The 3 Hormones This Longevity Expert Wants You To Focus On For Healthy Aging
It's a question longevity experts know all too well: What are the biomarkers for healthy aging? After all, many age-related conditions don't just appear out of the blue one day—they silently bubble up for years below the surface. That's why experts recommend taking a look underneath the hood once in a while, just to make sure everything is running smoothly.
So which biomarkers does Gil Blander, Ph.D., internationally recognized biologist, longevity expert, and founder of InsideTracker, recommend? "You have some hormones that are very important," he says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
Three, to be specific. Here, Blander breaks down each one:
We'll start with the big one: According to Blander (and other experts would agree), it's important to keep your cortisol levels low. See, when your cortisol is constantly sky-high, it can have a ton of consequences—namely, chronic stress, inflammation, poor sleep, weight gain, and more. "It starts to get into a vicious cycle of problems that you may start accumulating," he explains.
And, says Blander, cortisol can affect muscle mass—since a huge component of healthy aging means keeping your bones and muscles strong, this is important to note. "Cortisol is a hormone that's catabolic," he notes. "So cortisol that's too high can cut your muscle and basically break it down."
Testosterone is also crucial for building muscle, says Blander. "It's an anabolic hormone," he notes, which means it stimulates muscle growth. Plus, when it's low, it's linked to a plethora of age-related concerns: According to one study, testosterone insufficiency in older men is associated with increased risk of death from heart disease. "There is also a strong correlation between levels of testosterone and age [itself]," Blander adds. "Every male, every year, loses between 1 and 2% of his testosterone levels during his life span. So if your testosterone stays higher, you are theoretically younger compared to your peers."
Admittedly, much of the research on low testosterone has been done on men (women have naturally lower levels of the hormone already, and doctors don't always have the same treatments for insufficient levels). But according to Blander, testosterone is important—for both genders—when it comes to its ratio with cortisol. (Again, cortisol can break down muscles.) "We need to find a way to make testosterone the highest possible, naturally, and then make the cortisol the lowest possible. Then you have a better way to build muscle." (Pro tip: A nutrient-dense diet rich in healthy fats—like a ketogenic diet—can help optimize testosterone levels.)
3. Vitamin D
You're probably thinking: Why is the sunshine vitamin on this hormone list? Well, "Vitamin D is also considered to be a hormone," says Blander. In fact, vitamin D is a hormone essential for nearly every single bodily function—from regulating the production of thyroid hormones to managing inflammation to helping the immune system adapt and ward off infection. And speaking of the immune system, some research has shown that vitamin D could help manage the risk of COVID-19 (but much more is needed before we can assert a clear connection).
Nonetheless, "There is a lot of evidence, especially from the COVID era, that shows vitamin D is super important," Blander says. Better yet? "Vitamin D is something that's so easy to do, [sometimes] just one supplement a day. So it's a no-brainer."
There's much you can do to optimize your health span as you age, but according to Blander, keeping track of these three hormones is key. Consider them the trifecta of biomarkers for healthy aging.
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