The 100-Year Life

Last year, The Guardian’s Amelia Hill explored the world of longevity research and found that living to 100 will soon become “a routine fact of life.”

Centenarians, even supercentenarians—those living to at least 110—are being studied across the globe to understand what contributes to their remarkably long lives. The verified longest-lived person in the world was Jeanne Calment of France, who was 122 years, 164 days old when she died in 1997. Longevity researchers predict that someone may soon break this record.

With advances in technology assisting how our bodies function, along with support for daily living activities that help to maintain quality of life, the population of supercentenarians seems to be on the rise. Some research predicts that more than half the babies born in wealthy countries since 2000 will live to 100.

While many studies on human lifespan point to a natural upper limit of 125 years, some scientists— perhaps those with a sci-fi bent— predict that vastly longer lives are possible. These prognosticators look to the use of stem cells and genetic manipulation techniques as major contributors in the search for the fountain of youth.

For now, scientists focus on lifestyle factors to maximize your healthy lifespan—with “healthy” being the key focus. As you’ve heard over and over, diet and exercise are the keys to healthy aging. Add to that the need for restful sleep, social engagement and maintaining activities that bring meaning into your life.

Research consistently points to intermittent fasting or calorie restriction as slowing down the aging process. Easier said than done! However, studies show that drugs such as metformin, which increases insulin sensitivity, and Acarbose, which alters how carbohydrates are digested (both used to treat type 2 diabetes), may mimic calorie restriction without the restriction. Other promising contenders of FDA-approved drugs that may slow the aging process include rapamycin, used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. These drugs may reduce cancer, diminish heart disease, improve cognition and other age-related conditions; they may very well become routine prescriptions for general wellness in the future.

Reading through the headlines of Longevity news this past year shows several articles discussing the vital roles of diet and exercise in healthy aging. But these headlines will also reveal advice such as maintaining optimum levels of vitamin D, taking probiotics and eating more mushrooms (they fight inflammation, boost the immune system, support brain health and help maintain blood sugar levels, among other benefits). One article stresses the importance of adding the “master antioxidant”—glutathione, which declines with age—to your diet. You can boost glutathione by eating certain foods in their raw, unprocessed form: fruits such as melons, lemons, bananas, grapefruit, peaches mangoes and strawberries; vegetables such as asparagus, cucumbers, bell peppers, cauliflower, garlic and spinach; eggs and whey protein. Minimize your exposure to pollution and synthetic cleaning agents since they can reduce your body’s levels of glutathione.

Another line of research points to the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for treating age-related diseases, and possibly even reversing the aging process itself. A study from Tel Aviv University showing the potential for aging-reversal was published in the journal Aging in November 2020. The scientists associated with the study point to the need for further research on this promising front.

Interestingly, Northwest Prime Time’s article on alternatives to opioids for pain management point to many of the same factors— notably exercise and a healthy diet—as do longevity studies. Following the tried-and-true-advice of grandmothers of old will not only help you to manage chronic pain but will assist you in your goal of achieving long-lived health.

In the words of Star Trek’s Spock, live long and prosper.