Did you know that only 10% of disease is caused by our genes? The remaining 90% is caused by environmental factors, including the environment you create with your lifestyle choices.
This means that we have a major level of control over our healthspan, and the way in which we age, both on the inside and outside. Epigenetics is continuing to reveal strategies for us to leverage the best of our DNA through lifestyle choices, even turning certain genes on and off.
Why? Sleep is the number 1 pillar when it comes to healthspan – it affects so many aspects of our well-being – from hormonal health to detoxification, mental health and weight management.
Sleep allows your glymphatic system to ‘spring clean’ your brain and nervous system. While you’re asleep, your other bodily processes are not as active as they are during the day, allowing glymphatic activity to take priority, removing waste products from your brain and nervous system, and encouraging brain health. Top tip: your glymphatic system functions best when you sleep on your side.
Sleep helps manage hormones and keep them balanced.
- Melatonin and cortisol are the two major hormones involved in our circadian rhythm. Disrupting these can have negative effects on thousands of genes, which in turn can affect our healthspan.
- Growth hormone is released shortly after the onset of sleep. It’s involved in our energy processes – powering us with consistent, clean energy throughout the day. It’s also involved in belly fat along with the hormones insulin and cortisol, and keeping your muscle mass as you age. There are people who take growth hormone injections for its benefits – however this isn’t necessary – you can reset growth hormone through lifestyle changes, such as good sleep hygiene.
Why? Ageing begins in the muscles, and is characterised by a progressive loss of muscle mass and muscle strength. Depletion of skeletal muscle mitochondria is also thought to be linked to damage to DNA, proteins and lipids.
One of the most important parts of lengthening healthspan is taking care of your muscles, and building and maintaining muscle mass and strength. Research shows that HIIT is the best form of exercise for our bodies – it mimics the way our ancestors moved: short bursts of high-intensity activities followed by a moderate pace – and seldom any form of chronic cardio, which raises cortisol, in turn causing wear and tear and injury.
HIIT generally comprises of a workout that alternates between exercising at maximum effort for 45 – 60 seconds, and then recovering for 3 minutes of active rest (such as a slow jog or walk on the spot.)
Benefits of HIIT
- DNA – assists with healthy gene expression by mobilising thousands of genes that help stimulate healthspan.
- Heart and brain – not only is it good for our heart and brain cells, it slows down the ageing of these organs too.
- Hormones – exercise is can be a great tool or tricking the brain into ignoring the hormonal cues of aging.
- Skin – microcirculation and changes in blood flow can promote a more youthful appearance – and we’ve all had that sweaty, youthful glow after a good workout!
- Helps control blood sugar – your blood sugar rises as you get older, HIIT is a great way to increase glucose metabolism in muscles.
- Increases HGH production – human growth hormone is a key biochemical that promotes health and longevity, and burns belly fat. Conventional cardio doesn’t boost your HGH level.
- Mood-boosting effects – Exercise is a really effective mood-booster
3. Myofascial release
Why? Habitual tension can build up in our muscles and fascia, and it’s important to release this, to keep our bodies moving pain-free for years to come. It also helps promote body symmetry and alignment.
Fascia is the connective tissue that appears throughout our bodies – keeping it healthy is essential because it surrounds so many parts of our body.
Incorporating a daily practice of myofascial release is an investment in your future physique: try stretching for 10 minutes a day, yoga, pilates or massage. Roll out your tight spots with a foam roller or tennis ball.
4. Vagal tone
Why? The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body – it’s involved in stress response and gut function, amongst other things. When your vagus nerve isn’t performing optimally it can impact your health and could speed up the ageing process.
The vagus nerve can be shut down by an over-active stress response. Anxiety, gut issues, poor satiety, overactive hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and difficulty tuning into mindfulness practices are just a few of the problems that can be experienced with a low-performing vagus nerve.
Learning how to activate and reset this nerve can help calm your body down and manage stress, plus improve your gut function.
How to increase vagal tone
- Deep belly breaths. Slow, rhythmic breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
- Humming. The vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. Hum a song, or repeat the yoga sound ‘OM’.
- Meditation. Especially focusing on elevated emotions will promote feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others.
- Connect with others. Speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
Why? New studies reveal that gum disease is a big risk factor for Alzheimer’s and memory glitches.
Gum disease triggers inflammation in the body, inflammation is linked to the stiffening of the blood vessels, stiffened blood vessels are linked to a risk of greater memory problems.
Flossing regularly is vital for healthspan because it removes the bacteria that cause that inflammation. Aim for twice a day, three times if possible, with regular visits to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned – at least twice per year.
Why? Saunas have been proven to improve gene expression, including activating longevity gene FOX03.
There are so many benefits sauna use apart from increasing longevity – relaxation, pain relief, it also increases in heart rate and vasodilation occurs – it’s almost like a mild form of exercise!
Why? Berberine can helps control insulin, in turn helping women with weight gain around the waist and back (a clear sign of insulin resistance/ prediabetes) in adjunct to a healthy lifestyle.
Used for 1000’s of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, berberine is a bioactive compound found in several plants.
It increases glucose uptake by the cells and improves insulin utilisation and sensitivity by increasing glucose uptake pathways GLUT-4 and GLUT-1. It activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme in the body’s cells, which plays a major role in regulating metabolism and blood sugar balance by reducing the amount of sugar produced by the liver.
With the increased AMPK activation, berberine further supports the reduction in fat storage, the reduction in cholesterol/triglyceride production and the suppression of chronic inflammation.
Why? Studies show that taking collagen supplements support plump skin (and may reduce wrinkles), supports healthy bones and keeps your joints hydrated and flexible.
Collagen is the most abundant and structural protein in your body. Sufficient collagen production keeps your skin smooth (collagen makes up the bulk of your skin), improves elasticity, keeps your joints hydrated and flexible, and your bones strong.
Have some fun with your collagen intake, and try my Collagen Latte Recipe below!