One of the things that we all have in common as living beings is our finite lifespan and our awareness of this also contributes to motivating us to make each and every moment count.
Yet while many of us don’t want to reflect much on our mortality, we all want to live happier, healthier and longer lives. In fact, it’s a very human trait to be fascinated by the potential of extending our lifespans.
While one 105-year-old woman, who has survived COVID and the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, recently credited her longevity to eating gin-soaked raisins on a daily basis, there are those who go to much greater lengths.i
Over the past 100 years, life expectancy in Australia has increased from around 50 years to well over 80 years, with a boy born today expected to live around 80.9 years and a girl 85.0 years.ii Most researchers looking at trends in mortality believe life expectancy will continue to increase in coming decades.
That’s not enough for a small cohort of people termed ‘Biohackers’ who ‘hack’ their bodies to make them function better and in many cases, live significantly longer.
One high profile biohacker, Dave Asprey, is vocal in his aim to reach the grand old age of 180. Dedicating millions of dollars to the cause, Dave gets regular stem cell injections, bathes in infrared light, uses a hyperbaric chamber and takes over 100 supplements a day.iii
How to live longer and better
We’re not all Silicone Valley millionaires, able to access expensive biohacking treatments, nor do we all want to. But there are some common-sense ways to not only live longer, but live better.
While the ‘perfect’ diet is often contested, what the experts generally agree on is that we should incorporate plenty of plant foods, limit red meat, avoid processed foods and eat healthy fats and complex carbs.iv Often the Okinawa Diet is referenced when it comes to living longer, as the residents of this Japanese island can live to 100 – Okinawa has the most centenarians per 100,000 population. The Okinawans eat a lot of plant foods, with some seafood and meat.
Being physically active is also important. Again, this can look different for different people, but regular exercise has been proven to improve heart health, control blood sugar levels, maintain or provide weight loss, and also possibly decrease our risk of developing cancer.v
Staying mentally active can also improve our lifespans. As we age, our mental abilities decline, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it. And it’s not all bad news either, in fact, an older brain can create new connections between neurones. As some neurones die, their roles are taken up by others to help you adapt.vi Prioritising your social life, being open to new experiences and taking up new hobbies will keep you mentally active, as will that puzzle book or game of Trivial Pursuit.
Maintaining a healthy social life won’t just help your brain, research has also shown there are many physical benefits to staying connected. Lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system and possibly reduced inflammation can be the result of being happy around other people.vii
It’s also important to be happy within yourself. Feeling fulfilled has been linked to longevity. A research scientist call Robert Butler found that those who could express their sense of purpose or life meaning lived about 8 years longer than those who were rudderless.viii
Ultimately, it’s not just the years in your life, but the life in your years that’s important. What’s the point of living to 100, or 180, if you don’t feel content and well? Living a full and satisfying life is the main goal we should strive for, and by taking care of ourselves, we hopefully will have years in our life and life in our years.