I'm A Performance & Longevity Doctor: 3 Underrated Hacks For A Longer Life
Longevity dominates the health and well-being conversation—you can find numerous tips and tricks for a longer life (and you can bet we've covered them all!). Although, because there are so many hacks to consider, it raises the question: Which techniques give you the best return on investment? Or in other words: How do you get the most bang for your buck with longevity?
Performance doctor Kien Vuu, M.D., author of Thrive State: Your Blueprint for Optimal Health, Longevity, and Peak Performance, is here to help: On this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, he discusses the longevity hacks that are actually worth your time and hard-earned dollar. Below, we've highlighted a few of his favorites that don't cost a dime:
You've likely heard it once or twice before: Your body's fight-or-flight response is necessary for your survival, but in our modern society, it gets activated way too often. "We get alerted so easily, whether it be somebody leaving a comment you don't like on your Instagram or somebody cutting you off on the freeway," says Vuu. "You're telling your body there's a saber-toothed tiger behind you, and if you think that there's a saber-toothed tiger behind you the majority of your day, you're going to increase inflammatory markers."
There isn't one way to magically eliminate your stress (these tips can help you get started, if you need some inspiration), but Vuu recommends finding the stress-relieving strategies that work best for you. You might even want to invest in a tracker that measures your heart rate variability, which is a metric that reflects your stress levels1. "Heart rate variability is a marker for a parasympathetic state," says Vuu. "The greater variance you have in your heart rate variability, the more connected you are to your parasympathetic [nervous system, and we want that because parasympathetic is really a state of healing."
I use my Whoop to track my HRV, but whatever wearable you choose (if any), make sure you don't stress yourself out trying to reach a specific number. "That ultimately defeats the purpose if you're getting more stressed by looking at your numbers," says Vuu.
OK, we just discussed how too much stress can impede longevity—but a little bit of stress is actually a very good thing. "If we're able to stress our bodies a little bit, our bodies tend to respond in such a way that makes us better," says Vuu.
It's a concept called hormesis: Short, intermittent bursts of certain stressors (called "hormetic stressors") that can trigger a cascade of cellular processes that make you more resilient to future physical and mental stress, thus enhancing longevity. "For example, when we fast, we stress our bodies, and it turns on these pathways, namely autophagy, where we clean up all the intracellular junk in our bodies and renew them. "We know that has led to longevity. When we expose ourselves to extreme heat or cold, there are benefits to our bodies," notes Vuu.
Feel free to read all the ways to micro-stress your body here, and learn how to practice cold plunges in the comfort of your own home.
When we asked Vuu how to get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of longevity, he responded with a practice that's 100% free: building awareness. "If you can build more awareness in your life and have a tactical pause before you do anything, you can direct the life that you want to live," he states.
Allow him to explain: "People are a little bit hypnotized [by] this matrix of how they're living life, and that way of living is really creating disease," he adds. "When we're able to take a tactical pause and say, 'Oh man, I'm craving that cookie right now, but that's not really good for me. Can I drink some sparkling water instead? Can I go for a walk instead? Boom. You've just made a decision toward your health."
Basically, it's all too easy to coast through life on autopilot, simply acting upon what we've learned from society, our parents, etc. But if you can break out of that cycle and really think about the decisions you're making, you can ultimately make better choices for your health. "Create that space, because in that space is who you create yourself to be…in our relationships, our health, and in our businesses," Vuu continues. And as we mentioned, creating consciousness is completely free of charge.
If you'd like to focus on a few avenues for longevity, Vuu says stressing your body (just not too much!) and implementing self-awareness can give you a lot of bang for your buck. Make sure to tune in to the full episode to hear more of his longevity-enhancing tricks—plus, some up-and-coming fancy therapies you should have on your radar—but these free hacks can certainly help you get started.
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.