Ways to Improve Your Longevity Genes

Longevity

Humans are currently living longer than ever before.

With advancements in healthcare, technology, and knowledge, we have begun to work out what it takes to maintain health across the lifespan, thus enhancing longevity in the process.

Interestingly, there is some recent research indicating that longevity may not only be a result of your lifestyle habits, but also your longevity genes.

What are longevity genes?

Man and woman flexing

As their name so aptly suggests, longevity genes are just that – genes that have been linked to a longer lifespan.

It is important to note that the study of human genes is still very much a ‘developing science’. Although this last decade we have made some great strides when it comes to human gene identification, we still have a long way to go.

This is because genes do not work in isolation. It is therefore very unlikely that a single gene will ever be solely responsible for the onset of a certain disease, or a specific change in your body.

This is most likely dictated by the how several different genes interact with each other in response to a variety of environmental stimuli.

However, that is not to say that genes do not impact your lifespan.

In fact, it has been estimated that around 25% of the variation in human lifespan may be dictated by specific genetic factors (Martin, 2007; Sebastiani, 2017).

How do genes affect longevity?

As I alluded to above, several different genes have been linked to the aging process and an increase in longevity.

A gene called ABO, which ultimately determines your blood type has also been shown to impact upon disease prevention. Another called CDKN2B has been shown to regulate cell division, which is believed to play a role in cancer prevention. And there is one called, APOE, which is linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and an early death.

More recently, researchers have also stumbled across a gene called SIRT6 which appears to be responsible for more efficient DNA repair, and subsequently, a longer lifespan (Rochester, 2019).

While each of these genes work by different pathways, they ultimately affect longevity the same way – they help stave off cellular degradation and disease to keep you healthier, longer.

Related Article: Why people in “Blue Zones” Live longer

How to slow down the aging process?

Managing Chronic Pain

Now, it is important to note that if you have all the right longevity genes, that does not necessarily mean you are going to live a long time. Similarly, if you do not have any, that does not mean that you will die young.

In essence, your genes dictate how your body reacts to your environment. Even if you happen to win the genetic lottery and have the four gene variants mentioned above, you will not live a long time if your lifestyle is trash.

What it does mean is that if you choose to optimize your lifestyle, then you will probably live longer than someone without those genetic variations.

And of course, the reverse is also true.

Even if you miss out on those genetic variations, you can still slow down the aging process and optimize your health span by living a healthy life. To be honest, I would go as far to say that living a healthy lifestyle is the most important factor, whereas having good genes is just a bonus.

Which begs the question – how can you slow down the aging process?

How does exercise slow down aging

Manage Chronic Pain with Exercise

When it comes to holding off father time, exercise is integral (Gremeaux, 2012).

Aging is typified by several physical changes that impact upon your ability to function daily. These include declines in cardiovascular fitness, strength, endurance, lung capacity, neuromuscular control, balance, and coordination.

As these factors decline with age, they contribute to an increased risk of disease and illness, and a loss of independence – all of which can culminate into a much shorter lifespan.

In fact, evidence would indicate that regular physical activity is associated with a 30% reduction in all-cause mortality, no matter your age, occupation, gender, and ethnicity – which is pretty impressive if you ask me.

Now, when it comes to choosing the best exercise to slow down aging, it is not limited to just one (Pedersen, 2019).

It is well established that a combination of cardiovascular and resistance exercise will offer you the most benefits with regards to health and longevity.

Within this, you should strive to achieve a minimum of 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week – although ideally increasing this to above 300 minutes per week is believed to have even greater benefits,

Similarly, because weight training prevents many of the functional declines that occur with advanced age, you should strive for 2-3 weights training sessions per week. Try and build your program around core fundamental exercises like squats, lunges, deadlifts, presses, and rows, and you will be ticking all of the boxes.

Nutrition and aging

Woman eating pasta

In addition to exercise, what and how you eat can impact your longevity in a big way (Fontana, 2015).

