Many of our clients are looking for ways to optimize their health and wellness and a big part of that entails securing their future health and wellness, aka their longevity. 

Longevity is a trending topic right now with many “longevity” supplements hitting the market, documentaries available for streaming (think Netflix’s 2023 Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones), and longevity related books topping the bestseller list sharing their latest anti-aging theories (such as Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity, How Not to Age, Younger You: Reduce Your Bio-Age and Life Longer, Better). 

Before you invest your precious time and energy in any of the above mentioned resources, take a few recommendations from our experts to understand what’s really going to have an impact. 

Many of our tips below can have an even more powerful impact than any one superfood, fancy anti-aging supplement, or expensive product marketed to those looking to slow the passage of time. Here we focus on habits and actions you can implement today to create a strong foundation for moving into your best years. 

And these are also the most cost effective paths to improved longevity, most of which cost you nothing to implement.

But first, there’s one thing you’ll never want to ignore, as it has the biggest impact on your longevity, either positively or negatively.

What are some of the biggest impacts on our health span? 

Before we try to extend healthspan or longevity, the first step is to address the biggest impacts limiting our longevity today.

All the longevity supplements in the world won’t help if these biggest offenders are knocking years off our healthy, functional lifespan. Addressing these will be your biggest lever in having a longer, healthier life.

The Centers for Disease Control (using data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey [NHIS]) estimates that more than half (51.8%) of American adults suffer from at least 1 chronic condition, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

These chronic conditions are not just numbers on a survey; they represent a significant burden on our health and well-being. They are the primary drivers of morbidity, leading to decreased physical and mental function, and ultimately, a reduction in the quality and length of life.

Arthritis, on the other hand, affects mobility and can turn simple tasks into painful ordeals, leading to a sedentary lifestyle that only exacerbates other health risks.

Physical inactivity, poor diet, and other unhealthy behaviors often develop as a result of the limitations imposed by chronic diseases, creating a vicious cycle that further diminishes health and longevity.

However, there is a silver lining.

By addressing these chronic conditions through prevention and improvement of existing conditions, we can have a massive impact on our healthy, functional longevity. These are our first line of defense in longer, healthier, happier lives.

Many come to us to address these kinds of chronic conditions after they’ve already become a problem. But prevention can do more for your health and longevity than any tip, supplement, or fancy new longevity therapy.

We’d argue that when our clients are looking to improve their longevity and prioritize healthy aging, they really mean adding life to their years. And improving their healthspan typically means adding to their lifespan as a result.

What about challenging social and environmental circumstances?

We would be remiss if we did not also mention the unfavorable impact of social determinants of health (SDOH) on health outcomes. Examples of social determinants include gender, race/ethnicity, SES, social class, education, income, occupation, employment status, housing tenure, immigrant status, language use, disability status, and social capital. Social determinants of health also affect a wide range of health, functional, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. 

Despite the overall improvements in life expectancy, substantial gender and racial/ethnic disparities remain. We also fully acknowledge that many of our recommendations below require a certain level of assumed privilege and resources to secure (leisure time, control over your environment, access to nature, etc). 

Negative environments and traumatic experiences certainly increase the likelihood of physical and mental health conditions, however likelihood is not destiny. 

One of our many roles as healthcare providers is to support our patients in securing a future that will involve less suffering, more healing, and include greater overall well-being. 

Instead of offering false hope or naively suggesting to our patients that “just working harder will make them healthy,” we adopt a collaborative approach. We work together with our patients to pinpoint what will most significantly impact their health. This consideration takes into account their lifestyle, genetics, goals, and preferences.


What is actually happening when we age? 

The concept of “healthspan” is actually relatively new in geroscience research, which seeks to understand the biological mechanisms of aging

Our bodies are complex organisms with countless features and functions. It is normal for damage or mistakes to occur in our cells and tissues over time. These changes aren’t a problem in our younger years: Our bodies can simply repair many of them, or have enough reserves to make up for them. But the ability to deal with this damage decreases as we grow older. So it starts adding up, leading to signs of aging.

