The Search for Longevity
As a world-wide leader in aging research, the University of Washington has launched the Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute (HALo) to support new research initiatives and encourage collaboration by aging researchers. HALo aims to promote not just a long life but to extend ‘healthspan.’
“This paradigm-shifting approach, to focus on slowing the aging process and extending healthspan, could add another decade or two of healthy, productive life for most people,” states HALo’s website (www.uwhealthyaging.org).
Geroscience, the biology of aging, looks at the relationship between aging and age-related diseases. It works to extend healthspan by tackling the root causes of aging rather than attempting to cure the individual diseases associated with aging…to slow down the aging process before damage from disease occurs.
Many promising studies are looking at FDA approved drugs already on the market that seem to target a variety of metabolic pathways associated with aging. Some of these “anti-aging” drugs are currently in clinical trials to increase healthspan:
• It has been discovered that meformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, may also influence the processes underlying age-related conditions.
• Rapamycin, used to fight cancer and to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, also seems to prolong healthy lifespan in clinical trials.
• Some researchers believe that senoltyic therapies are just a few years away from delaying or preventing aging altogether. Senoltyic compounds include quercetin, which is a flavonoid found in fruits and vegetables.
• Nitric oxide supplements improve blood flow and “the aging process is all about blood flow,” said research scientist Nathan Bryan. He believes that restoring nitric oxide levels is vital to healthy aging. Supplements to boost nitric oxide in your system are already on the market. However, there are side effects associated with it, so only take this supplement under a doctor’s supervision.
With time, futuristic research that sounds like it is from a science fiction movie may become more fact than fiction:
• Research on stem cell therapy looks at replacing and repairing dead and damaged cells – even regrowing aging organs.
• In theory, gene therapy directly targets the causes of disease by turning on and off genes to combat aging.
• Nanotechnology works on the atomic level…one day, perhaps, nanorobots—incredibly small robots that work at the molecular level—may be released in your bloodstream to find and repair damage before you get sick.
Tried and True
It is true that the scientific community is offering ever more encouraging glimpses into slowing the hallmarks of aging. But whether or not breakthroughs in longevity science will someday offer a fountain of youth in a pill or a nanorobot, for now, your grandmother’s advice remains tried and true: In addition to the common sense goals of not smoking, limiting your alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight, dietary choices, exercise, social connectedness and being actively engaged in activities that are meaningful to you are your best bets for enjoying a long and healthy life.
Headlines in Healthy Aging
• Best diet for healthy aging – A diet rich in vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats is increasingly being recognized as the healthiest for your brain and body. This diet is known as the Mediterranean or the similar MIND diet (which adds a focus on leafy greens, berries and beans/ legumes to support your memory). The diet aims to eliminate fried foods and unhealthy fats, processed foods and refined carbohydrates like sugar and white bread. Scientific analysis of this approach to diet was published in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of Gerontology. The study says that these diets provide a balance that helps with energy levels, fiber for digestion, and rich nutrition to support your tissues and bones.