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In our quest for a long and fulfilling life, the pursuit of healthy aging and longevity has become an increasingly complex topic. After all, aging is a natural process that occurs in all living organisms! We’ll all witness and experience the natural effects of aging firsthand. From the greying of our hair and the appearance of wrinkles to the gradual decline in eyesight, physical strength and cognitive function.
On average, individuals in the United States live around 77 years and this number continues to rise. However, living longer isn’t always better if we’re not focusing on improving our health span.
What is “health span”?
The concept of health span, which refers to the number of years a person lives in good health without the burden of chronic diseases or disabilities, has gained significant attention. Rather than solely focusing on increasing our lifespan, the goal is to ensure those additional years are spent in vibrant health and vitality.
Markers of Aging
An individual’s progression of aging can be understood by their phenotype, a combination of their genotype (genetic makeup) and external factors, such as diet, lifestyle, and environment. At a cellular level, aging can be influenced by a variety of factors. One of the primary contributors is the accumulation of damage to our DNA, proteins, and lipids over time due to normal metabolic processes and exposure to environmental stressors. This accumulation of damage, known as the “wear and tear” theory of aging, eventually leads to the decline in cellular function and the onset of age-related diseases.
The Blue Zones
There are five regions around the world, referred to as Blue Zones, that have the highest concentration of centenarians or those living to be over 100 years old.
These regions are:
- Sardinia, Italy
- Okinawa, Japan
- Icaria, Greece
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- The Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California
What do these regions have in common?
Their diet contains a good ratio of omega-3s to omega-7s. They eat less meat, more plant based proteins, making sure to consume fruits and vegetables in season and fatty fish local to their region. They’re also partial to a glass of red wine every now and then, which is high in resveratrol (see supplements).
They walk regularly and include squatting and lifting in their daily work. We know that walking after a meal can help reduce blood sugar levels which lowers inflammation and risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Studies have demonstrated that regularly performed cardiovascular training may reduce markers of systemic inflammation while high intensity and strenuous activity can swing us in the other direction and cause inflammation. (1)
People in the blue zones prioritize sleep and listen to their bodies instead of sticking with a strict regimen. Naps are common in Mediterranean regions like Sardinia and Icaria—a meta-analysis of 3.5 million participants over 67 studies found that short and long sleep was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events. Based on these large studies, the optimal sleep duration for healthy adults appears to be between 7-9 hours. (2)
The environment you surround yourself in can certainly impact your life choices. This may be why there is such a high concentration of centenarians in these regions – they are surrounded by others living similar lifestyles. Studies found that a higher degree of social integration was associated with a lower risk of physiological dysregulation (ie. high CRP levels, HBP, increases waist circumference and BMI). The same is true for the opposite—a lack of social connection was associated with an elevated risk of hypertension in the elderly, so much so that it exceeded the clinical risk factors such as diabetes. (3)
While we might not all live in the Blue Zones, scientific advancements and extensive research have shed light on several promising supplements that can enhance our well-being as we age. With this in mind, we’ll explore key nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive compounds that can assist the aging process, support optimal cellular function, and improve overall well-being.
CoQ10 is a naturally occurring compound found in the mitochondria, which are the energy powerhouses of our cells. It’s a critical component of the electron transport chain in mitochondria, where it assists in converting nutrients into ATP. As we age, the efficiency of this energy production process declines. By supplementing with CoQ10, we can potentially enhance mitochondrial function and support optimal energy production, which is essential for overall cellular health and vitality. (4)
A polyphenol found in grape skins, red wine, berries and peanuts, resveratrol acts as a potent antioxidant, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause oxidative stress and damage cells, leading to accelerated aging. By reducing oxidative stress, resveratrol supports overall cellular health and may help slow down the aging process. It has also been shown to activate certain proteins, such as sirtuins, that are involved in cellular processes related to longevity and health span. (5)
Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential fats that have been extensively studied for their cardiovascular benefits. They help reduce triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, and improve blood vessel function. These effects contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system, reducing the risk of age-related heart diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, and arrhythmias. (6)
NMN (Nicotinamide Mononucleotide)
Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) is a compound involved in cellular energy production and a key player in the NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) pathway. NMN is converted into NAD+ in the body, a coenzyme involved in various cellular processes, including energy metabolism, DNA repair, and gene expression. NAD+ levels naturally decline with age, and this decline is thought to contribute to cellular dysfunction and aging. By supplementing with NMN, it can potentially boost NAD+ levels, supporting cellular function and mitigating age-related decline. NMN is also thought to activate sirtuins which help regulate various cellular processes, including gene expression, stress response, and cellular metabolism. (7)
In the US alone, 42% of adults are deficient in Vitamin D. As we age, Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and utilization in the body. Adequate vitamin D levels are necessary for maintaining strong and healthy bones, reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis, which are more common with age. (8)
Turmeric + Piperine
Researchers are finding that curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, may help eliminate senescent cells, increase telomere length, protect against glycation, and activate AMPK autophagy. While this is certainly ground breaking information, it’s important to note that research on turmeric and telomere length is still in the preliminary phase and one vital drawback of curcumin is its bioavailability. (9)
Not sure what other supplements to take? Learn how you can use supplements to your advantage in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond!
- Woods, J. A., Wilund, K. R., Martin, S. A., & Kistler, B. M. (2012, February). Exercise, inflammation and aging. Aging and disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3320801/
- Yin, J., Jin, X., Shan, Z., Li, S., Huang, H., Li, P., Peng, X., Peng, Z., Yu, K., Bao, W., Yang, W., Chen, X., & Liu, L. (n.d.). Relationship of sleep duration with all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Journal of the American Heart Association. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28889101/
- Yang, Y. C., Boen, C., Gerken, K., Li, T., Schorpp, K., & Harris, K. M. (n.d.). Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1511085112
- Aaseth, J., Alexander, J., & Alehagen, U. (n.d.). Coenzyme Q10 supplementation – in ageing and disease. Mechanisms of ageing and development. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34129891/
- Zhou, D.-D., Luo, M., Huang, S.-Y., Saimaiti, A., Shang, A., Gan, R.-Y., & Li, H.-B. (n.d.). Effects and mechanisms of resveratrol on aging and age-related diseases. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34336123/
- Troesch, B., Eggersdorfer, M., Laviano, A., Rolland, Y., Smith, A. D., Warnke, I., Weimann , A., & Calder, P. C. (n.d.). Expert opinion on benefits of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) in aging and clinical nutrition. Nutrients. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32846900/
- Nadeeshani, H., Li, J., Ying, T., Zhang, B., & Lu, J. (2021, August 11). Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) as an anti-aging health product – promises and safety concerns. Journal of advanced research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9039735/
- Manoy, P., Yuktanandana, P., Tanavalee, A., Anomasiri, W., Ngarmukos, S., Tanpowpong, T., & Honsawek, S. (2017, July 26). Vitamin D supplementation improves quality of life and physical performance in osteoarthritis patients. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579593/
- Morse, R. (2021, October 1). Curcumin’s anti-aging properties. Is Curcumin Anti-Aging? – Life Extension. https://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2021/ss/curcumin-anti-aging