#107 Will You Live to 90? 7 Easy Steps to Great Health at 90.

June 9th, 2015 by

Do you even want to live to 90?

Most people think that living to 90 means living in a nursing home.  Would you want to live to 90 if you were in great health and could do everything you wanted to do?  In this article, I’m going to share the seven things you must do for great health at 90 and beyond.

Will you live to age 90?

Odds are that you will be medically disabled by age 69 according to data from the World Health Organization.  As the current life expectancy is now 79 in the U.S., this means that you will likely spend the last 10 years of your life with chronic medical conditions, on lots of medications, and with many doctor visits.  Is this really how you want to spend your “golden years?”

Research shows that if you can do all 7 things discussed in this article, you can escape this fate.  Don’t leave 21 high quality years “on the table.”  Read on to understand the science of how our bodies were genetically designed to function well until age 90.

Our Distorted Concept of Aging

Many people are afraid of a long life.  Some even have the mistaken idea that the reason why they make poor lifestyle choices is because they don’t want to live very long.  What they don’t realize is that these poor lifestyle choices are much more likely to cause premature medical disabilities rather than a premature death.

Sadly, I often hear the following from patients.  “If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”

The key message of this article is that you don’t have to “grow old” in the traditional sense of the word.  You can continue to do everything you now enjoy doing and enjoy great health at 90.  For most people, your genes allow you to enjoy great health at 90 if you are committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Men vs. Women and Longevity

In general, men get sick and die much younger than women.  This is why almost every centenarian population on this planet is mostly made up of women.  So why are men cursed to die early?

This is a question that has baffled scientists for years.   Of the many theories out there, the most likely are that women tend to be more health conscientious and are more connected socially.

Is there any hope for men to live longer?  The one exception to the female centenarian rule seems to be the “Sardinian men.”

Surprisingly, on the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean, most of the centenarians are men.  The healthy, low-stress, agrarian lifestyle allows the Sardinian mean to easily make it to 100.

But what about in the U.S.?  Do men stand a chance of great health at 90?

Despite the grim odds for men, there is one group that does remarkably well in the U.S.  This one group of men that seem to thrive are male physicians.  What can we learn from these long lived male physicians that can help all of us enjoy great health at 90?

Of course, if you are a woman then your chances of great health at 90 are even better if you follow the same playbook I am going to share…

The Physician’s Study

The Physician’s Health Study was launched in 1982 at Harvard University to test the role of aspirin and beta-carotene in preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Now, 36 years later, we have learned far more than the health effects of aspirin and beta-carotene.

Surprisingly, many of these male physicians have lived healthy lives, doing everything they have always enjoyed, until their 90th birthday and beyond.  Indeed, researchers found that if these physicians did all seven things described in this article, most of them had great health at 90.

I should point out that if a male physician even missed just one of the following things, then they probably wouldn’t make it to 90.  Below are the 7 things you must do for great health at 90.

7 Things You Must Do For Great Health at 90

1. Don’t Smoke

Every cigarette smoked takes 11 minutes off your life.   This adds up to dying 10 years too early.  It also causes rapid aging and premature medical disability.  Indeed, for physicians to make it to age 90 with excellent health meant absolutely no smoking.

If you smoke it is never too late to change.  The sooner you can quit the sooner you can gain back these lost years of quality life.

If breathing tobacco air isn’t a problem for you, then make sure air pollution levels are as low as possible.  While it is often impossible to do much to impact the air in your city, you can at least get a HEPA filter to help with your indoor air.  This is what we have done in our home.

2. Prevent or Reverse Diabetes

Diabetes is a tragic disease causing premature medical disability and death.  In one study, diabetes took away up to 9 years of life and caused people to become medically disabled 20 years earlier.

According to a study performed by my former classmate, Harvard researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, 90% of diabetes is completely preventable.  Even if it is genetically impossible to reverse your diabetes, do everything possible to keep your hemoglobin A1C in the normal range or at least as close to the normal range as possible.

The best thing I have seen in my practice to normalize hemoglobin A1C levels it to keep your weight in the normal range and eliminate all sugar and flour of any kind from your diet.

3. Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check

High blood pressure not only wears out your heart but also your arteries and other organs.  The goal blood pressure for longevity is 110/70 mmHg.  Anything above 110/70 is prematurely aging the body.  Indeed, studies show that people with high blood pressure lose 5 years of high quality life to heart attacks and other heart problems.

As with diabetes, I have seen hundreds of my patients reverse their high blood pressure and get off of medications with an unwavering commitment to a healthy lifestyle.  To learn more about how to reverse high blood pressure without medications, please read this article I wrote.