Taking a simple view of it, eating too much (and too often) greatly increases weight accumulation and adiposity. Over time, this contributes to increased inflammation, and risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

All of which damage your cells, expediting the aging process.

Contrary to eating too much, consuming inadequate nutrients can also cause a loss of cellular function and decline in cell health. If unaddressed, this can contribute a variety of age-related diseases, while accelerating age related declines in mental and physical capacity.

All of which indicates that if you want to live as long as possible, you should avoid eating too much junk food, and build your diet around whole grains, vegetables, seeds, nuts, poultry, meat, and fruit.

Fasting and longevity

woman drinking water

And lastly, we have fasting.

Over the last few years we have seen intermittent fasting become all the rage amongst health enthusiasts as a way to improve health, promote weight loss, and promote longevity – and evidence would suggest that it is a worthwhile pursuit.

Research has indicated that fasting can improve the health and function of your cardiovascular and metabolic systems, and prevent cellular dysregulation. Combined, this means a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (Goldhamer, 2002; Horne, 2013; Brandhorst, 2016).

And this is the result of a cellular process known as autophagy (Bagherniya, 2018).

Autophagy describes the process by which old and damaged cells are broken down and used to create new healthy cells.

These cells function much better than their older counterparts, which improves health. Also, because they are ‘younger’, they are also less likely to become cancerous and start replicating uncontrollably.

With this in mind, when you fast, you starve your body of nutrients. To accommodate this lack of nutrients, your body then upregulates autophagy so that it can create new cells as normal, albeit by using old and damaged cells instead of nutrients from food.

By causing improvements in cell health throughout your body, fasting essentially slows down aging at a cellular level (Hansen, 2018).

Practically, this would suggest that if you want to live longer, practicing intermittent fasting daily would be a good idea. Similarly, partaking in 2-3 longer fasts (i.e. 2-5 days) per year might also be a good option.

Related Article: Prolonged Fasting for Health & Longevity

Takeaways

Your genes have an inherent impact on your susceptibility to disease and other age-related declines in health and function – but they do not work alone.

In fact, I would argue that your lifestyle plays an even bigger role.

With that in mind, taking control of your life and ensuring you are doing everything you can to optimize your health is integral to living as long as possible. So, what are you waiting for?

References

Martin, George M., Aviv Bergman, and Nir Barzilai. “Genetic determinants of human health span and life span: progress and new opportunities.” PLoS genetics 3.7 (2007): e125.

Sebastiani, Paola, et al. “Four genome-wide association studies identify new extreme longevity variants.” Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biomedical Sciences and Medical Sciences 72.11 (2017): 1453-1464.

University of Rochester. “‘Longevity gene’ responsible for more efficient DNA repair.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190423133511.htm>.

Gremeaux, Vincent, et al. “Exercise and longevity.” Maturitas 73.4 (2012): 312-317.

Pedersen, Bente Klarlund. “Which type of exercise keeps you young?.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 22.2 (2019): 167-173.

Fontana, Luigi, and Linda Partridge. “Promoting health and longevity through diet: from model organisms to humans.” Cell 161.1 (2015): 106-118.

Goldhamer, Alan C., et al. “Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of borderline hypertension.” The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 8.5 (2002): 643-650.

Horne, B. D., et al. “Randomized cross-over trial of short-term water-only fasting: metabolic and cardiovascular consequences.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 23.11 (2013): 1050-1057.

Brandhorst, Sebastian, and Valter D. Longo. “Fasting and caloric restriction in cancer prevention and treatment.” Metabolism in Cancer. Springer, Cham, 2016. 241-266.

Bagherniya, Mohammad, et al. “The effect of fasting or calorie restriction on autophagy induction: A review of the literature.” Ageing research reviews (2018).

Hansen, Malene, David C. Rubinsztein, and David W. Walker. “Autophagy as a promoter of longevity: insights from model organisms.” Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 19.9 (2018): 579-593.

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