How to get old REALLY REALLY fast. Starting right now, when you are REALLY REALLY young.
YES. I want your full attention. Right now.
What? You already checked your phone twice?
Yep. That right there is part of the problem. You and I have the attention span of a fruit fly. Thanks to Silicon Valley, we are living in the Valley of the Flies.
Bear with me here. I realize it is really hard to get and keep your attention. This is your LIFE we're talking about.
Hey Bro, turn the phone upside down for sec, will ya?
Fine. Don't. Big Tech owns you and apparently you're perfectly happy about that. Your body likely isn't, however. Nor your brain.
The rest of you who are listening, reading, this is for you. If you only care about being young forever, then I suggest joining the 27 Club. If you don't particularly wish to check out forever at that age, then kindly you might wanna plan more carefully for when you get closer to my age, which will be 69 in six days.
First things first: if you want to stay looking young, you die young. If you want to stay youthful as you age, which is indeed well within the range of possibility, please see Exhibit "A": Mick Jagger. Only because he's famous and also because his life habits are ridiculously healthy. The man has eleven years on me and can dance my aging ass into the ground.
However I could keep up for a very long time. Which makes me youthful.
Jagger's dad, a phys ed teacher, inculcated that in him early on.
To you, then.
I am pretty good at collecting and curated good articles by better experts than I am about health topics. I am going to share expertise. Wanna live long and prosper, emphasis on prosper, having nothing to do with money and everything to do with aging vibrantly? Kindly attend.
First, please see this article from Medium writer Rob Roy Britt. He notes that early onset dementia or Alzheimer's in particular can be traced to genes. That's part of the picture, of course. Here his article outlines what nearly guarantees early onset dementia even if you don't have the gene.
Last month, researchers published in the journal Stroke a list of so-called “modifiable risk factors” for dementia:
- Physical inactivity
- Hyperlipidemia (high level of fats in the blood)
- Poor diet
- Social isolation (loneliness)
- Excessive alcohol use
- Sleep disorders
- Hearing loss
A great many of the above are well within our ability to manage and improve. Even hearing loss, especially given our propensity to crank the volume up in our ear buds which is leading to serious and permanent hearing loss in younger people.
You might have the Alzheimer's gene. However fully half of the likelihood of your getting dementia even if you do have the gene has everything to do with your attitudes about aging. If you think you're old at thirty, YOU ARE. You have already set the process in motion. Your body responds powerfully to your internal and external language about aging. Please see this:
So in a nutshell, if you already hate the aged (okay, maybe not your own gramps and grams) that means you already hate your future self. Not a good set up to emulate Big Mick or any other super-geezer whose life we'd like to have. Ya gotta work for it, as Mick does.
So about exercise? Britt writes:
In one study, sedentary adults started a six-month exercise program, after which they took cognitive tests. Compared to a control group that stayed sedentary, the 40-year-olds in the exercising group tested as though they were 30 years old, and the 60-year-olds tested as though they were 40.
Other research finds that people who were in relatively poor health when they were 18 to 30 years old — with high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol — scored worse on cognitive tests in their forties and fifties, compared to people who were healthier as young adults. Exercise is known to improve all those markers of health. (author bolded)
Let's move on.
I have two more to share, both from favorite fellow writers on Medium. First, Dr. Mehmet Yildiz:
You'll find that Dr. Yildiz, who is well-known among his readers for his thoroughness, lists the following actions, and in his article provides additional links to other articles which go into detail where necessary:
1 — Consume nutrient-dense foods
2 — Perform moderate exercise consistently
3 — Create meaningful social connections
4 — Refrain from smoking and excessive alcohol
5 — Address chronic and emotional stress
6 — Reduce chronic inflammation
7 — Get high-quality and restorative sleep
8 — Eliminate toxins and pathogens
9 — Activate autophagy naturally
10 — Create cognitive reserves
Dr. Yildiz has healed a number of his own chronic physical ailments with diet and exercise as well as intermittent fasting. He's a prolific writer on all kinds of topics dealing with human potential, and I have found his carefully-researched material to be essential reading for my own health journey.
You see a lot of overlap here.
But wait! There's more, for the two of you who are still reading this.
Dr. Michael Hunter, another Medium peep, was on the front lines of the Covid-19 beginnings in Washington State. A doc with degrees from three Ivy League schools and a radiation oncologist, he regularly pens articles about health and what he's doing to ensure a vibrant future as he ages. He wrote this article which I commend to you as well:
It's actually thirteen, as he later changed the title. Here is his list:
Dementia — risk factors
An update to the 2017 Lancet Commission report is our focus. Initially, the group reported nine potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia:
- less education
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- hearing impairment
- physical inactivity
- low social contact
To which Hunter adds:
We can now add three more: Excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution.
Where you live, and how you live, including how hard you live which directly affects me with 22 concussions, also have a great deal to do with our future health.
More and more people, including the elderly, binge drink, in part likely due to depression. The ultra-processed foods which feed fatty liver disease also leads to obesity. Our sedentary habits underscore that obesity as well as the lack of energy and enthusiasm which lead to depression and so much more. Also we are stressed from constant phone checking (oh, the last two have left the building as well, fine), sucking in outrage off the news channels and never getting outside into nature. Or learning to simply be around blue or green spaces which heal, well. Is it any wonder that we are crippled as a nation?
And on top of this we have ageism and age-hate. If you were one of those lovely folks who thought that I and my silver sisters and brothers should have been sacrificed to the gods of Covid-19 to make room for you, that level of disgust has already set you up for early deterioration and dementia that many of us do not suffer.
Hate ages people a lot faster than time. Let's explore:
People who score high on measures of cynical hostility have shorter telomeres.
Blackburn explains: ...short telomeres are one of the major reasons human cells grow old.
When you hate the aged, hate the fat, hate people who don't look like you, hate your life, hate your job, hate hate hate HATE, you die faster every single day.
The pandemic brought out a lot of hate, from Asian hate to age hate to hating the unvaccinated to the vaccinated to hating for hate's sake. All that hate tends to weaken us further. The variants have shown a remarkable affection for anyone and everyone. Comorbidities, which are caused by many of the habits named above, are laced throughout all the generations, making us older and older, younger and younger. And more and more vulnerable. And I might add there is research indicating that those now dealing with long Covid may well be far more susceptible to dementia. Please see:
The more we hate the faster we age and the more susceptible we are to illness, viruses, diseases, and all the comorbidities that this virus loves to take advantage of. Says something about learning to focus, first, and then focus on more positive things, second, and third, learning to take care of ourselves out of respect, not as an act of terrorism against our poor beleaguered bodies.
So for anyone still attending, this is for you. Dementia isn't something that happens to the other guy. It could well be fermenting inside you right here, right now. So while your sense of doom might feel like you're justified in drinking up every bottle in sight and giving your body over to the donut and pizza gods (too many already have), you still have a future.
And to be frank in the best possible way, your future needs you to be healthy, starting right now.
The good news is, you can.