12 Rules For A Longer Life, According To An Ageing Expert

12 Rules For A Longer Life, According To An Ageing Expert

Your chronological age can only move in one direction, but did you know you also have a biological age that can be reversed? Ground-breaking new research shows that, with the right food and lifestyle choices, you can add years to your life. We caught up with Dr Kara Fitzgerald, a pioneer in the field of biological ageing, to find out more. From the importance of sleep to simple food swaps, here’s what she wants you to know…

Your Bio Age Can Move In Reverse

Although we all age with time, we don’t all age equally. Ageing is a complex process influenced by many factors, and even though two people can have the same chronological age, their life expectancy and living quality can be vastly different. Bio age is based on the premise that our bodies are constantly subject to damage and degradation from internal and external sources. By assessing how much damage has accumulated in your body, your bio age shows how old your tissues, systems and even your genetic material are. In other words, you could be 50 chronologically but have the same amount of damage to your body as a typical 58-year-old. 

Looking Out For The Warning Signs Is Important

Ageing shows up in many places. We can see it in our skin and joints. For example, do you have pain when you move? Are you too weak to open that pickle jar you used to be able to open? Is it tricky to sit down on the ground and then stand up again? Are you having a hard time recalling a word or a friend’s name? Are you overweight, especially around the stomach? Are you depressed and feel like you’ve lost a zest for life? If any one or two of these apply to you, it doesn’t  necessarily mean you are ‘old’, but if you’re nodding to multiple items here, it’s time to consider the fact that you are ageing more quickly than you should be. 

Sleep Is A Vital Piece Of The Puzzle

Sleep is a fundamental component of health and healthy ageing. Yet it’s well documented that, as we age, our sleep changes. Most significantly, the all-important, restorative deep sleep (the form of sleep we need to prevent age-related diseases and decline) decreases significantly over time. Also, the total duration of sleep drops off and it becomes more fragmented. Do what you can to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Try to cut out caffeine later in the day, keep your room at a cool temperature, play white noise when you go to sleep and minimise screen time in the evening. 

Exercise Is An Anti-Ageing Elixir

You may think of exercise as a way to burn calories, build muscle, improve cardiovascular health or clear your head. Exercise is all of these things, yet it is so much more. Exercise is well known to be beneficial for almost every aspect of health – from regulating insulin sensitivity to decreasing inflammation – and has been shown to extend lifespan. You probably know that lifting weights causes microtears in your muscles that the body then knits back together to make it bigger and stronger. A similar process also happens on a cellular level: exercise causes increased free radicals in the mitochondria, which are the energy factories within your cells. As a result, every time you exercise, your mitochondria are drenched in the potent antioxidant elixirs that only your body can make. Moderate and consistent movement is the name of the game. Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at around 60-80% of maximum effort, doing an activity you truly enjoy. Do something that makes you breathe a little heavier, but so you can still talk, sweating a small to medium amount. Going from the sofa to a CrossFit class is destined for failure for most of us. But going from the sofa to a nice, light walk? That’s doable. Over time, you can layer in a bit of HIIT and resistance training. 

Learn To Stress Less

Countless studies show stress accelerates ageing and is associated with an increased risk for all of the diseases of ageing. Conversely, meditation, yoga and tai chi are all either associated with longevity, biological age reversal or better gene expression. And you don’t need to be an expert in meditation to see results – studies show that just one meditation session will benefit the body. That said, people who are experienced meditators are biologically younger, so maintaining a practice is important. The Calm and Headspace apps are a good place to start.

Gut Health Plays A Part

In the majority of patients I see, overall gut health is suffering. Why? The reasons are far-reaching and include excessive hygiene (and a lack of exposure to dirt, nature and plants); overuse of medications; nutrient poor, calorie-high diets; high rates of C-section deliveries; toxin exposure; and stress, which directly shuts down our ability to digest. It’s vital to support your gut health for optimal ageing – add in probiotic foods like garlic, blueberries, flaxseeds, leeks, asparagus and cocoa, and eat more fermented foods, ideally a small amount with most of your meals. My favourites include sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut kefir, kombucha and traditionally pickled vegetables. If you are buying these foods, always check they are kept in the refrigerator section, not on room-temperature shelves. This is a good sign that they contain live cultures. 

