We are all inundated with many opinions about how to best improve health and slow the aging process. However, not all of this well-intentioned advice is based on strong evidence or adequate research. It is my job to separate truth from fiction and follow the science so that I can distill this information into usable protocols for my patients. Fortunately, the science is rapidly growing in the field of anti-aging and longevity medicine. To this end, I have composed a list of evidence-based, scientifically validated methods of improving one’s odds of living longer, stronger, and smarter while lowering the risk of developing chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, brain diseases, and cancer. Quick, easy, and cheap ways to improve health and longevity defines a “health hack”. This is opposed to complicated, laborious, and difficult methods that few can follow. A health hack is likely to be more easily incorporated into anyone’s life and is sustainable due to its ease of application. Health hacks are, in essence, short-cuts that actually work to improve health, happiness, brain function, and even appearance, without having to invest in expensive equipment or obtain any special skills. We can all do this! I have included leading experts in some of the fields so that you can look deeper into each health hack if you so wish. The others have too many experts to list. Here is the list:
1. The 4-minute work-out: This routine works all 16 major muscle groups and uses nitric oxide production for muscle growth, lowering of blood pressure, improving immune function, thinning of the blood, and improving organ and brain oxygenation. In those few minutes you can get the same benefits as if you’d worked out in the gym for an hour. Developed by Dr. Zach Bush, this easy to incorporate resistance training program will increase nitric oxide, blood flow, brain function, heart and blood vessel health, plus build muscle tone and bone strength. Exercise improves mood, memory, self-esteem, sense of well-being, brain power, and stability which reduces the risk of falls and fractures in aging while improving mobility and self-care. Designed to be completed 3 times daily with at least 2 hours between each session, this is an easy way to reap great benefits even if exercise is not your favorite thing to do! (www.zachbushmd.com).
2. Intermittent fasting/Eating less: Dr. Jason Fung has gathered and synthesized all of the science on this topic. Fasting offers great benefits for weight loss in those who are overweight as well as for reversing Type 2 Diabetes. It also benefits any inflammatory conditions, autoimmune diseases, and cancer, as well as aiding in prevention of almost all chronic illnesses. Three-day water fasts prior to chemotherapy sessions will improve the effectiveness of the chemo as well as significantly decrease the side effects. Dr. Fung explains the various fasting regimens from daily intermittent fasting to alternate day and extended fasting in his new book “The Complete Guide to Fasting”. The concept of fasting often causes people to worry about extreme agony from hunger, but in truth, this rarely happens, and in actuality fasting is pretty easy once you wrap your mind around it, set your intention, and prepare ahead. Longer fasts should be medically supervised.
3. Clean eating and avoiding glyphosate, plastics, and other toxins: Good resources for this are the Environmental Working Group (EWG.org), Dr. Zack Bush (documentary “Farmer’s Footprint”), and Dr. Joseph Pizzorno (book “The Toxin Solution”). I encourage every individual to learn as much as you can on this subject so that we can all make better personal, social, and political choices. Key concepts are to avoid grains particularly the gluten grains since we were never equipped to digest grains and they tend to be loaded with glyphosate (Round-up); avoid processed seed and vegetable oils; avoid sugar and processed foods; eat plenty of healthy fats and oils as well as regular protein; consume vegetables that grow above ground particularly the organic cruciferous and leafy green varieties. Visit www.dietdoctor.com to determine the level of carbohydrate in your diet. Aim for less than 50 grams daily, and in some cases less than 20 grams daily for optimal weight loss, blood sugar control, lowering of inflammation and chronic diseases, and optimal brain functioning.
4. Protective nutrients (Orthomolecular Medicine): Dr. Thomas Levy, Dr. Linus Pauling, and The Riordan Clinic, are amongst many outstanding researchers in this field (www.isom.ca and www.riordanclinic.org) Certain nutrients are found to be deficient in most people when population studies are conducted. These nutrients are vital to metabolism, energy, hormone and neurotransmitter balance, immune health, and connective tissue health. Therefore, they help prevent disease and are vital in treating most diseases. The most well studied and relevant nutrients in general are Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Omega-3 fatty acids, Magnesium, and the B-Vitamin family. Minerals may also be deficient and improving trace mineral status has many health benefits. Individual assessments will help guide you to your own unique requirements.
5. Nature Therapy: Spending time in a natural environment has many health benefits. Practices such as earthing which streams electrons from the earth into the body, exposure to natural light, looking at green in nature, hearing natural sounds such as water trickling and birds chirping, and smelling natural fragrances, all contribute to good health. The mental/emotional impacts include lowered levels of worry, anxiousness, sadness, plus enhanced focus, cognition, memory, and joy. The sun’s rays keep our biological systems running optimally from our eyesight to our sleep rhythm, our immune health, and even our risk or cancer occurrence. Nature nurtures all of our senses and the more time we can spend in a natural environment the more relaxed, calm, and centered we tend to be.
6. Sleep well: Sleep is incredibly therapeutic, allowing the body and mind to rest, detoxify, and regenerate. Restful and deep sleep is critical for brain health and for preventing dementia. Sleep in a dark, cool, quiet space. The brain needs to cool down and rest in order to cleanse itself of amyloid plaques that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. If you do not sleep well consider taking melatonin starting at 3mg before bed and increasing the dose weekly if needed to a maximum of 40mg. Melatonin is released from the pituitary when darkness occurs each night. However, this process is disturbed in many people and replacing the missing melatonin may be key to a good restful sleep. 7. Worry less: Rumination (the replaying of stressful events or worrisome thoughts in our minds) tells our body to be in high alert and releases stress hormones. This essentially shuts down our rest, repair, and regenerative functioning – and all for nothing! Its just our thoughts creating a scary movie. So, trust and know that you are safe and well looked after. It’s a beautiful life and living in awe and appreciation of it will fill you with healing hormones and turn on the processes that keep your body healthy and fit.
8. Choose your emotions: Yes, this can be done. Through various relaxation and mindfulness exercises, we all have the ability to increase our emotional setpoint. At any given time, we can choose to elevate our mood through our feelings and thoughts. With practice, this elevated mood will be sustained over time and improve our outlook on life, our health, our sense of control over our lives, and every other aspect of health and wellbeing imaginable.
9. Hydrotherapy: This ancient therapy comes in many forms which all involve water. A quick daily hack is to have a cold shower after a hot bath or shower. This leads to a cascade of health benefits such as weight loss, reduced inflammation, an improved immune system, improved sleep and energy, balanced hormones, and the production of endorphins which make us feel great and reduce pain. (see Wim Hof for more on this incredible therapy)
10. Balance hormones: Our average lifespan has increased, but in general, our quality of life has declined in our advancing years. Partly this is due to the hormone drop that occurs after about the age of 50. By maintaining adequate hormone levels, our brains and bodies are more protected from the harmful effects of aging than they would be otherwise. Adrenal, thyroid, and sex hormones provide a broad spectrum of benefits that can generally be termed “anti-aging”. Not only are balanced hormones anti-aging but in general they are anti-disease also. Considering testing your hormones and replacing them with safe, protective bio-identical hormones.