Healthy Habits May Slow the Aging Process, Research Shows

Can aging be reversed? This question has been the subject of scientific study as well as science fiction, but a satisfactory answer has always managed to evade human pursuit. And we’re still chasing one.

Microbiologist David Sinclair and his lab at Harvard Medical School have made some encouraging discoveries that have enabled the scientists to accelerate, and, theoretically, slow down the aging process. By using proteins that are able to convert adult cells into stem cells, Sinclair and his team of researchers were able to permanently transform cells into earlier—or younger—versions of themselves.

In 2020, Sinclair and his team of researchers published a study outlining how reprogramming neurons in mouse eyes could make them more resistant to damage and able to regrow after injury in a way that was similar to younger mice. The key to this development, according to the study, is the epigenome, which is made up of chemical compounds and proteins that can attach to DNA and direct such actions as turning genes on or off and controlling the production of proteins in particular cells.

But Sinclair believes that this reversal of aging can be applied to other degenerative diseases, like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and certain cancers. “If we reverse aging, these diseases should not happen. We have the technology today to be able to go into your hundreds without worrying about getting cancer in your 70s, heart disease in your 80s and Alzheimer’s in your 90s,” Sinclair told a live audience at Life Itself, a health and wellness event presented in partnership with CNN.

Healthy habits could help to slow the aging processSinclair’s groundbreaking research is promising, but while we wait for more definitive results, there are steps people can take right now that can help address typical limitations associated with age without additional medical intervention. Lifestyle adjustments such as eating more plant-based foods, getting the proper amount of sleep, practicing relaxation, and being physically active 3-5 days per week can all affect the epigenome. While individuals might be genetically predisposed to certain conditions, like high cholesterol or cancer, healthy behaviors can influence whether those genes are ever activated.

Adopting or recommitting to healthy habits, such as a more plant-forward diet or increased physical activity, can be difficult at first. Healthy Monday programming is designed to slowly introduce individuals to these behaviors in a way that’s clear and accessible. Materials offered range from improving sleep quality to walking your way to better health to self-care. If interested in plant-based eating, Healthy Monday also offers the Meatless Monday Challenge, a simple introduction to plant-based foods that can serve as the foundation of a healthy diet. Participants can start with one day a week, and continue integrating the behaviors into subsequent days until they become consistent habits. Until new scientific breakthroughs provide additional solutions, maintaining a routine of healthy activities remains one of the more reliable ways to age gracefully.