Scientists in search of the Fountain of Youth share their findings. You can try these tricks today.
“With aging, we’ve always studied things that decline,” says Changiz Geula, PhD, research professor of neurology at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. But now she and other experts are looking instead to unlock the secrets of the “superaged,” those lucky individuals who seem to stay vital well into their 80s and beyond. Here’s some of their latest research, with advice on how you can add years to your life.
Stop eating so much
In Okinawa, Japan—home to some of the world’s oldest people—centenarians stop eating when they’re 80 percent full, says The Blue Zones author Dan Buettner, who studies longevity all over the planet.
They’re onto something: Scientists at St. Louis University found that, while both exercising and eating less led to weight loss in the study’s volunteers, cutting calories also lowered production of T3, a thyroid hormone that slows metabolism. The researchers believe that lower T3 levels may also slow the aging process.
Women who enjoy sex live longer, says Mehmet Oz, MD, professor and vice chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian–Columbia University and co-author of YOU: Being Beautiful. In fact, doubling your amount of satisfying sex can add up to three years to your life, he says. “Sex gives you the Zen moment you can’t find throughout the day otherwise.”
Use your brain
Dr. Geula, who has studied 80-year-olds who perform at the same level as people in their 50s on neuropsychological tests, has found that the superaged have fewer brain tangles—deposits of protein linked to Alzheimer’s—suggesting that their brains have some sort of protection that normal brains don’t. While scientists puzzle this out, there’s a lot you can do to keep your own synapses firing. Learn Italian, take up the cello—even driving a new route to work can wake up sleepy brain cells.
Pour yourself some merlot
You’ve probably heard a lot about resveratrol, a compound in red wine and grape juice that seems to slow aging. One recent study found that resveratrol-fed mice had stronger bones and better motor coordination, and showed fewer “old age” problems like heart disease, inflammation, and cataracts. The jury is still out on whether resveratrol has the same effect on humans, but nutritionists say drinking red wine in moderation does have heart-healthy benefits.
Lose the muffin top
In one large study published in 2009, researchers who tracked 6,583 people for more than 30 years found that having significant belly fat in midlife can nearly triple your risk of dementia.
Eat more plants
In his study of centenarians, Buettner found the longest-living people tend to eat less meat and more beans, soy, and nuts.