turning Back the Aging Clock
Professor Langer is the author of eleven books, the most famous of which is entitled CounterClockwise. In that book, she relates an experiment that she conducted in 1979. In the experiment, 16 men aged in their late 70s or early 80s, were taken to a retreat that was made to look exactly as it would have in 1959. Every detail, down to clothing and TV shows replicated that era. (1)
The men were also treated as if they were twenty years younger. They had to make their own beds, assist with dinner prep and carry their own bags. The men were divided into two groups, with the first being told to act as if they were actually living in 1959. The second group were told to reminisce about their past life.
The results of the study were very interesting. All of the men showed improvements in hearing, memory and vision. Yet, the men in the first group, who acted as if it were 1959, also improved their gait, manual dexterity, flexibility and even posture. Two thirds of them also improved their intelligence score.
It was also noticed that, even though most of the men had been largely reliant on others prior to arrival, they all managed to act independently when expected to do so.
Professor Langer has conducted a number of follow up studies over the last few decades that have confirmed her findings that the way we think radically affects how we age. One of these has come to be known as the Chambermaid Study. In that study, hotel maids were taught to view their work as healthy exercise. This change in mindset led to the women reducing their Body Mass Index (BMI), lost weight and reduced their blood pressure. (2)
In another study, it was found that a person’s level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with aging was a determining factor in how long they lived. Study participants who had a positive view of aging lived an average of seven and a half years longer than those who did not.
Here is Professor Langer on the implications of her research . . .
Our attitudes, ideas, and beliefs are at least as important to health as our diets and our doctors. Our mindless decisions—our deference to doctors’ opinions, our willingness to accept diagnoses, even the way we talk about our illnesses—can have drastic effects on our physical well-being.
5 Key Healthspan Hacks
As a result of her life’s work, Professor Langer has some great heath hacks that we can all apply in order to improve our longevity and live more healthy, fruitful lives. Here are a five healthspan hacks that we should all put into practice:
Be aware of what is going on around us. Notice new things and be inquisitive about them.
Refuse to conform to an aging stereotype. Take inspiration from our superagers [link to superagers articles] and break out of the box that society would love to confine you to.
Do not accept that getting older means getting weaker and sicker. Expect to be better each day. Commit yourself to healthy nutrition and regular exercise every day.
Do not allow yourself to be over helped by others. If you can carry your own bag, make your own bed and help out with the dinner, do so. Mollycoddling will make you older, whereas doing things for yourself will keep you young.
View yourself as a valued individual rather than a statistic or a number.
The way you think has a clear and direct impact upon the way you age, both physically and mentally. By thinking and acting younger, not accepting that you are over the hill and doing things for yourself, you will enhance your longevity and turn back the hands of time.