In this article, you will learn about a controversial but interesting topic: How to reverse aging in seniors.
Article updated 30th of August 2022.
While it’s currently impossible to completely reverse or stop aging, there are some very interesting studies done on certain supplements and lifestyle choices that can affect the aging process radically.
So radically actually that in some cases it’s possible to achieve youthful vigor and strength. Even if it’s been decades since you felt young. Of course, the sooner you implement these lifestyle factors and supplements into your life, the better the results will be.
Here’s the summary if you don’t have time to read through the whole article:
- Be active and exercise enough. Include both strength and endurance training but don’t overdo it.
- Eat a reasonable diet with plenty of vegetables and fiber. Avoid excess calories.
- Take care of your gut microbes, and eat pre- and probiotics.
- Include some form of fasting in your routine
- Take NMN and Resveratrol and NAD-supporting supplements
- Sleep enough and avoid environmental toxins, including smoking and consumption of alcohol.
How To Reverse Aging In Seniors: Introduction
We have been taught to think that our longevity is dictated by two factors. Our genes and our lifestyle choices. The thinking being that our genes dictate the absolute age we can achieve with optimal lifestyle choices.
Due to this logic, the studies on longevity have focused on things we can do to improve our lifestyle to achieve the highest possible age. Historically not much has been done to find out if it’s actually possible to push the genetic limit higher. Or if there actually even is a genetic limit.
Of course the idea of a genetic limit for your age come from the observations on people who live long. Longevity definitely seems to be hereditary. If both of your parents live to over 90 years old, your odds of achieving similar age are much better than to someone whose parents perished before turning 70.
Nature Vs. Nurture
Of course, it’s impossible to completely distinguish between lifestyle and genetic factors because the variables are simply too many and for the complete evaluation of hereditary impact we would have to know the lifestyle factors of both generations very well. There are obvious practical problems so studies that last for several generations are simply not done.
We know that certain lifestyle factors affect our longevity radically. Smoking, bad dietary choices and lack of exercise are all well-known lifestyle choices that will likely reduce your lifespan. What’s interesting is that there are people who manage to live very long lives despite all of those habits.
Do they simply have exceptional genes or is there something else going on? Maybe there is a dietary factor that protects them from all the oxidative stress? Could it be possible their lifestyle choices keeps them stress free and stress is the true cause of aging? How about their gut microbe, could they have a role in it?
Honestly, all those are as good a guess as any. What is certain is that people with such lifestyles and a long lifespan are a statistical anomaly and you shouldn’t follow their lifestyle expecting the same mileage.
All that said, we are going to show you some pretty convincing studies that might change the way you think about aging. Let’s start by looking at what we mean by aging.
What Is Aging?
Generally speaking, aging is the process of deterioration of our bodies and mind due to time. Aging can be divided in many ways. There is physical, mental, and spiritual age. There is also biological and subjective age. There is also your absolute or temporal age, which is the actual number.
Aging can also be used as a positive term to describe the process of accumulating wisdom, patience, and even physical strength as we grow into adulthood from adolescence.
For the sake of simplicity, in this post, we are going to talk about biological aging. Which naturally includes physical and cognitive aging.
Your biological age doesn’t always go hand in hand with your actual absolute age but in general the older you get, the further the aging process will advance.
Effects Of Aging
With aging comes both obvious and not-so-obvious changes in our bodies. The obvious indicators of aging include reduced energy, loss of strength and vigor, lack of elasticity in the skin, etc. The normal signs of aging.
The not-so-obvious changes include changes concerning our whole metabolism and cellular function. Our cells regenerate slower and become less able to divide and multiply.
They also start to accumulate waste products from cell metabolism. This affects how efficiently your cells can function.
Our connective tissues lose elasticity and become stiffer. This affects all of our organs and cardiovascular system. And many tissues start having issues with getting enough oxygen and nutrients. Also, the removal of waste products and carbon dioxide becomes slower.
Many tissues atrophy. They lose mass and become smaller. This naturally leads to reduced performance and the ability to withstand stress.
The Aging Cell And Telomeres
Within each of your cells’ DNA are these things called telomeres. Telomeres are sort of blocks located at the end of DNA strands. They protect our chromosomes from splitting up by gluing the caps in a sense.
Without telomeres, our DNA strands become frayed and can no longer do their job.
It’s been long established that our telomere length is correlated with our longevity. The longer the telomeres, the younger we are in biological sense.
Our genetic material is located within the DNA within each of our cells. DNA is what makes us who we are. Our cells regenerate by copying themselves throughout our lives, some faster, some slower. The telomeres in our DNA get shorter each time a cell duplicates, but the DNA stays intact. Until the telomeres get too short to keep the strands of DNA intact.