4. Physically Active

Studies show that every hour spent sitting watching TV takes 22 minutes off your life.  This could be any form of sitting.

The physicians with great health at 90 were definitely physically active.  Exercise was a daily habit for them. At the cellular level, studies show that if we spend too much time sitting then we give up 10 years of life.

A recently published study showed that being very physically fit can decrease your risk of dementia by 88%!  This study highlights the importance of physical fitness for great health at 90.

5. Maintain a Lean Body Weight

These physicians with great health at 90 were not overweight.  They were a lean group.  The average body mass index (BMI) of these physicians was 24.

A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight.  To determine your own BMI, click on this link.

Studies show that carrying around extra weight will rob you of up to 9 years of life.  Like diabetes, it can cause you to become medically disabled 20 years before your time.

6. College Education

When reviewing the findings of the Physician’s Health Study, it is important to note that this was a very homogenous group.  They were all physicians.  Thus, we also have to understand what makes a physician a physician.

To begin with, to become a physician means you have to go to school for a long time.  Countless studies have shown that the more education you achieve the more likely you are to avoid medical disabilities and live a long life.

According to this 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people did not finish high school gave up 9 years of life.  Even those who may have attended college, but did not finish their degree, lost out on 5 years of life.

If you did not go to college, or did not finish your degree, it is never too late.  Most colleges offer night courses or online courses to help you get your degree.  Spending the time now to get your degree may also help you to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease later in life.

7. Calling in Life

Most physicians I know feel that being a physician is their calling in life.  There is no separation between work and personal life.  It is all one life.

As a physician, you are driven by your desire to help other people.  This calling in life, or sense of purpose, has been shown to improve health and longevity.

Based on my calculations of studies done, those without a strong sense of purpose give up 4 years of life.  People without a perceived calling in life are also at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease at a young age.

If you don’t yet have a purpose or mission driving your life, now is the time for you to explore why you are on this Earth.  What legacy do you want to leave?  What gets you out of bed each morning?

Surprising Factors Not Associated with Longevity in this Study

Interestingly, there were certain factors not associated with health and longevity in physicians.  The following were not shown to improve the health and longevity of physicians in the Physician’s Health Study:

1. Social connection

2. Wine consumption

3. Cholesterol numbers

Social Connectivity and Longevity

Of these, the most surprising to me was that social connection was not a predictor of health and longevity in physicians.  This finding goes against other studies.

My guess is that physicians really are socially connected and that these researchers just didn’t ask the right questions.  For example, every time I go to church or a social event, at least several neighbors come up to me asking for medical advice.  As neighbors reach out to me in this way I feel much more socially connected as a naturally introverted person.

If you aren’t a physician all is not lost.  Reach out to others.  Don’t worry if you feel shy or awkward as the rest of the world also feels shy and awkward.  Others will be grateful that you have reached out.

Cholesterol, Alcohol, and Longevity

Also of interest in this study was that as you get older cholesterol numbers don’t seem to matter as much.  While this may seem odd, many other studies have also come to the same conclusion.

Lastly, alcohol and longevity is a question that comes up all the time when I give lectures on our book, The Longevity Plan.  While earlier studies reported that alcohol may help to prevent heart disease and promote longevity, more recent studies report that these earlier studies may have been flawed.

The reason for this is that early studies of alcohol and longevity failed to account for the abstainer bias.  In other words, people who refrain from alcohol may have other health conditions that don’t allow them to drink.  When you account for the abstainer bias then any protective effect from alcohol goes away.

It Isn’t Just Physicians Who Make It To 90

You don’t have to be a physician to enjoy great health at 90.  With strict adherence to a healthy lifestyle, studies show that most Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and Okinawans also enjoy great health at 90.

Making It Work For You

The key message of the Physician’s Health Study is that aging does not need to mean medical disabilities, lots of medications, and frequent visits to the doctor.  You can continue to enjoy excellent health to age 90 and possibly beyond.

Your genes are programmed to allow for great health at 90.  Unless bad luck strikes, healthy decisions now means great health at 90.

Are unhealthy lifestyle choices worth becoming medically disabled 20 years younger?

#066 7 Ways to Extend Life and Prevent Cancer with IGF-1

January 19th, 2015 by

7 Ways to Extend Life and Prevent Cancer with IGF-1

NFL football players typically die in their 50s from heart disease or cancer.  In contrast, Laron Dwarfs from Ecuador live incredibly long lives without ever getting heart disease or cancer.  Could too much or too little IGF-1 be the reason?  In this article I will teach you how to optimize your IGF-1 levels to maintain muscle mass, extend life, and prevent cancer.

