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Finally A Sane Article About Healthy Aging

07 Nov

At first, the headline in the November issue of Men’s Health made me cringe: “The End of Aging.” I was prepared for another hype-filled article promising men that if they just replace their hormones, they’ll never age.

But the article, by geriatrician Dr. T.E. Holt, is quite the opposite. It doesn’t mention hormones once. Instead it reviews the science of aging–at least as much as we know about it today–but makes no grand promises that it will help us live forever.

I took two major conclusions away from this article: First, aging is merely a series of tiny accidents. Years of breathing in oxygen results in oxidative stress, which in turn causes aging. But Holt wisely advises readers not to run out and buy anti-oxidants.

Why? Here comes the second conclusion: How well we age depends largely on our genes and our gender. (Sorry guys: Women have the edge.) In other words, we can’t control how long we live.

That said, Holt still provides a number of tips for achieving longevity. I can definitely get on board with these, as they match the conclusion of my book. They are:

1. Know your risk factors, such as hypertension, and get them under control

2. Exercise

3. Watch what you eat

4. Watch what you weigh

5. Don’t go overboard–i.e. with Ironman-style workouts

6. Control your cholesterol

7. Watch your blood pressure

8. Check your blood sugar

9. Stop smoking

10. Use your brain–be a lifelong learner

None of this is brain surgery. All of it has been said by proponents of healthy, hormone-free aging, including me. But it’s certainly worth repeating.

Read more of Holt’s tips here.

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Posted in Lifestyle


On 100-year-old salamanders–and People

26 Jul

Two very interesting aging-related news items came across my desk this week. The first is a blog entry in Science on the discovery of a type of cave-dwelling salamander that lives to be 100. It’s called an olm, it’s about 15 grams, and it lives in caves throughout Europe.

Why does it live so long? Scientists are stumped. It has no natural predators, which helps, but it lacks some of the traits that other long-lived animals have. For example, it doesn’t have the naturally protective benefits of being large (like an elephant) or of having a low metabolic rate. It’s not immune to oxidative stress, which is thought to contribute to aging. The scientists plan to study the olm, in the hopes of unlocking the secrets to extreme aging.

Meanwhile a gerontologist named Robert Young, who works for Guinness World Records, has made it his job to track people who live to 100 and beyond. According to his records, the oldest living human is Eugenie Blanchard of the French territory of Saint Barthelemy. (WSJ subscription may be required to read more.)

Surprisingly, the number of centenarians has grown 32% in the past five years, while the number of “super-centenarians”–those who live to 110–has stayed flat. No one is quite sure why that is. But perhaps the salamander will someday provide clues into how the rest of us can achieve the rare milestone of 100-plus.

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Posted in Science of Aging