Since the beginning of time, the humankind has had the wish to live a long and healthy life. There have been many stories written about the search for a life elixir promising eternal life. Many tests have been fatal throughout the journey of research for everlasting life. Longevity stays the wish for most people and the research within this science has increased enormously the last 20 years and billions of Dollars are being invested to find out how to extend the healthy lifespan, how to stop the aging process, and even how to reverse the effects of aging.
How far has the science of longevity come? Can we, today living people, benefit from the life-prolonging methods, which scientists are working on? What can we do to extend our healthy lifespan ourselves? We are living in thrilling times, let’s dive into the possibilities of creating a long and healthy life.
What does longevity mean exactly?
The synonym of longevity is ”long life” or ”a great duration of life”. In general, longevity is understood as ”a longer than average life”. When speaking about longevity today, this term is also connected with thoughts and methods on how to extend life and in particular how to extend the healthy lifespan.
Longevity is not to be mixed-up with ”life expectancy”. The definition for the latter is the average number of years remaining at a given age. The Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE) is the average number of years remaining living in full health.
During the last century, the human lifespan has increased enormously, due to better healthcare, improved safety procedures and equipment at workplaces, and therefore less deathly accidents. The mortality rate for infants and mothers at childbirth has also decreased significantly.
Around 1900 the global average life expectancy was not more than 50 years. In 2015 the global average life expectancy has increased to 70 years, in the industrial countries it is as high as 77 to almost 84 years. Jeanne Calment, France, is the person who has lived the longest, known and accepted because of well-documented statistics. She lived for 122 years, from 1875 to 1997. There are more cases of persons who have reached this high age or older, but they have unfortunately not been able to get verified by any documentation.
Crucial factors which determine your longevity
The main factors for studies of longevity are gender and genetics, and lifestyle choices including nutrition, exercise, hygiene, and access to health care. Another factor is the toxins we are exposed to throughout our lifetime, which very much depends on where we live, work, and what we eat.
Twin studies show that the genetics only account for 20-30% as a longevity factor. The lifestyle, or the environmental factors, accounts for as much as 70-80%, which actually is good news. This means we have the possibility to live a long life, even if have inherited a less advantageous genetic blueprint from our ancestors.
It has long been thought that aging is an inexorable process and that nothing can be done about it. It has though been known for a century that dietary restriction increases the healthspan, proven by animal models, and can prevent us from getting these diseases too early in life. But still, age-related diseases, such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s’ and, diabetes, only the symptoms are getting treated by the physicians and not the root of the problem.
In recent years the geroscience – the science of aging, and of age-related diseases – and regenerative medicine is attracting increasing interest. Especially now because of the demographic aging and the related increase in chronic diseases, which threatens the global economic prosperity and social stability.
As the global educational level has been raised enormously within the last century, the health awareness of people is also increasing.
All this leads to a profound desire to find the cause of aging and age-related diseases and the possibility to reverse the aging process.
The main goals of the longevity research are to find out how to
– slow down the aging process
– prevent and delay, and even eliminate age-related diseases
– extend the healthy lifespan
– increase the human life expectancy
Areas of Longevity Research:
There are two main approaches to interventions:
1. To understand the root causes of aging and prevent damage and prevent the development of a disease.
2. To repair the damages, carry out preventive maintenance, and to reverse aging.
Causes of aging
The cells in our body get damaged from the day of our birth, and the cell damage accelerates as we age. To a certain extent the cells can repair themselves, but sometimes the damage goes beyond repair. Mostly this is due to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is considered to be a prime cause of aging and age-related diseases.
Oxidative stress occurs when oxygen in the body splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons. These unpaired atoms are called free radicals and they want to react with other atoms so the balance of electrons gets restored. These reactions cause damage to cells, proteins, and DNA.
Antioxidants prevent free radicals from « attacking » and reacting with other atoms. The antioxidants can give an electron to a free radical without becoming destabilized themselves, and in this way stop the free radical chain reaction. It may sound like you must buy medicine for obtaining antioxidants, but it is much easier than that. The good news is that fruit and vegetables are a great protection against oxidative stress as they contain antioxidants.
Telomeres are the caps at the end of each DNA strand that protect our chromosomes, that contain all our genetic data. As we age the telomeres get shorter and shorter. Each time a cell divides, the length of the telomere gets reduced. When they become short, they can’t protect the chromosomes anymore. This can lead to premature aging and diseases.
The good news is that we can control this process. The premature shortening of the telomeres can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle. Stress, smoking and excess weight speed up the process of telomere shortening. The best prevention is to avoid stress, stop smoking and to maintain a healthy weight.
