Smoking Really Does Speed up Aging – But by How Much?

If you’re a smoker, anti-aging creams and lemon skin treatments might not be enough to truly help you look younger. It’s generally accepted that smokers age more quickly than non-smokers, but by how much? According to a recent study, men and women who puff-puff for years on end are about twice as old as their chronological age. [1]

The findings were reported in January in Scientific Reports.

In a news release, study author Polina Mamoshina, a senior research scientist at artificial intelligence solutions company Insilico Medicine, said:

“Smoking is a real problem that destroys people’s health, causes premature deaths, and is often the cause of many serious diseases.”

No shock there.

Read: 7 Huge Detrimental Effects of Smoking

Smoking kills about 48,000 Americans each year, yet 38 million Americans continue to light up. Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States. It’s a tough addiction to kick since a single puff almost immediately calms the user.

For the study, Mamoshina and colleagues used artificial intelligence to evaluate the impact of smoking using blood biochemistry. An age-prediction model developed by supervised deep learning techniques helped the authors analyze several biochemical markers, including measures based on glycated hemoglobin, urea, fasting glucose, and ferritin. [2]

The findings revealed that both male and female smokers were predicted to be twice as old as their chronological age, compared to non-smokers.

Read: Photographic Proof that Smoking Causes Premature Aging

Obviously, that’s bad news. But something positive did come from the findings. Studies of smokers typically rely on self-reporting, i.e., smokers tell researchers how often they light up. But the study shows that deep learning analysis of routine blood tests could replace that unreliable method and evaluate the influence that other lifestyle and environmental factors have on aging.

You might have heard that “50 is the new 30.” Well, if you’re a smoker, it’s the other way around. Cigarettes just aren’t worth it. Quitting smoking not only extends your life but improves the quality of it.

Sources:

[1] UPI

[2] Economic Times

What Your Heart Age Says About Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

A new test has been developed that calculates your heart age and your subsequent risk of heart attack and stroke. [1]

The Heart Age Test asks adults over 30 to answer a series of questions about their physical lifestyle and health. If the test determines that your “heart age” is older than your actual age, it means you have a greater risk of suffering from one of these cardiovascular events.

I took the test, and it told me how old I could expect to live without having a heart attack or stroke.

According to Public Health England, the test has been completed more than 1.9 million times. Sadly, there are a lot of unhealthy people out there:

  • 4 out of 5 people (78%) have recorded a higher heart age than their actual age.
  • More than 1/3 had a heart age more than 5 years older than their real age.
  • 14% of test-takers had a heart age more than 10 years older than their actual age.

However, The Heart Age Test is not a diagnostic test. It can’t tell you if you’re headed for a heart attack or stroke, but it can give you insight into whether or not you need to make some lifestyle changes. [2]

CDC: 3 out of 4 Americans’ Hearts are Older than Their Chronological Age

The simple test has the potential to save millions of lives.

Juliet Bouverie, chief executive at the Stroke Association, said:

“We believe that across the U.K. there are around 6 million people who are undiagnosed and untreated for high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation, 2 of the biggest risk factors for stroke.

However, treatment for these conditions can significantly reduce your risk of stroke and the devastation it causes.”

It’s not as easy to fight genes, but for many people, many heart risk factors are modifiable, including obesity, lack of physical activity, and high blood pressure.

Start Improving Your Heart Health Now

  • Quit smoking. A year after kicking the habit, your risk for heart disease falls to about 50% that of a smoker’s.
  • Get active. Getting about 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, such as cycling or brisk walking, can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Manage your weight
  • Eat more fiber
  • Reduce your saturated fat intake
  • Eat 5 servings of fruit or vegetables per day. Increasing the amount of produce you eat from 3 to 5 servings can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Cut down on salt
  • Eat fish
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Read the labels on foods and drinks

Read: Under New Guidelines, Millions More Americans Have High Blood Pressure

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: [1]

“Our message today is that it’s never too late to change. Take the test, and if you are concerned by the age of your heart, make an appointment to see your GP.”

Sources:

[1] ChronicleLive

[2] BBC News

Cultures Around the World Show Us How Life Purpose Fuels Longevity

We know instinctively that meaning and purpose are necessary in order to live a fulfilling life, with those of us in a career we love often held in high regard. But regardless of how passionate you may be about your career, we all need a hobby – an interest outside of work that we truly love to do. The benefits of purpose and hobbies, however, go beyond quality of life.

Japanese culture has a concept called ikigai, which roughly translates to “purpose in life.” Ikigai has traditionally been associated with health and longevity. One study on over 4000 adults set out to determine if this theory was true.

All participants were over 65, with:

  • More than 1800 identified as at high risk of death
  • More than 1200 at high risk of losing ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • More than 1100 at risk of losing their ability to perform instrumental ADLs.

