LAS VEGAS ( January 23, 2019)–In December, the FoodTrients team and I were in Las Vegas to attend the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine World Congress (A4M). This is an intense three days of speakers, workshops and exhibits presenting clinical education and advances in the most recent research, studies and healthcare practices as they relate to wellness and aging successfully. Many of the sessions were geared toward medical professionals, but we were able to glean valuable information to share with you in lay-person terms.
Dr. Peter Attia is a physician who began his medical career as a surgeon. His practice has evolved to help patients apply nutritional biochemistry, exercise and sleep physiology to promote healthy longevity. Lean and animated, Dr. Attia is a positive example for his patients, practicing a disciplined fitness regime, fasting, and following a mostly keto diet.
The emphasis in his practice is on increasing ‘healthspan,’ the number of years people enjoy good health by delaying chronic diseases. According to Dr. Attia, 80% of deaths are due to heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and liver disease. He points out that there is very little difference what we die from, but WHEN we die from it. Even centenarians succumb to these afflictions—they just do so 20 years later than most of us and spend less time declining. Those who live beyond 100 are genetically predisposed. They possess genes that help them metabolize glucose effectively, control the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and generally make them more resilient to disease.
During an average 80-year lifespan, most people enjoy reasonably good health until the last few years when chronic diseases and maladies start to take over. The goal is not to necessarily live to 100, but to live as long and well as possible for all the years we have. Dr. Attia states that there are three elements to good health span and successful longevity:
- Good condition of the mind — executive function, processing speed, short term memory. These can go away as we age due to neurodegenerative disease.
- A healthy body that maintains muscle mass, stability, functional movement and freedom from pain. The ability to lift a suitcase into the overhead bin or pick up a 30 lb. toddler. He is a proponent of weight-bearing exercise to maintain muscle mass and functionality.
- Spirit — A sense of purpose, social support, happiness and distress tolerance. Meditation is a good tool—it doesn’t necessarily reduce stress but it does improve our response to it.
When looking at the curve of the average 80-year lifespan, Dr. Attia says the objective is to change three features of that curve:
- Drive more lifespan – live a longer life
- Delay rate of decline of healthspan – stay healthier into old age by delaying chronic disease
- Compress the period of morbidity – shorten the years of sharp decline
1. What you eat – Some combination of calorie restriction and dietary restriction matter. Experiments restricting the calories and diet of Rhesus monkeys resulted in extended lifespans by 10%. The worse the diet, the more benefit of eating less. Attia personally follows a keto diet that is heavy on proteins, fats and vegetables. By consuming fewer carbs, the body will use its fat for fuel. He also suggests some form of intermittent fasting such as consuming all one’s calories during eight hours of the day. [See our coverage of the Fasting talks at the A4M World Conference]
2. Exercise – Weight-bearing exercise is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass so you can maintain functional strength and mobility.
3. Sleep – At least seven to eight hours per night on a regular basis. Keep blue-emitting lights such as computer, TV and phone screens out of the bedroom.
4. Drugs, supplements and hormones – These are essential for overall good health, but it’s different for every individual depending on your age, genetic make-up and general health. Find a practitioner who will become your partner in your health journey.
5. Manage distress – Learn how to handle your reactions to everyday stress and life challenges. Meditation, exercise, listening to music and good interpersonal relations are all elements of minimizing depression and stress hormones.
6. Ability to learn and unlearn behaviors – Stopping smoking; adapting a schedule of intermittent fasting; making regular exercise a part of your life; regular sleep habits; changing your diet for a lifetime, not just to fit into a smaller size.
None of Dr. Attia’s approach is radical, but by adapting as many of these tactics as you can you will go a long way toward enjoying, if not a longer lifespan, a longer health span.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.