DNA makes up all of the cells in our body. It is the genetic material that makes us who we are. And every organ in our body (skin, liver, heart, etc.) is made up of cells. So, telomeres are vital to our health.
Our cells replenish by copying themselves. This happens constantly throughout our lives. Telomeres get shorter each time a cell copies itself, but the important DNA stays intact. Until the telomeres get too short that is. Once the telomeres get too short to do their job, our cells stop functioning properly. So telomeres act as an aging indicator within our cells.
What’s fascinating is that we can affect the shortening of these telomeres significantly with lifestyle choices, supplements and some drugs! Without further ado, let’s look at the lifestyle factors that affect the aging process.
How To Reverse Aging In Seniors: Tips
1. Exercise And Aging
Because this site is geared towards strength training I thought it would be natural to start our lifestyle choices that affect aging with exercise. Exercise in different forms has been linked with anti-aging benefits.
There seem to be several mechanisms to how exercise prevents aging. The most obvious one is the improvement in cardiovascular health, which results in better oxygen and nutrient transportation. As well as the removal of waste products, toxins, and carbon dioxide.
The other obvious mechanisms are an increase in muscle mass and bone mass, as these will help you stave off injuries that could reduce your lifespan as well as help you survive longer during times of illness or famine.
Keeping active is important
There is clear evidence that being active is what keeps us alive. As we get older our muscle and bone mass will diminish. This is an effect known as sarcopenia. Which is in essence old age frailty, that can eventually lead to loss of ability to move independently. Exercise and especially strength and resistance training is the only known way to prevent sarcopenia.
A strong and fast body also helps with survival against predators, harsh weather, accidents and other people, increasing the odds of living a longer life. Like Mark Rippetoe, a strength coach has said: “Strong people are harder to kill and more useful in general.”. You can learn more about him in the article Starting Strength For Seniors
More subtle mechanisms exercise has on aging you can’t really feel but they can be seen on blood tests and biopsies. These include reduced inflammation, better metabolic markers like blood sugar and cholesterol, better utilization of nutrients and reversing the shortening of telomeres, which we talked about in the previous chapter.
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing
There is also some evidence that excessive exercise can cause premature aging. This is likely associated with the oxidative and metabolic stress that exercise causes if the body is not allowed to recover enough. Remember, exercise only makes the body stronger if it’s given a chance to adapt. This happens during recovery.
Strength Training Vs. Cardio
Strength training is generally the best way to prevent sarcopenia and to build a strong functional body, even in older age. Strength training means any type of activity that aims to improve strength and muscle mass. Typically, this involves lifting weights in the gym, doing body weight exercises or calisthenics.
The benefits of strength training on your overall health, functionality and independence are incredibly diverse. It’s very important to include some form of strength training in your exercise routine as you age to prevent the loss of crucial muscle mass. This study concluded that just an hour of resistance training a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 40% to 70%.
Endurance training has been shown to slow down and potentially even reversing cellular aging. This study looked at the effects of endurance training, high intensity interval training and resistance training (strength training) on the length of telomeres.
They found that in the endurance and HIIT group the telomere length increased substantially and telomerase activity increased up to three time more than in the group that did just resistance training.
So it seems that resistance training alone won’t provide these very important cellular benefits that can prevent aging. The researchers speculated that the mechanism behind this might be related to blood flow which is increased for more extended periods of time with endurance training than in resistance training.
But There’s More To It
Doing serious strength training will increase your heart rate significantly for the whole training session. So the results might have been different if the resistance trained group would have been advanced enough to do metabolically demanding strength training.
It seems that in a sense strength training makes your body strong and thus protects you from external threats like the environment, accidents etc. while cardio makes your bodies internal processes work better and more efficiently, thus protecting you from aging internally.
This study suggested that the combination of both strength training and endurance based aerobic exercise was more beneficial for preventing heart disease.
So it seems that if you want to prevent and potentially reverse the effects of aging on your body, you should definitely include both forms of exercise in your routine to get the best of both worlds.
2. Diet And Aging
Naturally, what you eat has a significant effect on your overall health and longevity. It seems that in some cases the effect of diet on your health has been exaggerated.
Typically, fad diets proclaim it’s this certain food or complete macronutrient or maybe the time you eat that is making you fat and ruining your health.
In reality, we humans are remarkably adaptable to our environment and can survive on very different diets. That doesn’t change the fact that there are certain key elements that a healthy diet has to include.