Data from February 2011 to November 2014 was used, which can be a long time when it comes to age-related disability. Compared to people who had both hobbies and an ikigai, having neither of these was associated with double the risk of mortality, close to triple the risk of losing ADL abilities, and almost double the risk of losing IADL abilities!

Therefore, hobbies and ikigai were linked to increased longevity and healthy life expectancy in older adults.

This was not the only study that found a link between purpose in life and longevity. Another study on 6000 adults with a 14-year follow-up time found that people who initially reported a strong purpose in life had a 15% lower risk of dying from any cause.

Other research found that those who described clear goals and purpose lived both longer and better than those who did not. In fact, other “Blue Zone” cultures (areas with a high prevalence of centenarians) besides the Okinawans of Japan value purpose, with the Nicoyan (Costa Rica) people calling it plan de vida.

Longevity Secrets: 6 Reasons Okinawans Live to Be Older than 100

How to Find Your Own Ikigai

So how can you find your own iikigai, or plan de vida, if you haven’t already? A great way to start is by doing an internal inventory.

Take a piece of paper, and for 20-30 minutes think of all your ideals, principles, standards, and morals, then think of your physical, mental, and emotional talents, strengths, and abilities.

It can take a while, maybe even a couple of attempts, to get an idea of what you really want, but you know you’re getting close if anything brings out a strong emotional reaction. And then…put your skills into action!

It’s also important to build relationships with people who can help you achieve your goals. Overall, longevity is for everyone, and it turns out that some of the best ways to extend your life also improve its quality.


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Does Aging Have an ‘End Point?’ People Younger than Ever

Usually when we hear about life expectancy rising and death rates falling, the good news is accompanied by handwringing about living in a “greying world” and a supposedly increasing proportion of people who must depend on others for health reasons. But times are changing, as life at certain age groups is not what it was even one generation ago.

Who would have thought that this could be a 51 year old woman’s life: teaching yoga at a hip hotel and club; sharing clothes and yoga challenges with her 19 year old daughter; and is in love with travelling? Such is the life of Polly Kemp, and it’s becoming increasingly common.

Polly says that when she hears the term middle-aged, “I have to stop and think, ‘Is this meant to be me?’ I don’t polish silver or plan menus, and I’m not interested in housework. I am also spontaneous and I don’t think that’s a quality traditionally associated with middle age.’”

Even the author of the article adds that 40 years ago, she would have pictured her 53 year old self as having much shorter, greyer hair, and wearing “frocks and face powder” instead of jeans and CC cream.

Polly, here with daughter Iggy, embraces an age-defying lifestyle CREDIT: RICK PUSHINSKY

It Isn’t Just These 2 Women, Either

In a survey of over 500 women performed by the UK Telegraph:

  • 96% of women over 40 do not consider themselves to be “middle-aged”
  • 90% said they had a younger attitude than their mothers at the same age
  • 84% used products and services aimed at younger women
  • Almost 66% said they felt as vibrant and young as they ever had.

Unfortunately, the media hasn’t caught up to these changes, choosing to hold onto the old ways. Women over 40, 50, 60, and sometimes even older are no longer confining their lives to, as the Telegraph describes, “lawnmowers and Rotary Clubs, cheese and wine parties, elastic waists, river cruises and walking tours of Madeira.”

I myself could not imagine my friends of those ages living in such a restricted way!

The “ageless generation”, also referred to as “perennials,” is also gaining ground in a literal sense. As far back as 1939, British statisticians Major Greenwood and J.O. Irwin found that aging seems to stop at around 90! Even they were confused, stating that: “At first sight this must seem a preposterous speculation.”

Not only did their findings seem counterintuitive, but 1939 was also a bad year to attempt making scientific history because of other world events. Much more recently, Michael Rose has done more research on the matter, with even data from other species showing that there is a point where aging stops if you live long enough – at about 90 for humans, but at different times for other animals.

Sources:

The Telegraph

NewScientist


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90 is the New 70: Old Age Just Isn’t Old Age Anymore

This year, the oldest of the Baby Boomers are turning 70. But these late-decades of life aren’t what it used to be. With celebrities such as Cher (who turned 71 this year) no longer holding a monopoly over looking and acting younger. The UK’s Oxford Institute of Population Aging even recommends that people in their 70’s and 80’s be called “active adults” instead of “old.”

Even the Daily Mail has added to the discussion, with a few writers who are, well, rewriting what it means to be over 70.

First up is Angela Neustatter, who at 73 looks years younger than you’d expect. She attributes her youthfulness to yoga, Pilates, a house full of stairs, sex, and stepping back from emotional conflict. Angela does and wears what she wants, even mini skirts and leggings!

Angela Neustatter

Lesley Pearse also appears to be in her 50’s at the age of 72. Her “normal” involves parties, swimming, and scrambling around her cliff-top garden.

