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When she was 116 years old, the Guinness Book of Records announced Kane Tanaka as the oldest woman in the world whose age is unquestionably confirmed. Since then, she hasn’t stopped breaking records, and this January (2022) celebrated her 119th birthday.

During her birthday celebration, people were curious as to the happiest moment she has ever experienced in her life. She surprised and touched them deeply by answering with just one word: “Now.”

Kane Tanaka
Tanaka in 1923, aged 20

When you think about a woman who’s been around since 1903, you may believe that her life wasn’t very active or eventful. But Tanaka actually makes it a habit to wake up at 6am every morning and passes her day studying Mathematics and calligraphy.

Many along the way have asked her about her secret for longevity, to which she answered that it all has to do with a belief in God, the family that surrounds her and her healthy sleep habits. If you’re wondering, even at her venerable age, Tanaka does not give up on coffee, and drinks at least three cups a day, as well as fizzy drinks.

Kane Tanaka Birthday
Tanaka at the Guinness record award ceremony

Tanaka’s story teaches us that there’s always hope for change – despite and sometimes thanks to the difficulties we encounter during our lives. When she was “only” 103 years old, Tanaka was diagnosed with colon cancer, and against all odds – managed to beat it. Sixteen years have passed since that moment, and all that’s left for us is to wish her many more healthy years to come.

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)

maya_elhalal_longevity_healthspan

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)

maya_elhalal_longevity_healthspan

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)

Summary

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. 

References

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3726172/

(2) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/823384/

(3) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24019937/

(4) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10522-006-9018-x?LI=true

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4486781/

(6) https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110774

(7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8925815/

When it comes to runners, Anne McGowan could be considered a late bloomer. She didn’t start pounding the pavement until she was 49. Anne began running to help her cope with the loss of her husband, yet she soon fell in love with the activity.

Born in 1925, Anne has been running regularly since 1974. In 1991, in the wake of a mastectomy, she ran in the 1991 National Senior Games, in which 50+ athletes who have qualified at regional level compete for national honors. As well as competing on the track in the 100, 200 and 400 yard sprints, Anne has also gone toe to toe with the best seniors in the country in such power events as the hammer throw, discus, javelin and long jump.

Anne is now 95 years old and still going strong. In fact, she’s in better shape than most people half her age. She is still competing at the National Senior Games, being just one of eight super agers to have competed in every game since their inception in 1987. Anne is a sterling example that over 80 doesn’t have to mean over the hill!