“Your genes are not your destiny. That’s the good news. It’s up to you. If you want to be frail or to be honest, dead at 80, go for it. We know how to do that. Do everything the marketing people want you to do. Eat the cake and sit on your fat ass and that will get you there pretty quickly.” This quote is from David Sinclair, PhD, professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and one of the world’s leading scientific authorities on longevity, aging and how to slow its effects. He was on a recent episode of the Rich Roll Podcast I found quite fascinating.
I’ve come to learn over recent years I have control over our my health versus the genes I was born with and this is simply by lifestyle choice. I have a much greater chance of acquiring prostate cancer my dad died from by what I eat and how I treat my body than genetics. That was quite a revelation for me and it’s not just prostate cancer but any other chronic illness that are breeding grounds with how we fuel our bodies.
The podcast was quite technical but feathered in some humor and personal touches. I of course love a father – child dynamic so I admired the relationship David has with his father who is 80 years old and follows David’s research to stage off aging with diet, exercise and more. They workout together and David shared how his dad runs around like a 25 year old who with no aches and pains, very sharp minded and recently started a second career. He is lifting more weights than David…ha! Ok, maybe David is weak but still, you get the point. This dad is kicking ass by not eating the cake and sitting on his ass! Love it!!! Does this give me hope I will be able to run faster than my daughter, Morgan, when I’m 80 years old?!?! Ha, I doubt it but I want to be running my ass off when I reach 80 years old, I know that.
David shares how most of us our wasting our lives by not thinking of longevity and most think they will deal with it when they get older. I know when I get a bit older I want to be active and not dependent on medicine and other means to keep me going. David states are goal should be to live really long and active and then die pretty quickly…not having years of declining health which we are so familiar with in today’s world. It doesn’t have to be that way and we all have the choice to control what we can control. The science behind his findings spans many different aspects about our bodies and one common theme he discusses is – discomfort.
He uses several examples to share his findings and how we can use them to enhance our longevity. I’ve heard some of these in different outlets before and what I found in this interview was one of gentlemen that was and still is doing the research. I’m so grateful for Rich Roll’s interview style who has the ability to ask questions and derive answers from these brilliant people in a way that I can comprehend.
Back to discomfort. He states, “the bottom line is you gotta get out of your comfort zone. The problem with today’s world is marketing, branding and our own pyramidal brain is we just want to be relaxed and want to be fed. We don’t want to feel discomfort and that’s leading to a whole bunch of problems. If we are not always telling our body things could be problematic our bodies don’t care. They don’t fight against disease. They don’t fight against aging.”
He focuses on turning on the gene, PNC1, that promotes the fighting thus enhancing longevity. The discussion on food was enlightening. He addresses differences in quality of plant foods by how they are grown and impacted by the environment. What I found so interesting is how eating plant foods that are in distress, like when in a drought, distribute molecules to the body in a much richer fashion than when grown in ideal or perfect conditions.
He explains that when plant foods and using lettuce as an example, grown in ideal conditions look white and watery vs. those in distressed situations being richer and denser in color, thus have more polyphenolic (greatness promoting…my words…ha!) molecules. There are techniques used by farmers to create distress right before pulling the food to enhance the quality. The example he used was the day before a farmer would pull oranges they drove a nail into the tree creating the distress to then develop the richness of the nutrients passing to the oranges. Crazy stuff…
For consumers that means to buy local and organic when you can vs. a big production and/or synthetic environment. Notice how animal foods are not discussed here as they promote premature aging and chronic illnesses. No way around that one…
Other ways to turn on the body’s defenses with the longevity gene is creating stress through exercise, temperature, and restricting food (especially the bad ones like sugar, oil, salts, animal products). He stresses the importance of activating these genes often and consistently.
I learned a bit about the foods as mentioned earlier. I eat pretty darn healthy by living a whole foods plant-based lifestyle but I will try to buy more local and a bit more dark leafy greens to enhance what I’m already doing. I want to learn more about the temperature examples he shared and those include effects on how the body reacts to very cold, very hot and combining the two conditions in some examples. What he shared made sense and he leveraged other leading scientific researchers as well in this space. Heck, if it promotes aging less and reducing risk of chronic illnesses, I’m going to look into it further.
He also shared the benefits of exercise which was music to my ears as I exercise a lot. Similar to the effect of food noted earlier, the way in which our body responds to exercise stress promotes the longevity gene. Changing our exercise patterns was an important emphasis so the body doesn’t adapt and reduce the effect of the positive gene effect. This fits so perfectly into plans I write for myself and others. We work really hard on the hard days and work at recovery on the days we need the rest. We change our intensity and strength levels from workout to workout to build fitness while also confusing the body.
It makes sense by doing this we promote the reduction in aging as I feel younger now than 10 years ago. There is the difference between our biological and actual age and I’m a firm believer of living and promoting my biological age. I know I’m younger than I was 10 years ago…figure that one out…ha!
Not only is discomfort great for our body but it’s tremendous for our mind. He and I are 100% in sych here. He shared, “it’s finding something you want to go for…and going for it. There are plenty of times I wonder, do I really have to get out of bed today, this is tough with the ups and downs…Anyone who experiences adversity has to know that’s part of the process. You don’t grow, you don’t learn, you don’t succeed unless you go through that…If you have a goal that is what gets you through it.”
I am really working hard on developing that mental stress in training to achieve my race goals this year. I continue to press myself to learn more about adding health to my life and sharing with others. Please share what you learn so we can live long and while we are living long we are thriving with our health.
– Add Health to Your Life
*Featured picture from a race two years ago in Melbourne. I was in pretty good discomfort as I am in all my races at the end…this was just a good visual depiction of it…ha!