Lesley Pearse

Jan Leeming is still a BBC newsreader at the age of 75. As part of the first generation of women to have lifelong careers, she doesn’t see the point of retiring or giving up travel or physical activity.

Jan Leeming

Jo Foley is also very grateful for a life of freedom, so unlike her mother’s generation. She describes the new and improved “normal” as: “In our 70s we shop at Zara, drink pisco sours, take slow boats along the Mekong and talk to ourselves without contradiction.” Jo then adds, “Did we ever think to thank our parents,” referring to the restricted life of marriage, children, staying home and growing old that she saw in previous generations.

Jo Foley

Older age groups growing younger are nothing new, however. Dr Martin Connolly, Freemason’s Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Auckland University, says that 90-somethings today are the same in terms of health and fitness as 70-somethings at the end of World War One. He describes meeting someone over 90 as “rare” thirty years ago, but common now. And despite his position, he struggles to pinpoint the age of someone over 90 by looking at them, even though he has an easy time of doing the same for someone under 90.

This may be because researchers have found that aging appears to stop at around 90 in humans (with a range of 80-100), and at different ages in other animals. It’s hard to get your head around, but we do have our own mechanisms of fighting key drivers of aging such as oxidative stress and inflammation, and the aim of this research is to keep those mechanisms strong.

Overall, these days, we don’t have as much to fear or put up with as we once thought, as times are changing in ways we didn’t previously expect.


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Is Metformin a Viable Anti-Aging Solution?

If you’re a longevity enthusiast, I’ve got some news for you. After all of these years, aging itself is on its way to be officially classified as a disease. Of course, it’s taken decades of improving life expectancy and survival rates due to better living standards and lifestyles, but it is most likely worth the wait.

Why?

This could mean that antiaging will be taken more seriously by the health industry and society as a whole, including insurance companies. It may also raise the value of prevention, instead of just waiting for health problems to appear or reach a certain level of severity before treatment.

So, What Happened Exactly?

Two years ago, researchers managed to convince the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a human lifespan study of metformin, which is currently used for blood sugar control. But it may end up being the first drug approved specifically to ‘treat’ aging.

The study, known as the TAME Study (Targeting Aging With Metformin) started up in 2016, aiming to enroll 3,000 people aged 70-80 and study the effects of metformin over 5-7 years. Everyone must be at risk of or have one or more of the following: cancer, heart disease, or dementia. If metformin can delay or prevent these and delay death, the next step is to test it in younger people.

But why Metformin?

High blood sugar and insulin resistance are key factors in aging and other complex, chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. But this is not the only way that metformin could fight aging. Metformin works by acting on an enzyme called AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), which regulates how cells process energy.

AMPK boosts metabolism, which may aid weight loss by burning more sugar and fat; it improves blood flow and body composition; it aids cell detoxification and renewal; and it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects.

On the other hand, unaddressed aging results in slowing metabolism and weight gain; muscle loss; poor circulation and detoxification, and a vicious cycle of inflammation.

Is Metformin Really the Best Solution to Aging?

Unfortunately, no. Aging is a complex ‘disease’ involving chronic inflammation, so health and longevity promoting strategies that target the whole person are likely to be far more effective. As it is multifactorial, focusing on one aspect of it is probably not the best strategy, as other complex, chronic diseases do not respond to this method.

Metformin is not without side effects, either. It has a black box warning for the rare-but-dangerous side effect of lactic acidosis, which is especially problematic in reduced kidney function. It may also be pro-inflammatory and increase production of beta-amyloid protein, which gets tangled in brain tissue as it accumulates and causes the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. If you want to use pharmaceutical drugs, aspirin is an anti-inflammatory AMPK activator.

So What Can We Do to Fight Aging?

There are natural antiaging therapies which also activate AMPK, without the side effects.

  • Intermittent fasting, where food intake is confined to 8-12 hours of the day, has been shown to promote longevity and fight age-related diseases.
  • Exercise not only keeps the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems strong, but also activates AMPK, especially in high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Cold water immersion, especially after exercise, also enhances AMPK.
  • There are also herbal remedies that can activate AMPK, such as Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Southern Ginseng). One human study involving diabetic patients found that this herb reduced haemoglobin A1c ten-fold, which measures the rate of glycation (a very pro-aging process). It also decreased insulin resistance by three-fold and did not cause dangerously low blood sugar. It has been used as a pro-longevity herb in some Chinese circles for hundreds of years, but only now do we know exactly how it works and how to best use it.

Read: 5 Anti-Aging Herbs to Slow the Aging Process

While metformin may be a promising treatment for aging, there are natural alternatives that could be far superior.

Sources:

GreenMedInfo

LifeExtension

Cell

Pubmed/27607453

Pubmed/4613459


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