Longevity was an important topic for us this past year (and continues to be moving forward—check out our predictions here). We explored the idea of measuring longevity according to healthspan (the quality of your years) rather than lifespan alone (the quantity of years in your life). One place we got a wealth of information regarding this topic: the mindbodygreen podcast. To help support our longevity in the new year, we compiled the best strategies we picked up throughout 2021:
1. Incorporate longevity-supporting foods into your diet.
When longevity expert, National Geographic fellow, and Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner joined us, he shared his top five favorite foods for living longer: sourdough, milk thistle, Ikaria coffee, avocado, and bananas. While there are many other valuable options, he focused on these due to both their nutritious properties and their convenience. As he noted, "The best longevity food is the food you're going to eat… Convenience is one of the most important elements of eating healthy."
2. Be aware of the effects of different kinds of animal proteins.
According to functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman, M.D., consuming animal protein can affect longevity genes after your mid-40s because of the way it's stored in the body (ultimately, it can stimulate a gene that blocks cells' ability to get rid of stressed or old cells in order to replace them with newer ones). The good news? One kind of animal protein doesn't have this effect on those longevity genes: collagen. In the end, he suggests prioritizing plant-based over animal-based proteins, with the exception of grass-fed collagen.
3. Prioritize sleep.
Longevity expert Sergey Young regards sleep as "the most amazing longevity clinic in the world"—and for good reason. Allowing the body to rest and rejuvenate is key for supporting brain, immune, muscle, and metabolic health—plus, it's been shown to promote a longer lifespan. As for the length of rest, he says it depends on the person and suggests focusing on quality over quantity alone. (If you're curious, here are 15 ways to improve sleep quality.)
4. Add in a variety of health-supporting practices.
In addition to sleep, Young emphasizes the importance of getting annual health checkups, avoiding certain activities (like smoking, not wearing a seatbelt, and similar kinds of unnecessary risks), enjoying a mostly plant-based diet (and if you do enjoy meat and fish, opting for grass-fed and wild-caught varieties if you can), incorporating daily movement (he's a big fan of walks and promotes consistency over specific fitness metrics), and finding peace of mind through sleep, meditation, connection, and purpose.
5. Soak up the sun (safely).
Former biochemist and New York Times bestselling author Robb Wolf is quick to tout the importance of maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels. In fact, research has shown that it can even promote the production of telomere building blocks to protect DNA in the cells from aging. He also noted that while there are a variety of vitamin D sources, spending some time in the sun is highly associated with longevity (of course, balance is key when it comes to receiving adequate sun and protecting the skin with sunscreen).