how to (and not to) live to 100

July 12

There's a lot to complain about these days; or, at least it seems that way if you pay attention to popular media sources. While we know bad news is better at getting our attention (and therefore sells) due in part to our human tendency toward loss aversion, there are good stories to tell if we look for them. One of them, which drew a pretty clear line on an age-old question...that is, something that actually works in our favor if we hope to age until we are actually "old", was tucked away in the Journal of the American Medical Association last week admittedly among many that seemed a lot less positive, including 5 headlines that are probably worth knowing about, negative as they may be.

The Not-So-Good News

(1) There is now a confirmed connection between sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, stress disorders, and poorer mental health. Again, RECOVER matters, a lot. 

(2) There was a lack of support for multivitamin use to increase longevity in a study of almost 400,000 people over 20 years. If there really is a longevity "hack" it doesn't seem to be in pill form yet. 

(3) Moderate Physical Activity (>=7,000 steps per day) alone was enough to impact health risk for individuals with normal blood sugar but not in folks with prediabetes. Ultimately this suggests that the power of MOVE may not be enough for those with more advanced risk. Therefore a more intensive approach (including nutrition, sleep, stress, etc) is likely required to lower risk as shown here, which might safely include fasting, as shown using a 5:2 ratio here.

(4) Every 2 hours of TV (or presumably screen time) reduced the likelihood of healthy aging by 12% in a study of 45,000 women at or near middle age over the next 20 years. Thankfully, there was a silver lining on this one. Much of that risk could be offset by replacing screen time with light physical activity; moderate physical activity was even better, and for the under-rested, trading the screens for sleep also had a positive impact.

(5) Perhaps not surprisingly, "Body Roundness Index", a new calculation that tries to differentiate between "healthy mass" (e.g. muscle) and particularly unhealthy mass (e.g. visceral body fat) is an effective risk predictor and may help us deal with some of the shortcomings of the more well-known body mass index which doesn't differentiate. In a sample of more than 30,000, those with the lowest and highest BRI were at higher risk than those in the moderate range. Unfortunately, this index has generally gone in the wrong direction over the last 20 years. 

But there is good news and it's relatively simple: In a study that compared nearly 1500 people who lived to be 100 (which is sort of amazing in itself) compared to age-matched controls (i.e. those born at the same time but died before 100 years) the odds of getting there were dramatically increased for those who practiced 3 healthy lifestyle behaviors including (1) not smoking, (2) being physically active and (3) eating a diverse diet (which included fruits, veggies, fish, beans, and tea).  

What is especially cool about this study is that even after poking at the data with a variety of statistical methods to refine their findings, the effect mostly stayed the same. There was a 61% better chance of living to 100 for those who practiced the healthy behaviors as compared to those that didn't. Yet, and maybe this is for those of us who might naturally wonder whether the quality (ability to function) in those years was high or just the quantity (time on earth)...the likelihood of getting to 100 years old AND doing so generally healthy was 54% greater in the healthy lifestyle group. As it turns out this stuff works for a VERY LONG TIME.

We've known for a while that the human body can live much longer and healthier than most do - now we have the basic plan for those who are interested. Maybe you'll be one to meet someone from 4 or 5 generations in the future - if you haven't already, the best time to start is today.

Have a great weekend,

Mike E.