Being born, growing up, reproducing (sometimes), getting old and dying. Since the human being begins to be aware of his own fragility, he accepts, with more or less dignity, that a day will come when his face will fill with wrinkles, his body will become heavier and heavier and he will end up withering, like a bouquet of flowers in a vase, until finally dying.
“We handle the passage of life in four phases. The first is what is called a disease-free life, a life without any disease diagnosis, and this is what generally lasts until 35-40 years of age”, says Dr. Ángel Durántez Prados (1963), a pioneer in preventive medicine in Spain. and author of the book Young at 100. And from 35-40? The decline. “Interestingly, age 35-40 coincides with the time when age-related damage begins to accumulate. It is the moment in which a Homo sapiens He has already accomplished his mission. She has been born, she has grown, she has reproduced and she has raised his offspring. From there, we live an extra life”, maintains Durántez.
And with old age usually come cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoarthritis, cholesterol… In fact, what is intended when talking about longevity is no longer so much to live long, but to live long and very well. healthy. Or, in other words, to continue feeling at 80 as at 40. The task is considerable and it is best to start as soon as possible by applying these seven anti-aging pillars that the doctor proposes in a conversation with The weekly country.
Exercise: the more, the better
“Human beings are not genetically designed to stand still,” says Dr. Durántez. The history of evolution proves him right. Centuries have forged us as a bipedal mammal dedicated to hunting, gathering, migrating, procreating, resisting, building, and fighting, among many other actions. But sitting in front of a screen for eight hours is certainly not yet part of our DNA.
Studies indicate that a sedentary lifestyle increases between 20% and 30% the risk of premature death. How to avoid it? This is one of the easiest pillars to fulfill: you just have to exercise.
How much? It is best to start by meeting the minimums recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). That consists of doing an aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That is: 150 minutes of exercise a week. To this it is best to add, to the extent of the possibilities of each one, muscle toning exercises. Durántez also insists that in the case of women, especially after menopause, it is important to do weights. “Weight lifting is the best system to avoid sarcopenia (a progressive and generalized disease of the skeletal muscle characterized by decreased muscle strength) and to ensure that women can continue getting off the couch easily”, explains the doctor.
There are, however, many people who live in the so-called blue zones, They don’t have a gym or have never picked up a ball to play sports in their lives, but they still live the longest. Because? “Because they move. They are sweeping, cultivating, fishing, cycling or walking everywhere…”, Durántez points out. The blue zones There are five areas of the world located in Sardinia (Italy), the island of Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (USA), the Nicoya peninsula (Costa Rica) and Icaria (Greece) where there are high concentrations of individuals older than 100 years that have aged without major health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes. Their life habits have a lot to teach, since they complement physical activity with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Nutrition: Mediterranean diet
A lot has been written about diets and the proper nutrition that we all need to follow, but the best option is to go back to the basics. “There are plenty of diets, but if you told me what we are left with, we are left with the Mediterranean diet, sugar control and avoiding processed and ultra-processed products,” Durántez maintains.
With a well-done Mediterranean diet (no fries with a hamburger), the doctor refers to the foods of a lifetime, such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish, eggs and some meat (little red meat, yes) . “Don’t call it Mediterranean if you don’t want to, call it a real diet, in which you see the food, the lettuce, the tomato, the chicken thigh as it is. Croissants don’t grow on trees, they are processed food.”
Durántez is also an advocate of intermittent fasting and eating little. “Because you don’t have dinner two nights a week, nothing will happen to you. Human beings have been used to not eating for very long periods of time”, he affirms.
Sleep and rest: jack, horse and king
When the electric light was made, the human being became a night owl. If before we fell asleep in front of the television, now we fall asleep doing scroll infinity on instagram photos. The media have changed, but their power to disrupt our natural circadian rhythms remains the same.
Various studies have confirmed that little sleep shortens life. And not only that, it also causes irritability, increased risk of cancer, dementia and mortality. It becomes clear that the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life will be.
The appropriate thing is to rest between seven and eight hours, but not only. “There are four things to comply with: the sleep routine, avoiding screens, the temperature of the room and the darkness. That is to say: the rules of sleep hygiene. It looks like jack, horse and king, but people don’t do it”, explains Durántez.
Toxic habits: not a drink
We know that smoking is bad (it is confirmed by legislation), but we continue to smoke. The same goes for alcohol. We know that drinking is bad, but we continue to drink and some advocates even continue to spread the idea that a glass of wine a day is good for the heart.
“The cardiology theory that a glass of wine a day produces a cardioprotective effect, but if you drink more, that cardioprotective effect is biased because in the studies, as they are observational, drinking only one glass a day is a moderate consumption that is corresponds to people who usually have very good lifestyles. But, if you look at cancer studies, zero is better than half a drink and a half is better than one. The incidence of cancer skyrockets as soon as zero consumption is exceeded,” says Durántez.
And what about people who live a long life and do not give up their love of drinking alcohol until the end of their days, like Elizabeth II of England? “Well, it happens that centenarians are genetic”, clarifies the doctor.
Not only tobacco and alcohol shorten life, although they are the most consumed substances. There are other drug consumption habits, such as heroin, morphine, opiates or cocaine, which rapidly age our body. “The good news is that it can be reversed at the exact moment you stop using it,” explains Durántez.
Supplements: the good diet is not enough
“That you can have a healthy and balanced diet and you don’t need anything, I don’t believe it. It is what they teach us in Medicine and it is what we transmit to patients, but it is not reality. Because? Because the nutritional density of food has been lost over time”, argues Durántez.
The amount of certain nutrients in a tomato analyzed in the 1940s and 1950s has nothing to do with today’s tomato, grown in a soil in which seven harvests have been obtained, one after the other, with different additives, fertilizers or pesticides. . In addition, over time, a human body has different needs and it is possible that with food alone you do not get all the nutrients you need.
And what are the supplements we need? According to the doctor, they are the usual acquaintances: omega 3, group B vitamins, probiotics, coenzyme Q10 and vitamin D (which in Switzerland the government recommends taking). Of course, the important thing is to do an analysis beforehand to know what your levels of each one are.
Stress management: an anxious country
Spain is, along with Portugal, the OECD country where the most anxiolytics are consumed. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Health, the prescription of anxiolytics and antidepressants has risen by 4% and 6%, respectively, between November 2020 and November 2021.
Stress and anxiety are a global pandemic and are also among the causes that shorten life the most. “In the book The telomere solution, Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn talks about how stress ages quickly and talks a lot about caregivers of parents with Alzheimer’s or children with disabilities. And these women have a brutal aging process, they have much shorter telomeres (the ends of the chromosomes that are used to measure the biological aging of a human being), which shows how mood affects health”, she explains. Durántez.
Hormone replacement: everything goes down with age
The passage of time produces a decline in our hormonal levels because the glands that produce hormones deteriorate, both in men and women. The turning point is the age of 50, when the drastic hormonal decline occurs and in women coincides with the beginning of menopause.
Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and melatonin remain at more or less fixed levels until the age of 40, but then they drop sharply. The only thing that does not decrease with age is insulin and cortisol, hormones responsible for stress that are linked to diseases related to aging, and to which just the opposite happens: they increase with age.
Is this a reversible process? According to Dr. Durántez, a good hormone replacement therapy, consisting of giving the patient the hormone that she no longer has or a drug that simulates it, could help to balance the levels. “The question is whether with hormone therapy we can do more than just get rid of hot flashes, sweats or weight gain. Can we get prevention of chronic diseases related to aging? Well, it seems that yes, ”says the professional. We don’t age because hormones drop, but hormones drop because we age.