According to the National Institutes of Health, those who were more than 90 years old increased by 2.5 times over a 30-year period from 1980 to 2010. What do these people have in common?
According to one study, they tend to have fewer chronic morbidities or diseases. Thus, they tend to have a better quality of life with greater physical functioning and mental acuity.
Factors that predict one’s ability to reach this exclusive club may involve both genetics and lifestyle choices.
We are told time and time again to exercise. But how can we get the best quality? In a 2014 study of 55,137 participants ranging in age from 18 to 100 years old, results showed that 5 to 10 minutes of daily running, regardless of the pace, can have a significant impact on life span by decreasing cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
Amazingly, even if participants ran only one to two days and fewer than six miles per week at a pace slower than 10-minute miles, there was still a decrease in mortality compared to non-runners. Here is the kicker: Those who ran for this very short amount of time potentially added three years to their life span.
A long-standing paradigm is that we need to eat sufficient animal protein. However, there have been cracks developing in this façade. In an observational study using NHANES III data, those who ate a high-protein diet (greater than 20 percent from protein) had a twofold increased risk of all-cause mortality, a four times increased risk of cancer mortality and a four times increased risk of dying from diabetes.
This was over a considerable duration of 18 years and involved almost 7,000 participants aged 50 to 65 at the study’s start.
However, this did not hold true if the protein source was plants. In fact, a high-protein plant diet may reduce the risks, not increase them. The reason, according to the authors, is that animal protein may increase insulin growth factor-1 and growth hormones that have detrimental effects on the body.
The Adventists Health Study 2 trial reinforced this data. It looked at Seventh-day Adventists, a group that emphasizes a plant-based diet, and found that those who ate animal protein up to once a week had a significantly reduced risk of dying over the next six years compared to those who were more frequent meat eaters.
This was an observational trial with over 73,000 participants and a median age of 57 years old.
In the Whitehall II study, a specific marker for inflammation was measured, interleukin-6. The study showed that higher levels did not bode well for participants’ longevity. If participants had elevated IL-6, their probability of healthy aging decreased by almost half.
IL-6 is a relatively common biomarker for inflammation that can be measured with a simple blood test. This study involved 3,044 participants over age 35 who did not have a stroke, heart attack or cancer at the beginning of the study.
The bottom line: although genetics are important for longevity, so too are lifestyle choices. A small amount of exercise, specifically running, can lead to a substantial increase in healthy life span.
Protein from plants may trump protein from animal sources in reducing the risk of mortality. This does not necessarily mean that one needs to be a vegetarian to see the benefits.
IL-6 may be a useful marker for inflammation, which could help predict outcomes. Therefore, why not have a discussion with your doctor about testing to see if you have elevated IL-6? Lifestyle adjustments may be able to reduce these levels.
For further information, visit medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.