I remember distinctly a story which the Panditji told during Bhagwat Katha at our home more than 30 years back
When God created the world and was about to determine the duration of life for all the creatures, the donkey came and asked, “Lord, how long am I to live?”
“Thirty years,” answered God. “Is that all right with you?”
“Oh, Lord,” replied the donkey, “that is a long time. Think of my tiresome existence carrying heavy loads from morning until night, dragging bags of grain to the mill so that others might eat bread, only to be cheered along and refreshed with kicks and blows! Spare me part of this long time.”
So God had mercy and gave him eighteen years. The donkey went away satisfied, and the dog made his appearance.
“How long do you want to live?” God asked him. “Thirty years was too much for the donkey, but you will be satisfied with that long.”
“Lord”, answered the dog. “Is that your will? Just think how much I have to run. My feet will not hold for so long. And what can I do but growl and run from one corner to another after I have lost my voice for barking and my teeth for biting?”
God felt that he was right, and he took away twelve years. Then came the monkey.
“Surely you would like to live thirty years,” said the Lord to him. “You do not need to work like the donkey and the dog, and are always having fun”.
“Oh, Lord,” he answered, “so it appears, but it is different. When it rains porridge, I don’t have a spoon. I am always supposed to be playing funny tricks and making faces so people will laugh, but when they give me an apple and I bite into it, it is always sour. How often is sorrow hidden behind a joke. I cannot put up with all that for thirty years!”
God had mercy and gave him ten years. Finally man made his appearance. Cheerful, healthy, and refreshed, he asked God to determine the duration of his life.
“You shall live thirty years,” spoke the Lord. “Is that enough for you?”
“What a short time!” cried the man. “When I have built a house and a fire is burning on my own hearth, when I have planted trees that blossom and bear fruit, and am just beginning to enjoy life, then I am to die. Oh, Lord, extend my time, please.”
“I will add the donkey’s eighteen years,” said God.
“That is not enough,” replied the man.
“You shall also have the dog’s twelve years.”
“Still too little.”
“Well, then,” said God, “I will give you the monkey’s ten years as well, but you shall receive no more.”
The man went away, but he was not satisfied.
Thus man lives seventy years. The first thirty are his human years, and they quickly disappear. Here he is healthy and happy; he works with pleasure, and enjoys his existence. The donkey’s eighteen years follow. Here, one burden after the other is laid on him; he carries the grain that feeds others, and his faithful service is rewarded with kicks and blows. Then come the dog’s twelve years, and he lies in the corner growling, no longer having teeth with which to bite. And when this time is past, the monkey’s ten years conclude. Now man is weak headed and foolish; he does silly things and becomes a laughingstock for children.
A new study shows that animals’ life is written on their DNA. For humans, it’s 38 years. DNA is the blueprint of living organisms and it is an obvious place to seek insights into ageing and lifespan. Based on DNA, ‘natural’ lifespan of modern humans is 38 years. This matches some anthropological estimates for early modern humans. However, humans today may be an exception to this study as advances in medicine and lifestyle have extended the average lifespan.
A brief history of ageing
Over the past 200 years, life expectancy at birth has doubled from around 40 years to over 80 years in countries like the UK. In some countries such as France, where 250 years ago life expectancy at birth was slightly over 25 years, it has increased by almost 55 years. In India from 35 years in 1950, in last 72 years it has doubled to 70 years. In 1840, life expectancy was the highest among Swedish women, who lived on average 45 years. Today the longest life expectancy is to be found among Japanese women, whose lives on average exceed 85 years. This improvement appears to have been steady, with an average increase in life expectancy of three months every year until the present day. Male longevity has risen rather more slowly yet still shows the same linear rise, with Japanese men now holding the record for the longest male survivors at an average age of just over 78 years.
Historical demographic analysis has exposed a line of challenging enquiry: will life expectancy continue to rise, as predicted from the previous trends, or are we reaching a biologically determined ceiling? It would be rash on the basis of the historical trends to promote the idea of the attainment of eternity among humans or even an untrammelled route to a life expectancy at birth of 100 years by 2060, as some enthusiasts have done. Nonetheless, it is certain that centenarians will soon become commonplace individuals in our midst.
Increases in life expectancy of just a few years can produce very large changes in the numbers of the old and particularly the very old. And a continued reduction in mortality among the oldest old suggests that longevity increases will be larger and population ageing will be more rapid than many high-income countries expect, which could have major implications for social security and medical care systems. Perhaps one of the most significant implications of historical demographic analysis is that it has exposed the danger of believing that the expectation of life cannot rise much above its current uppermost level. As the so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation ages, longevity is becoming a highly significant debate. Whichever school of thought – those who believe the ceiling has been reached and those who do not – proves to be correct, the result will have enormous implications for how societies evolve, and manage their health and welfare issues, in the future.
Historical demographic analysis has exposed a line of challenging enquiry: will life expectancy continue to rise, as predicted from the previous trends, or are we reaching a biologically determined ceiling?