Green Vegetables Are The Name Of The Game

Aim to eat seven cups of different vegetables per day, starting with two cups of dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach and Swiss chard, as well as two cups of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, watercress and cabbage, and three cups of colourful vegetables – think asparagus, red peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, leeks and beetroot. If this sounds like a lot, try having vegetables for breakfast – add a side of greens to your eggs or add steamed spinach to an omelette – or add to a smoothie. I also love roasting a pile of vegetables at the beginning of the week and adding to salads, soups and scrambled eggs, or eating them as a snack. 

Countless studies show stress accelerates ageing and is associated with an increased risk for all of the diseases of ageing.

Protein Isn’t All About Meat

The protein you eat should ideally be local and organic, and bonus points if you can find omega-3-enriched eggs and organic liver, which are anti-ageing superstars. Aim to eat five to ten eggs per week. Salmon, grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, organic pork and organic lamb also provide certain amino acids that are vital for healthy DNA. If you are under 60, aim to eat around 0.66g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, and 1.0-1.2g of protein per kilogram if you are over 60 or weigh more than 80 kilos. If you are vegetarian or vegan, choose from black beans, chickpeas, edamame, kidney beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh. 

Intermittent Fasting Can Help Control Blood Sugar

Eating early in the evening and going to bed without a full stomach (and the task of digestion) is a potent preventative measure against diabetes, obesity and other metabolic diseases. Research demonstrates benefits of IF across most chronic diseases and on health and life span. I recommend eating only between the hours of 7am and 7pm. If you don’t naturally get hungry for breakfast until 10am, that’s great – just be sure to stop eating before 7pm as you want your blood sugar to have a chance to fall before you go to bed. And if you’re a night owl and go to bed later than 11pm, you can adjust this schedule so that you still go for 12 hours without eating overnight. Try to consume most of your calories while it’s still light outside as studies show that you burn more of your food, rather than storing it as fat, when you eat during the day and fast at night. 

Vitamin D Is Important

Vitamin D is a powerhouse nutrient responsible for the smooth sailing of many physiological processes, especially relating to normal immune function. We also know it’s important in regulating the ageing process. Get your levels tested – I like to see levels between 50 and 70 ng/mL. To maintain these levels, you need anywhere from 2,000 IU to 10,000 IU per day; for most of us, 5,000 IU is the sweet spot. This is significantly higher than the daily recommended intake of 600-800 IU per day. Remember that for optimal absorption, vitamin D needs to be paired with a small amount of fat – take your supplement with a handful of nuts, some nut butter or a few slices of avocado. 

Turmeric Should Be Consumed Every Day

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of turmeric, which is a potent antioxidant. It has incredible anti-ageing properties and is also anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and protects the gut. I drink a mug of golden turmeric milk almost every single day, and take it in capsule form for safe measure, too. Aim for 500-1,000mg per day and always look for a product that contains some black pepper, which aids absorption – this may be labelled as piperine. 

Be Savvy With Alcohol

If you do drink, keep it to a minimum. Try organic or biodynamic wine to minimise pesticide exposure (just as you would when buying food), but don’t be lured by red wine. Red wine does contain a small amount of resveratrol, an antioxidant and ageing superstar, but it’s not a health food – many other foods contain significantly more resveratrol. You could also enjoy a grain-free spirit such as vodka or tequila which are also low-carb and will take less of a toll on your blood sugar than beer. When you drink, counterbalance the ageing effects by eating DNA-supportive foods – snack on sunflower or pumpkin seeds before drinking, have a big helping of greens with dinner, and/or a blueberry smoothie the following morning. 

Put an anti-ageing spin on your diet with Kara’s top diet swaps…

SWAP: Coffee or black tea
FOR: Green tea or oolong tea
SWAP: Bananas
FOR: Berries – especially blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
SWAP: Potatoes
FOR: Beetroot, carrots and sweet potatoes
SWAP: Iceberg lettuce
FOR: Spinach, kale and rocket
SWAP: White or brown sugar
FOR: Stevia, honey or maple syrup
SWAP: Cereal
FOR: A nut- and seed-heavy granola or quinoa porridge
Younger You: Reverse Your Bio Age - and Live Longer, Better
by Dr Kara Fitzgerald is available to buy in paperback now. For more information visit DrKaraFitzgerald.com
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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