1986 Superbowl

On January 26, 1986 all of America was glued to the TV screen as they watched the Super Bowl XX match up between the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots.  Favorite among Americans was the massive rookie defensive tackle of the Chicago Bears, William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

Perry seemed to have it all.  He was one of the biggest and fastest players to ever play the game.  He started the season at 380 pounds.  Not only was he formidable on defense but he was also a powerful secret weapon on offense as well in the role of a running back.  Perry represented the modern NFL player built much bigger and stronger than previous generations of NFL players.

In the third quarter of the Superbowl game with the ball on the 1-yard line the call was made to give the ball to “The Refrigerator” Perry.  On one of the most famous NFL plays of all time, “The Refrigerator” Perry scored the touchdown run as scene in this video of the event helping the Chicago Bears to go on to win their first Super Bowl.

What is IGF-1?

Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is a hormone similar in structure to insulin.  IGF-1 is one of the most potent hormones stimulating growth.  IGF-1 levels are highest during the childhood growth periods and continue to play a role in growth and muscle development even in adults.

NFL football players and body builders likely have the highest circulating levels of natural IGF-1 due to their lifestyles.  For some NFL players they still wanted even higher levels of IGF-1 through performance enhancing drugs.  For example, IGF-1 was suddenly thrust into the spotlight during the 2013 Superbowl game when it was revealed that Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis was doping with IGF-1 from deer-antler pills.  Deer-antlers contain high levels of IGF-1 as IGF-1 is what causes the antlers to grow so fast each year in the life of a deer.

On first blush it seems like IGF-1 is something all of us want.  Who wouldn’t want to possess super human size and strength?  Is it any wonder New York Yankees baseball legend, A-Rod or Alex Rodriguez lied under oath that he did not use performance enhancing IGF-1 despite evidence to the contrary?

The Laron Dwarfs: People with Genetically Low Levels of IGF-1

At the same time “The Refrigerator” Perry was dominating the NFL, far away to the South, Dr. Guevara-Aguirre discovered the Laron Dwarfs in Ecuador in 1987.   Dr. Guevara-Aguirre was interested in these three to four foot dwarfs as legend had it that they lived very long lives free from cancer or diabetes.

At the time no one believed Dr. Dr. Guevara-Aguirre’s findings.  It was impossible that there were no reported cases of cancer or diabetes in any group of people.

Currently, there are about 300 known people in the world with the Laron-type Dwarfism.  Of these 300 people, most reside in Ecuador.  Researchers have reported that most of these dwarfs could probably live much longer if it were not for their high rates of alcoholism and accidents likely from their short stature.

The reason why Laron Dwarfs don’t develop cancer is really quite simple.  IGF-1 stimulates growth.  If growth is not stimulated then cancerous cells do not grow and multiply.  Likewise, with low levels of IGF-1 their blood glucose levels remain low even if they become obese.

Aside from their short stature, the other challenge Laron Dwarfs face is that of a decreased intelligence.  In addition to growth and muscles, IGF-1 also enhances cognitive performance.

Interestingly, if you inject IGF-1 into these Laron Dwarfs, like A-Rod, during their adolescent growth periods they will grow to a normal size.  However, if IGF-1 is given after puberty then they will remain as dwarfs.  Clearly, IGF-1 administration has to be critically timed to reverse their dwarfism.

Acromegaly and Excessive IGF-1

On the other end of the spectrum from the Laron Dwarfs is acromegaly.  Acromegaly is a condition where people continue to grow due to a pituitary gland abnormality.  As opposed to the Laron Dwarfs, these people are giants and have very high levels of IGF-1.  Unfortunately, these giants tend to die very young.

One of my favorite Hollywood movie stars growing up was André the Giant who reportedly stood at 7 feet 4 inches (224 cm) and starred in the classic movie The Princess Bride (affiliate link).  Unfortunately, André the Giant suffered from acromegaly and died at the young age of 46 due to complications from this condition.

Dog Size, IGF-1, and Longevity

Elizabeth with Andi

We love our dog Andi.  We rescued this golden lab at the age of 7.  Currently, she is 11 years old.

Even though her health is excellent, we all know that, in general, bigger dogs don’t live as long as smaller dogs.  Given how attached our children are to Andi, we know they will be devastated when this happens.

Why is this the case?  Could the same IGF-1 link hold true in dogs as well?