Are you prepared to take care of yourself and your loved ones for this increasing lifespan? Are you saving enough to fund yourself for extended period of life in this beautiful world?
How much are you doing to slow down your aging and maximize your lifespan and health span? Lots of things contribute to the aging process, many of which will surprise you!
We’ve put together this list of 60 additional tips to slow your aging and live longer, all backed by research.
Skim through it to see what you’re already doing, and what will be easy for you to integrate into your daily routine.
Diet (Nutrition and diet are very individual things and choose what works best for you)
- Reduce your intake of animal protein, especially processed red meat such as sausages, salami, bacon, ham, hot dogs, etc.
- Replace red meat (e.g. beef, pork, mutton, veal) with white meat (poultry), fatty fish (e.g. salmon, herring, mackerel), and meat substitutes (based on tofu, pea, or mushroom protein).
- Consume lots of vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, seeds. Vegetables should be the basis of your diet (not potatoes, pasta, rice and bread).
- Reduce your intake of starchy, empty-calorie foods like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Replace them more with vegetables, legumes, mushrooms or quinoa.
- Avoid sugary foods as much as possible, like candy, cookies, sweets, cake, pastries, doughnuts, candy bars, chocolates and so on.
- Avoid trans fats, which can be found in fried foods, fast-food, bakery products (e.g. crackers, cookies, cakes), and vegetable shortenings.
- Significantly reduce your intake of omega-6-fat-rich foods, like corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, margarine, sesame oil, mayonnaise and most salad dressings.
- Consume more healthy fats, especially omega-3 fats, by consuming more olives, olive oil, walnuts, avocados, flax seed, chia seed, fatty fish and so on.
- Consume foods that have come straight from nature and processed as little as possible, like foods your great-grandmother would recognize.
- Consume a daily, freshly-made smoothie with vegetables and low-glycemic index fruits, like blueberries.
- Eat specific foods that can slow down aging: green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale), blueberries, dark chocolate (containing at least 70% cacao), salmon, walnuts, pomegranate, etc.
- Consume less milk – it accelerates ageing.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol: that means maximum one glass per day, ideally with plenty alcohol-free days.
- Avoid sugary drinks (such as soda, commercial fruit juices, etc).
- Hydrate a lot. Drink at least 1.5 of liters per day: that’s 8 glasses per day.
- Along with sufficient intake of water, drink green tea, white tea, ginger tea or coffee. Sometimes add spices and fresh herbs to add flavour to your water.
- Avoid taking whey protein, testosterone or growth hormone. They all may accelerate ageing in the long term. However it will be some years before actual data emerges for these. Best is to naturally source your protein.
- Don’t follow fancy diets – most of these may harm in the long term, despite having beneficial effects in the short term like weight loss.
- Eat less calories and eat less often.
- Fast regularly. Eat within a 12 hour period, so your body can fast for 12 hours.
Supplements (Always supplement consulting a physician and after doing your blood markers)
- Take health supplements, like vitamin D3, vitamin K2, iodine, selenium, magnesium, B vitamins, and minimally-oxidized omega-3 fatty acids.
- You may consider taking drugs that could slow down ageing, like metformin, low-dose rapamycin, low-dose (baby) aspirin, or selegiline. Always discuss with a physician experienced in this matter.
- Engage in anaerobic exercise (like weightlifting). Resistance training is proven way to extend lifespan.
- Do aerobic exercise (like running or swimming).
- Do high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
- Commit to stretching and posture exercises, like pilates and Yoga.
- Walk more.
- Stick to a schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. All seven days.
- Exercise is great but not too late in the day. Try to exercise thirty minutes everyday but not later than two or three hours before bedtime
- Caffeine and nicotine impact sleep. Caffeine can take up to eight hours to wear off fully. Smokers often wake up too early because of nicotine withdrawal.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Your REM sleep is robbed with two pegs or more.
- Avoid large meals at night.
- Relax before bedtime. Some activity like reading or music may help. A hot water shower helps too.
- A dark, cool and gadget free bedroom should be your mantra for a good night’s slumber. Avoid having a TV in your bedroom or any gadget for binge watching.
- Turn the clock’s face out of view. Those who have insomnia, often stare at the clock.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself awake after twenty minutes, get up and relax. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder.
- Catch some morning sunlight by going outside within 30-60 minutes of waking. On bright days, view for 10 minutes. On cloudy days for 30 minutes. No, you don’t have to look directly at the sun. Never look at any light so bright that it is painful to your eyes.
- Reduce your blood sugar levels. A continuous glucose sensor may be a good investment to track how your body processes sugars based on foods, sleep, etc. If that’s out of your budget, consider a regular blood glucose monitor.
- Measure your heart rate variability (HRV), which can be predictive of health and mortality. Improve your HRV.
- Get regular health checkups. Prevention is the key!
- Now a days gene testing using DNA also becoming cheaper and affordable.
