Most of us know our lifestyle choices have a major impact on our health and longevity. But, many of us probably think that our genes play the largest role and are the most important factor in terms of our health overall.
We’ve all heard the stories of the daily drinker who lived to well over 100 or the epitome of health struck dead by a heart attack in midlife. Is this a matter of genes, or just pure anomalies?
It’s easy to resign ourselves to our inherited health fate, but do we have to play the genetic hand we are dealt? A new book is challenging that very notion.
‘The Great Age Reboot’
The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrowby New York Times best-selling author Dr. Michael F. Roizen takes a look at the future of human longevity while revealing how to prepare for a longer, healthier life.
Roizen says that over the next decade, living to 100, 120, or even 130 years old will become increasingly common. What’s more, he says that life as a centenarian is not going to be what you think.
Before we get too far into his theory, let’s take a look at Dr. Roizen’s list of credentials because they are impressive and add even more credibility to his latest book.
- Roizen is a graduate of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine who performed his residency in internal medicine at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital.
- He’s worked with Nobel prize winners, was a college professor, has directed different medical programs, is certified by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Anesthesiology, and is the past chairman of an FDA advisory committee. He also has a dozen US patents, plus more overseas.
- Roizen has more credits on his CV than we can count. But, some of the most impressive comes from his writing. We’re talking about dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers, textbook chapters, editorials, and even medical textbooks—including a medical best-seller.
What Is Gene Influencing?
While genes can raise your risk for certain diseases, they aren’t the only factor in whether or not you’ll get that disease. Well known in the science community as epigenetics, environmental factors can influence how our DNA controls what is happening in our bodies. And this is essentially what Roizen is arguing.
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In a recent piece he wrote for National Geographic—the publisher of his latest book—Roizen said that if you make healthy lifestyle choices, you can “self-engineer genetic alterations to prevent disease and boost longevity.”
In the United States, approximately 40 percent of premature deaths (defined as occurring before age 75) are related to lifestyle choices. Which, as Roizen notes, are “behaviors we can change.”
“Lifestyle and genetics are intertwined, in that your lifestyle choices influence the ways that many of your genes function—and thus how your body functions,” Roizen wrote.
“Studies of human gene expression show that if you choose to make certain lifestyle changes, you can influence whether your genes are ‘on’ or ‘off.’ In fact, your choices can influence an estimated 1,200 of the 1,500 genes that are on and probably can influence the other estimated 21,000 that are off.”
Science tells us that by the time we hit the age of 60, about 75 percent of our health outcomes are literally determined by our choices. As Roizen explained, that’s “genetic self-engineering.”
Of course, the brain is the center of everything, and Roizen notes that when the mind goes, the body quickly follows suit. As such, taking measures to protect the brain shouldn’t be overlooked. Luckily, they are often the same steps you can take to protect the whole body.
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Steps To Live Longer
Building a strong foundation now by making good choices will help you live longer because you have the ability to change how your body works and reacts. We all know things like diet, exercise, sleep, and quitting smoking are healthy lifestyle factors we should strive to prioritize. That doesn’t always make them easy, though.
To help, Roizen outlined some of the methods people have successfully implemented to make better lifestyle choices.
1. Take Advantage Of Technology
From simple step trackers to smartwatches to calorie-tracking apps, there are a number of devices and tools on the market that can help us make better choices. While it won’t work for everyone, for others these aids can assist in setting and monitoring goals or identifying areas that need more attention.
2. Use Financial Incentives
With the healthcare system in the United States, a chronic illness or emergency hospital visit can get costly, so that alone could be a financial incentive for some. Roizen also notes that those in better health tend to have higher work productivity and can work longer, which can manifest in raises and more retirement savings.
3. The Good Old Buddy System
Whether it’s a group class, an online support group, or a neighbor to walk with, the power of community support can’t be understated. Other people can help hold us accountable, offer encouraging words when we struggle, or influence us to make better choices.
4. Do The ‘Little’ Things
When we face an injury or illness, it’s common for doctors to recommend steps for fast recovery. That could take the form of going to physical therapy, making sure we’re drinking extra fluids, or doing daily stretches at home. Yet it’s so easy to stop these activities before recommended or even skip them altogether. Yet Roizen urges that the little things matter, and every decision we make, no matter how small, can add up when it comes to our overall health.
Finding the right way to motivate ourselves to make those better choices isn’t easy. But as Roizen says, “science is about to offer you the Garden of Eden”—the chance of a prolonged life with prolonged youthful years. However, it will be up to you to take advantage of it.