Searching for the Fountain of Youth

The hunt is on for the Fountain of Youth! This past year has seen exciting research studies focusing on extending lifespans—or at the very least on how to enjoy more years while maintaining health and vigor well into old age.

These studies range from looking at six specific plant extracts that delay the onset of age-related diseases (at least in yeast!), to boosting a known detoxification compound to prevent the metabolic declines associated with aging, to a new drug that works to remove damaged cells in the body (damaged cells are thought to be one of the root causes of age-related disease). Metformin, a drug to control blood sugar, is being studied in longevity research. The drug rapamycin, which has been used for years to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients, is showing great promise in a study at the University of Washington extending the life of dogs!

However, the promise of anti-aging treatments from these studies may not be available for many years to come. As tantalizing as taking a pill or injection to combat aging may sound, research continues to point to lifestyle choices as offering tangible anti-aging results…and these proven lifestyle choices can start today!

People around the world are already living much longer than our ancestors. The upbeat findings from a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society indicate that those extra years could well be healthy ones. The study showed that the onset of illness came decades later in life for centenarians than for their younger counterparts.

“Most people struggle with an ever-increasing burden of disease and disability as they age,” said study leader Nir Barzilai, MD, professor of medicine and of genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “But we found that those who live exceptionally long lives have the additional benefit of shorter periods of illness – sometimes just weeks or months – before death.” Their analysis revealed a consistent pattern of delayed onset of age-related illness for the centenarian groups in the study.

Florida State University researcher Dawn Carr points to studies that reveal a few tips to improve our chances of becoming a centenarian. She pays particular attention to the idea of “successful aging,” or the ways that people can continue to lead fulfilling, emotionally satisfying lives as they get older.

“The ultimate goal is to set people up for having a good life for as long as possible in ways that are meaningful and productive,” said Carr. “Anti-aging is a movement that views youth as the best state of being,” she added. “It’s focused on the idea that good agers are those who look, act and seem young.” Conversely, the idea of successful aging is based on the notion that getting older can be a healthy and positive process — that it can yield its own unique experiences and outlooks. Proponents of successful aging ideas argue that, with adequate and deliberate preparation, late-adulthood can be a time of increased self-actualization.

Carr offered a few basic tips for becoming a successful ager. Yes, it’s the same age-old advice your wise grandmother may have shared with you when you were a kid:

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