- Protect your skin very well against the sun: always wear strong sunscreen, and a hat when going outside in the sun.
- Use high-concentration retinol creams for your face. Consult your Skin doctor
- Take supplements that slow skin ageing and reduce wrinkles.
- Brush and floss your teeth at least twice per day.
- Always wear your seatbelt. Or helmet when on a bike.
- Don’t smoke.
- Do mobility routines to keep joins pain free.
- Don’t be overweight and make sure you don’t have too much abdominal fat (a beer belly). Measure your waist circumference here and calculate your BMI (body mass index) here.
- Schedule everything.
- Write a gratitude diary and journal.
- Try to be positive and always see the silver lining in things. Most centenarians have a very optimistic disposition.
- Learn how to be happy.
- Reduce stress.
- Practice meditation.
- Having a purpose and goals in life (feeling useful).
- Be social.
- Challenge your mind every day.
- Use medication sparingly: most drugs have significant side effects.
- Your brain is like a muscle, the less you use it, the more it languishes. Train your brain daily to keep it healthy.
While we doing this newsletter on Ageing & Longevity came this Tim Ferris podcast with Dr Matt Kaeberlein ​
The Life-Extension Episode — Dr. Matt Kaeberlein on The Dog Aging Project, Rapamycin, Metformin, Spermidine, NAD+ Precursors, Urolithin A, Acarbose, and Much More​
​Dr. Matt Kaeberlein is a professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, with adjunct appointments in Genome Sciences and Oral Health Sciences. Dr. Kaeberlein’s research interests are focused on understanding biological mechanisms of aging in order to facilitate translational interventions that promote healthspan and improve quality of life for people and companion animals.
People could eventually be able to turn the clock back on the cell-ageing process by 30 years, according to researchers who have developed a technique for reprogramming skin cells to behave as if they are much younger. This article in The Guardian details how scientists have made further inroads into reversing ageing process of cells.
The search to extend lifespan is gaining ground, but can we truly reverse the biology of ageing. The idea of extending human life makes some uneasy, as preventing death seems unnatural. Certainly, were lifespan to be drastically increased, there would be challenges. Already in many countries the population of old retired people is more than young earning tax payers. The burden on health care cost and pension is tremendous. There are other social issues also. But research into the biology of ageing, and consequently extending the lifespan of humans and animals, has become a serious endeavour.Drugs and interventions developed over the past century that have almost doubled human lifespan could be considered as anti-ageing. Think of antibiotics, which have added anywhere between two and ten years to human life expectancy. There have been many movies and books around reversing ageing and the problems associated with it. One such movie is Death Becomes Her.
In the cult movie – there is a famous line – ‘Wrinkled wrinkled little star, hope they never see the stars.“ Said by Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep).
The movie, a masterpiece then, known for its special effects, has now a loyal fan following and an underlying message, which we all have wondered in our life at least once. Ageing and Immortality. The movie follows the decaying career graph of actress Madeline and a writer – Helen (Goldie Hawn), who are frenemies. Just to spite her friend Helen, Madeline steals her fiancee – a brilliant plastic surgeon – Dr. Ernest (Bruce Willis) and marries him. What follows is a journey of two women – Madeline and Helen who are besotted with youth and beauty. And in order to fulfil that, they both resort to a mysterious woman – Lisle Von Rhuman who provides them a potion of staying youthful forever. Just like everything comes with a price, the potion does work, but the body if not taken care of will decay. Then follows is a series of misadventures and in the end as an audience, we are left wondering, is this is the price we have to pay if we are immortal – mere creatures, made of clay and putty… yet Alive.
The lore of immortality is described in all mythologies. In Indian mythology we have the 8 immortals – known as Chiranjeevis, who are said to be still alive and wandering the forest, mountains of India. But what if we are just immortal, just alive, yet sick with crooked limbs, a frail body and a mental capacity merely functioning? If this is how we age, then ageing is scary. Perhaps what we all need to understand and we are finally understanding is that ageing can be our best friend. We can be in our fittest state of mind and body if we start to think in terms of increasing our health span and not just our life span.
Regardless of whether any of the drugs are eventually shown to be safe and effective in humans, the current advice for maintaining health in old age is predictable but effective. Exercise, a varied and moderate diet, maintaining social contact and avoiding stress have profound health benefits, and good deep sleep for 8 hours, beyond anything that will ever be available in a pill.
I would like to express my gratitude to Sangeet Kothari and Shweta Jani for being my bouncing boards for each issue of the newsletter and correcting typo errors, which I am master of. If you like this newsletter you have a zero cost way to support it by sharing with your friends and family and giving a shout out on your social media platform. On Twitter and Facebook or if you have received it as a forward please Subscribe.. Please leave your feedback and suggestions. You can mail me or tweet to @SandeepMall using #goodvibeswithSandeep.
We have also archived all the old issues and you can access them at www.sandeepmall.com. They contain some very good tool kits to take charge of your well being.
See you next week .