Nutrients And Energy
Our diet needs to provide our body and mind with all the necessary nutrients and energy. In the past, when we were hunter gatherers, the problem was getting enough both of them. These days the problem is more about getting enough nutrients without getting too much energy.
As you surely know, we live in an abundance of calorie dense foods due to the miracle of agriculture and industrialization. The problem is that many of these calorie rich food are not very nutrient dense. This means that we have to eat more of them to get all the necessary nutrients while all the excess energy will be stored as body fat.
Being overweight and having significantly high body fat are associated with a shorter lifespan. There is evidence that calorie restriction (eating less than you consume) can increase lifespan in the animal kingdom.
Although the research on this effect on humans is still inconclusive, it seems that fortunately, this effect doesn’t work the same way with humans. After all, who wants to starve themselves indefinitely to live a bit longer?
Losing weight is not always good
As we age we tend to lose muscle mass and calorie restriction doesn’t help with this. It actually makes things worse. So as we get older, the real challenge is to find a way to maintain lean mass, obtain all the necessary nutrients while avoiding excess energy.
Here’s a great explanation of the effects of diet on longevity by University of California Television (UCTV). (YouTube embed. Content not owned or created by ElderStrength.com):
Key elements of a diet that supports longevity:
- Balanced energy intake: not too much, not too little
- Nutritious: Unprocessed food products, lean meat, fish, fruits, calciferous vegetables, berries etc.
- Enough fiber: Especially soluble fiber from fruits has important functions for waster removal and supporting your gut flora
- Healthy fats: While the health effects of dietary cholesterol are not as clear as generally thought, it’s wise to focus on fats from healthy sources like fish, avocados and nuts and avoid excessive amounts of dairy and other animal fats.
3. Stress And Aging
Stress affects aging both directly and indirectly. Being stressed tends to make people look for stress relief from food, alcohol, nicotine and drugs.
All of these can have negative effects on your health and cause premature aging if used on the long term. That’s why it’s important to form healthy ways to cope with stress.
Life stress is something that can’t be avoided. But the way we handle it and how long we endure it can be affected. You don’t want to completely avoid stress because it drives us forward to achieve things. But just like with strength training, life stress needs to be recovered from, so you can adapt to it.
Here’s an explanation on the effects of stress on aging by University of California Television (UCTV). (YouTube embed. Content not owned or created by ElderStrength.com):
Stress affects your hormones
Both acute and chronic stress cases several negative health effects that can reduce longevity. Being stressed increases blood pressure and can shorten your telomeres (study), which tells us that stress affect you at a cellular level and not just your mind.
One of the reasons to this is the main stress hormone cortisol, which when increased decreases several beneficial hormones like DHEA and testosterone.
The effects this causes include accelerated aging, brain cell death, impaired memory, and learning, decreased bone density, reduced muscle mass, reduced skin regeneration, impaired immune function, increased blood sugar, and fat accumulation.
So as you can see, stress is one of the key elements of reversing and preventing premature aging.
4. Fasting And Aging
If you are interested in health you’ve surely heard about different kinds of fasting protocols with more or less incredible claims of health benefits.
While fasting is definitely not a miracle cure, it can actually have several beneficial effects as well as work effectively for fat loss.
One common fasting trend in recent years has been so-called intermittent fasting. It involves a daily fast for example 16 hours or a couple of longer fasting windows (24 hours for example) each week. The idea is that you can get the benefits of fasting while maintaining a fairly normal diet.
It seems that the constant digestion of food we are used to is actually taxing to our metabolism. In nature animals (including humans) rarely get to eat as regularly as we do in the modern world.
Fasting let’s your cells rest
It seems that our cells do important cleaning processes and regeneration when they are not being fed constantly. Unfortunately this rarely happens if you eat the first thing in the morning and the last thing before going to bed.
What’s even more interesting is that fasting, intermittently or for longer periods of time seems to prevent aging. There is evidence that fasting can do this through several mechanisms.
The first is ketones. Ketones are molecules that are formed from fatty acids when glucose (blood sugar) is not available through diet. Ketones seem to have beneficial effects on our cardiovascular system, keeping it young.
If you have heard about the ketogenic diet, which involves almost complete omission of carbohydrates, this is similar. You can learn more about keto diets in the article Keto Diet for Seniors [Quick Guide].
Fasting doesn’t require you to omit the carbs, which is difficult to most and might even be unhealthy. When you fast for several hours, your body starts to make small amounts of ketones which apparently offer the benefits for cardiovascular health.
