What is Longevity?
Longevity is a term that comes from the Latin word longaevitas, meaning longus (long) and aevum (age). It can be defined by several terms such as long life, a great duration of life, or simply the amount of time someone lives. Longevity is a field of medicine that guides us on how to live healthier and longer. Its main objective is not only to prolong an individual’s lifespan, but also to ensure we live active, productive, and healthy lives even as we age. However, there is a common misunderstanding that the longevity field is concentrated entirely on the extension of lifespan. In reality, longevity is a combination of your state of health and lifespan. Hence, if you live beyond the average life expectancy of about 80 years in good health, you could be classified as having longevity.
What are the Factors that Affect Your Longevity?
Longevity or the duration of human life is a complex interplay of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. These three factors influence the body at a molecular and cellular level. Our genetic code is written into every cell of the body and can determine our risk for certain conditions and disorders, both physical and mental. Studies have continued to discover connections between our genetic profiles and our probability of developing health issues, from heart attack and breast cancer to obesity, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Nonetheless, this is only half the story. Our lifestyle and the environment we live in can directly influence our genetics and many other components at a cellular level. Every day that we live we are accumulating damage at a molecular and cellular level due to our environment and lifestyle. As the damage accumulates, our bodies start to change and we start to experience the side effects of age, such as loss of energy, hair graying, aches and pains, and reduced healing. Hence, practicing healthy behaviors and attitudes is crucial to challenge these limiting factors and achieve the goal of longevity.
What are the Diagnostics Involved with Longevity?
Keeping track of your body provides insights into how you can promote a healthier life and manage your aging process. Some of the diagnostic approaches used to achieve this include:
- Genetic Screening: Genetic screening is employed to genetically express the risks you have for having certain disorders. Scientists have discovered several likely life-shortening genetic variants. These genetic risk variants may increase the likelihood of particular disorders such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer. If you have these variants, you should take additional precautions and focus on a healthy lifestyle early in life to alleviate adverse outcomes.
- Epigenetic clocks: In addition to the genome that you inherit from your parents, there is the epigenome. The epigenome controls the expression of genes by specific mechanisms. Epigenetic clocks are designed to target the epigenetic areas that control age-related disorders.
- Physiological Measurements: Several changes occur in the cells as you age. Some of these changes are microscopic result in modifications in the cell and have many consequences on physiological levels. Some of these physiological tests used to quantify health include:
- Heart rate variability: As you age, a change in heart rate variability finally becomes related to heart failure. As a result, any aging intervention for the heart should indicate a return to more youthful patterns.
- Pulse wave velocity for cardiovascular aging: As you age, arteries stiffen and the capacity of the heart to expand is drastically reduced. Tonometry (eye pressure test) and electrocardiogram should be tested.
- Vital lung capacity (VO2 max): Lung function reduces with age, declining exercise capacity. It can be measured with spirometry and plethysmography.
- Visceral fat accumulation: Visceral fat builds up more with age and is connected to all-cause mortality in several studies, particularly cardiovascular health.
- Grip strength and mortality: There is a strong correlation between decreased grip strength and mortality, as evaluated in several studies. Grip strength correlates with mortality and specific disorders such as general frailty and cardiovascular issues. It has become a "gold standard" in geriatric medicine and should be tested before and after any aging intervention.
What are the Ways to Improve Your Longevity?
As per the specific biomarkers indicated in diagnostic testing, you can go beyond your life expectancy and maximize your longevity by changing your lifestyle and following certain approaches. These approaches include:
- Good sleep pattern: A good sleep cycle is crucial to heal your body after a day-long activity, as well as regulate cell function. Hence, having a consistent and regular sleeping pattern is of utmost importance. Therefore, you should follow a specific time to sleep and wake up every day. Sleeping duration is also crucial. Sleeping too much or too little may reduce your longevity.
- Eat healthy plant foods: Your food habits might be of crucial importance to better longevity. Several studies indicate eating plant-based food to a reduced risk of death. It also reduces the risk of several diseases such as cancer, heart disease, brain deterioration, and depression. This protective function of plants can be ascribed to high levels of antioxidants found in them, which include folate, carotenoids, polyphenols, and vitamin C.
- Nurture social life: You can live up to 50 percent longer with a healthy social network. It has been discovered that having just three social ties can reduce your premature death risk by more than 200 percent. Having a healthy and strong social circle is connected to reduced stress, which explains the positive effect of social life on longevity.
- Regular exercise: Exercising regularly is one of the most critical elements for health and longevity, irrespective of age. There are several positive effects of exercise. They impact almost every aspect of the brain and the body by reducing the risk for diseases, preventing, and treating, including non-communicable and, in specific, cardiovascular disorders. It may take as little as 15 minutes of exercise every day to accomplish many benefits like an additional 3 years of life.
Substantial research has been carried out to prove that the longevity of humans can be increased with appropriate interventions. Effective strategies include a healthy diet, proper sleep schedule, physical activity, socializing, and several others. In addition, preventive care, regular check-ups, and tests can help you stay healthy and live longer.