7 MDs & Longevity Experts Share Their Top Tips For Healthy Aging
While growing older is a natural part of life, there's often a negative connotation attached to aging. And that's certainly doing it a disservice. In fact, there are plenty of ways to get healthier as each year passes. We rounded up some of the best advice mbg has received on healthy aging, from functional medicine doctors, researchers, and longevity experts:
Eat nutrient-rich foods (even weird ones).
It may seem obvious that eating a diverse diet, rich in nutrients, is important for overall health. But to take it one step further, family physician Cate Shanahan, M.D., recommends eating organ meats to promote longevity.
While it may not be your first pick for dinner, Shanahan explains during a mindbodygreen podcast episode, that organ meat is a good source of iron; the brain-supporting nutrient choline; vitamins D and B; and zinc. Aside from the dense nutritional profile, organ meat has been around for centuries, and our ancestors used to eat it. "Your genes need traditional food," Shanahan says. "We should feed our genes what they expect, what they evolved on."
Get plenty of Vitamin D.
Amid all the buzz about COVID-19 and vitamin D, it may seem like an appropriate time to talk to your doctor about adding the supplement to your routine. Regardless of the pandemic, though, Steven Gundry, M.D., heart surgeon and bestselling author of The Longevity Paradox: How To Die Young at a Ripe Old Age, says vitamin D is an important nutrient for longevity.
"Human beings with the highest vitamin D levels have the longest telomeres," Gundry said during an mbg podcast interview, "and people with the lowest vitamin D levels have the [shortest] telomeres." What are telomeres exactly? Research calls them protective structures, which have been proved to protect cellular DNA from aging1.
Never stop learning.
Challenging the mind, rather than becoming apathetic later in life, may lower the probability of developing dementia, a Neurology study found.
Integrative neurologist Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., recommends learning something new every month to keep the brain sharp. This could include reading a book, she says, "but consider learning a language2, taking up a new sport, or learning how to play an instrument."
Keep your body moving.
Staying active, even if it's just a short walk each day, helps to support physical functionality and mental health throughout the years. While intense exercise such as HIIT may improve longevity, taking time each day to walk is also a great option, associate professor of genetics and genomic sciences Joel Dudley, Ph.D., previously told mbg.
Get high-quality sleep.
If the immediate effects of poor sleep (sluggishness, lack of focus, and more) are so apparent, just imagine how it might be affecting you down the line. "Sleep is the most important thing you can do for aging," functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, M.D., once told mbg.
Not just any sleep, though. Restorative sleep is key here. According to Lipman, restorative sleep helps activate the glymphatic system, which helps remove waste from the central nervous system and helps balance blood sugar (which is another component of healthy aging).
Managing or reducing stress can usually add more years to someone's life3, and turns out, it also helps promote skin longevity.
"We all know that stress is an inevitable part of life and arises when we are under mental, physical, or emotional pressure that we perceive exceeds our ability to adapt to it," holistic dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D., told mbg. "This results in a wide range of physiologic and immune reactions that can trigger or exacerbate skin conditions," she adds.
Stay socially connected.
The importance of a social support system has become striking throughout the course of the pandemic. Along with the evident impact friendships have on mental health, they're also a tool, used by centenarians in the Blue Zones, to promote longevity. "Nobody thinks of longevity as adding friends," longevity expert Dan Buettner previously said. "But really putting the effort into creating that group of four or five people who really nourish you is arguably the most powerful thing you can do to add years to your life."
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.