High calory diet
Diet composition and the amount of food eaten, are decisive factors, considering longevity.
This has already been proven in a study made on rats in the 1930’s The study showed that by letting the rats eat less than usual, made them live longer. Since then there has been done a lot of research on the caloric restriction. Studies on feeding mice a ketogenic diet show that this kind of low-carb diet has helped to extend their lifespan. Other studies on monkeys letting them do intermittent fasting – fasting more than 8 hours per day, or one/two days a week – have shown positive results for increasing the lifespan.
Stem Cell Therapy
When talking about stem cells, most people think of embryonic stem cells, but not all stem cells come from an early embryo. We actually have stem cells in our bodies all our lives.
A stem cell is a cell that can renew itself. Stem cells can repair and replace tissue in the human body – this means stem cells are sort of a repair system for the body and can heal various disorders.
There are different kinds of stem cells in humans:
1. Embryonic stem cells (natural pluripotent* stem cells): grown in the laboratory from cells found in the early embryo. This kind of stem cells is subject to a controversy targeting the methods used to derive embryonic stem cells, which causes the destruction of a human embryo.
2. Adult stem cells (tissue stem cells) – these are in our bodies throughout our entire life.
3. Induced pluripotent* stem cells (‘reprogrammed’ stem cells) – these are stem cells generated from adult stem cells.
4. Amniotic stem cells (cord stem cells) – are stem cells from the umbilical cord itself.
* Pluripotent stem cells can generate any kind of cell in the body, any kind of tissue.
Stem Cell Therapy (SCT) is the treatment of various disorders by using stem cells – mainly from bone marrow, the placenta and, the umbilical cord.
Bone marrow transplantation has been used effectively for some decades as a cure for some kinds of cancer. Stem cell therapy has been showing a lot of promising results all over the world. Various sources for stem cells are being developed, in order to be used on stem-cell treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and for healing injuries.
Cells are the basic building blocks of all living organisms; in the human body, there are trillions of them. Within our cells, there are thousands of genes that provide the information for the production of specific proteins and enzymes. Genes are made up of DNA, which is the blueprint of the body. DNA carries the genetic information, that means that DNA contains the instructions an organism needs to develop, live and reproduce.
Gene therapy is a treatment in which the genetic material, DNA, is used to treat disorders or diseases.
There are several approaches to gene therapy:
– Replacing a mutated gene with a healthy copy of the gene.
– Inactivating a mutated gene that is malfunctioning.
– Supplement a new gene into the body to help fight a disease.
Gene therapy is a very promising field of treatment possibility for numerous diseases, for example, disorders such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer and, cardiovascular diseases. This kind of therapy is still under study and to date, it is being tested only for diseases that have no other cures.
Further Longevity Research Areas
There are many further research areas within longevity, such as gene silencing, mitochondria elimination, blood therapy, senescent cell elimination and more. The future looks bright, it may someday in the near future be possible to extend the human healthy lifespan with decades compared with today. We seem to stand on the threshold to a life expectancy of 120 years or even more sooner than we may believe.
What can we do today to extend our healthy lifespan ourselves?
Here is in short what you can do already now by yourself to prevent diseases and extend your lifespan:
Studies show that aging damages can be reversed by exercising moderately.
Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits
The antioxidants help to fight against the free radicals, and therefore help against premature aging.
Smoking accelerates aging and increases the risk of getting diseases, in particular, cancer and lung diseases. Smoking also speeds up skin aging. So if you not only want to live longer but also want to look younger, it is highly recommended to stop smoking.
Limit alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol causes a lot of damage to body and brain. The risk of getting heart diseases, cancer and, liver diseases among other diseases increases heavily.
Sleep enough – 7-9 hours a night
During the sleep our body regenerates. If we lack sleep the body can’t repair itself as good and the damages cumulate.
Manage your stress
Stress is most unhealthy for our body. Toxic substances develope within the body which increases the blood sugar and also make inflammations occur. It increases the risk of arthritis, arthrosis, overweight and diabetes.
Spend time with your family and friends
Decreases stress and increase the feel-good hormones in our body.
Start to change your life today.
Choose one habit and change one after the other, step by step.
You will feel fitter, you will feel happier, you will look younger.
Above all, you will increase your chance to live a long and healthy life,
enjoying the wonders of the earth.
Do you want to know how to extend your life in a comfortable and relaxing way? Check out this blog: Reading Books Extend Your Life
Healthy Life – Happy Life – Long Life
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