This study found that mice on intermittent fasting diet program lived longer and healthier lives compared to the control group that fed several times a day. In the fasting group of mice health and longevity improved with increased fasting time, regardless of the calories and ingredients of the diet. While this type of studies have not been made on humans yet, it’s likely the metabolic effects are similar.
This study found that intermittent fasting can improve the functioning of the mitochondria (power plants within each cell) and thus prevent aging. The study was done on nematode worms but the cellular functions are the same on virtually all living things so these benefits are likely on humans as well.
While conclusive human studies are lacking, it seems that fasting offers many benefits to preventing aging. So if you are interested in reversing aging, fasting is definitely something to take a closer look at.
5. Aging and the microbiome
One of the greatest health discoveries of this century will be the effect our gut bacteria and other microbiome has on our health. It’s been long known that they play a crucial role in digestion but only in recent decades we have realized they are a key factor for our overall health.
Each new study on gut microbes seems to enforce this fact. They have been shown to be extremely important for the immune system, metabolism, controlling body weight, mental health, reducing inflammation, breaking down environmental toxins etc. It seems the functions are endless.
All that said, it doesn’t come as a surprise that our microbiome seems to be connected with aging as well. Probiotics are a supplemental form of gut microbe strains and there is some evidence they can offer anti-aging benefits, especially on the skin.
“Probiotics can restore acidic skin pH, alleviate oxidative stress, attenuate photoaging, improve skin barrier function, and enhance hair quality.”
This review concluded that the intestinal microbiota changes with age and in elderly people these changes often result in negative health effects caused by inflammation. It seems that probiotics can be used to support a healthy gut microbiota to counter these negative effects.
You can read more about probiotics in the articles Best Probiotics For Women Over 70 and What Is The Best Probiotic For Seniors? [With Tips].
For seniors thinking about trying a probiotic supplement, my recommendation is the Genuine Health advanced gut health probiotic (affiliate link, I earn a small commission if you buy through it):
6. Supplements that prevent aging
There are few supplements that have been shown to reduce the effects of aging. The key element with these supplements is that they affect certain chemicals that are abundant in our body when young but diminish as we get older.
NR, short for nicotinamide riboside, is a compound that has been studied extensively in animal models for its anti aging benefits. NR is a precursor of NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), an important metabolic signaling molecule found in the cells of all species. NAD+ affects the functioning of enzymes called sirtruins, which are involved in the aging process.
NAD+ has been associated with aging as it’s responsible for cellular function, DNA repair, growth and several other functions. In youth NAD+ is abundant but as we age, the levels of NAD+ diminish and our metabolism becomes dysfunctional leading to metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes.
NMN is capable of increasing the levels of NAD+ to youthful levels, at least in animal trials. When given to elderly mice, their physical performance returned to youthful levels, in some cases even surpassing it. All the metabolic markers of aging also reduced significantly.
This study showed that supplementing with NR is well tolerated and increased NAD+ levels up to 60% in healthy middle-aged and older adults. They concluded that further trial are required for evaluating the effects of NR supplementation on aging. Considering the increase in NAD+ levels and previous animal trial, it’s likely to have a similar effect on humans.
My recommendation for an NR supplement is the TRU Niagen (affiliate link) brand, which offers superior price-to-quality ratio compared to other brands.
Resveratrol is a compound found in grapes and nuts. Just like NAD+, resveratrol affects the functioning of sirtruins. Resveratrol is also found in red wine because it’s derived from grapes. Consumption of red wine has been associated with beneficial metabolic effects like reduced inflammation and lower blood glucose levels.
Studies have shown that just like with NAD+ increasing supplements, supplementing with resveratrol improves physical performance to youthful levels and increases longevity, at least in animal studies.
Resveratrol has also been shown to be beneficial for heart health, it’s possible these effects are due to the anti-aging effects as well.
Our recommended brand for a resveratrol supplement is the Purely Beneficial Resveratrol 1450mg (affiliate link).
Creatine and a few other supplements might also be beneficial for age related effects. You can learn more about them in the articles Creatine for seniors, The Best Memory Supplements For Seniors [Very Affordable!], The Best Omega 3 For Senior and Best Energy Supplements For Seniors.
I hope you enjoyed reading my tips for preventing and reversing aging in seniors. While it seems getting old is inevitable, it’s remarkable how much we actually know about the factors that affect aging.
What’s even more astonishing is that most of the factors are something you can affect yourself.
It definitely seems that these few simple rules can take years off your internal clock.
Do your best to adhere to them and your likelihood of living a healthy long life will increase. If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. We promise to get back to you as soon as possible!
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See you next time!