Recent studies in dogs have shown a similar outcome when it comes to IGF-1 levels and survival.  Larger dog breeds tend to have higher levels of IGF-1.  Consequently, they don’t live as long as the smaller breeds with lower levels of IGF-1.

Unfortunately for me (my height is 6′ 2″ or 189 cm), taller humans have also been shown to not live as long based on IGF-1 levels.  It seems that at least in some studies there is a trade off based on height versus longevity.

Centenarians, Genetics, Cognition, and IGF-1 Levels

Interestingly, studies of centenarians and their offspring have consistently shown lower levels of IGF-1 in those who live the longest.  This link is not just confined to certain ethnic groups.  As we have been very fascinated with the long-term health and longevity of people living in China’s Longevity Village, the same finding holds true with the Chinese.  Chinese living into their ninth or tenth decades of life consistently show lower levels of IGF-1.  These studies seem to suggest that at least in long lived families, there may be a genetic component to IGF-1 and longevity.

While in the extreme cases, like Laron Dwarfs, extremely low levels of IGF-1 are associated with cognitive impairment.  However, in healthy adults like the centenarians mentioned above, IGF-1 levels are not associated with cognitive performance.

7 Ways to Optimize Our IGF-1 levels?

Is there some middle ground between the muscle bound hulking NFL lineman and the diminutive Ecuadorian dwarf?  What is the goal IGF-1 level for optimal muscle strength, cognitive function, longevity, and freedom from cancer and diabetes?

From this article it could appear that there is a trade off when it comes to IGF-1.  On one end of the spectrum you have muscles and strength with high levels of IGF-1 (growth) while on the end you have longevity with freedom from cancer or diabetes with low levels of IGF-1 (repair).  Is there a way to have the best of both worlds?  Can we have both growth and repair going on simultaneously?

Like with most things, there is a healthy range.  For example, when it comes to the heart there is definitely an IGF-1 sweet spot.  Studies have shown that when IGF-1 levels are too high or too low the risk of heart disease is increased.

While in clinical studies or specialized clinics you can test your IGF-1 levels, for most people these lab tests are not available.  However, there are things we can do to keep our IGF-1 levels in the optimal range.

1. Maintain a Normal Vitamin D Level

IGF-1 and vitamin D levels often go hand in hand.  People who have low levels of vitamin D tend to have low levels of IGF-1 as well.  Vitamin D supplementation for people who are low in this hormone tends to normalize IGF-1 levels.

2. Avoid Excessive Animal Meat and Cow Milk

Excessive animal meat and dairy may raise your IGF-1 levels too high.  In contrast, vegans who eat plant-based proteins tend to have low levels of IGF-1.  Could this be one reason why vegans may have a lower risk of cancer and may also live longer?

3. Minimize Simple Carbs

A diet high in the simple carbs has also been shown to raise IGF-1 levels.  Could this explain the reason why a diet high in the simple carbs also leads to an increased risk of cancer and diabetes?

4. Avoid Isolated Soy Protein

Isolated soy protein significantly raises IGF-1 levels.  If you enjoy soy then it should be eaten how it has traditionally been eaten in Asia where they eat a non-GMO variety in the whole bean form.

5. Exercise Regularly

There have been many studies done on the effect of exercise to IGF-1 levels.  The results seem to be mixed.  My research on this topic suggests that regular moderate levels of exercise seems to optimize IGF-1 levels.

In contrast, extreme levels of exercise or excessive weight lifting can significantly raise IGF-1 levels.  Could the excessive animal meat and simple carbs in conjunction with extreme levels of exercise and weight lifting result in very high IGF-1 levels for NFL football players?

6. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Diabetes, obesity, cancer, and premature death all seem to run together.  Researchers feel that there may be a link with IGF-1.  If we want to maintain healthy levels of IGF-1 we also need to maintain a healthy weight.

7. Intermittent Fasting

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help to normalize levels of IGF-1.  Could this explain why intermittently fasting may increase longevity? Certainly, excessive fasting or extreme caloric restriction can be dangerous and could drive IGF-1 levels too low for optimal health.

Epilogue: “The Refrigerator” Perry Today

You may be wondering what happened to “The Refrigerator” Perry.  Unfortunately, his post-NFL football career has not turned out well.  Contrary to internet and Twitter rumors, he is still alive at age 52 but his health is extremely poor.  According to this report, he can barely walk, he weighs 450 lbs (205 kg), and he has spent considerable time in the hospital over the last few years.

What are you doing to optimize your IGF-1 levels?