How to Die Young at a Very Old Age

& Other Longevity Updates

Dr. Nir Barzilai has become well-known for his presentations on “How to Die Young at a Very Old Age.” He is the founding director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Dr. Barzilai’s research targets aging itself rather than the diseases that are associated with growing old. He believes that slowing down the aging process will substantially delay onset of diseases associated with old age. This approach may allow an increase in the length of life AND the quality of life – staying more youthful as you grow old.

According to Dr. Barzilai, current pharmaceuticals already approved by the FDA (and which in low doses have few side effects) offer tools targeting multiple pathways of aging. Three such drugs studied to delay the effects of aging include metformin, Acarbose—both used for treatment of type 2 diabetes— and rapamycin, used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. It is believed that these drugs may reduce age-related conditions such as inflammation and oxidation, and influence factors that underlie multiple age-related conditions. New research published last month by the Texas Biomedical Research Institute showed that a combination of metformin and Acarbose showed promise in slowing the aging process. Metformin increases insulin sensitivity. Acarbose alters how carbohydrates are digested. Together their activity mimics calorie restriction, an intervention that has shown to increase longevity in early studies.

A locally based research project is studying rapamycin. The University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project is working to understand and increase the healthy lifespan of dogs. So far, the results are encouraging; the implications offer a tantalizing glimpse into increasing longevity in humans.

The Dog Aging Project is headed by Drs. Daniel Promislow and Matt Kaeberlein. They believe it is reasonable to someday expect a potential increase in the healthy lifespan by 30 percent or more and that adding these extra years are within reach today. At least in dogs. But they believe the results will translate into longevity guidelines for humans.

Lifespan is affected by hundreds of genes and environmental factors. The Dog Aging Project studies these interactions and looks at the underlying mechanisms of aging. Importantly, the project also looks at how to intervene and manipulate the mechanisms of aging to slow it down by using rapamycin.

Studies are raising optimism that these and other drugs may reduce cancer, heart disease improve cognition other age-related conditions.

While you may not be able to pick up a longevity pill at your local drugstore anytime soon, within 10 years it is possible that answers from current research will begin to reveal themselves.

In the meantime, follow the formula that offers a longevity prescription with proven results: a healthy diet, keeping fit, social engagement and maintaining activities that bring meaning into your life. Promislow says: “If someone discovered a pill that could make people live on average five years longer, that person would become very rich. But in this country, if everyone had an optimum diet, exercise regime and social network…in that sense we already have a ‘pill,’ but it takes some effort to take it!”

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