Some of our organs consist of cells that don’t live long so they constantly have to be replaced – such as our skin cells. Over the years, these cells are replaced at a slower pace because fewer skin cells can divide. 

In other organs, the cells don’t ever divide. One example is our highly specialized neuronal (nerve) cells in the brain. Although these cells live for a long time, they may eventually die and aren’t replaced.

No single process can explain all the changes of aging. Aging is a complex process that varies as to how it affects different people and even different organs. 

Most gerontologists (people who study aging) feel that aging is due to the interaction of many lifelong influences. These influences include genetic predispositions, our environment, culture, diet, exercise and leisure, past illnesses, and many other factors.

But there is one thing we know for sure, the best way to age gracefully is to prevent as much decline in our cells, biological processes, brain, muscle, and all the things that keep us functional and happy no matter our age.

Our Providers’ Expert Tips for Supporting Your Healthy Longevity

So what can we do about this inevitable process? There is actually still a great deal within your control with the potential for significant positive benefits. Read on to learn more about the impacts of some simple behaviors and actions to start slowing the aging process. 

Our master-level nutritionists are experts in their field and often have additional expertise and training to go a step beyond or give extra insight into particular areas of personal health and performance.

Top Longevity Tip #1:
The Science of Staying Sharp – Why New Experiences Matter

Dr. Lea McKinstry, N.D., encourages us to continue learning, challenging ourselves, and trying new things.  

“Persue learning and trying new things. Yes, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks” jokes Dr. McKinstry. 

In most adults, learning and thinking plateau, and then begin to decline after age 30 or 40. People start to perform worse in tests of cognitive abilities such as processing speed, the rate at which someone does a mental task. The slide becomes steeper after 60 years of age. 

Yet, with proper learning opportunities this can be improved. Maybe you want to take a technology class to master all the inner workings of your iPhone, learn to play tennis, take a conversational Italian course, or learn a new hobby, such as beekeeping.

Studies also show that people who have more variety in their daily routines experience greater positive emotions. There are sights, sounds, smells and experiences that we have regularly and when we have more diversity in those experiences, we report feeling more positive. 

Research also shows that the more people move around and visit new and different places, the higher they report positive emotions such as “happy,” “excited,” “strong,” “relaxed” and “attentive.” So maybe you drive somewhere new to take in a new view/scene, scent, or sound. You get to choose!

Top Longevity Tip #2:
The Largest Study Yet – Modest Activity and Its Impact on Mortality Risks

Maddie Hays, MS, CN, who specializes in sports nutrition, highlights the importance of, “movement, using your muscles and maintaining your muscle mass.” 

Keeping active and enjoying life as we age depends heavily on retaining as much muscle mass, coordination, and balance as we can as we age. Muscles also help us control our glucose levels, use glucose as fuel, and have a role in insulin resistance. 

The problem is muscle mass tends to decline with age, and a big piece of that is due in part to the fact that we tend to move less and find ourselves sitting more. Individuals who move around throughout the day, even if they just stroll or clean the kitchen and do not formally exercise, are less likely to die prematurely than people who almost never leave their chairs. 

A recent study, the largest of its kind to date, indicated that any activity, no matter how modest, can reduce mortality risks. 

Preserving our muscle mass is also integral to maintaining balance and overall mobility — the ability to move or walk freely and easily — and is critical for functioning well and living independently. One of the biggest factors in rapidly decreasing healthspan is the simple accident of falling in our later years.

Finding simple ways to get out of our chairs and move around as part of your normal daily routine, and making that a habit, can help tremendously. Like setting a timer to get up and move around during periods of sitting. Or not worrying about snagging the closest possible parking spot so that you get in a few more steps.

Top Longevity Tip #3:
Adequate Sleep as the Foundation of Cellular Maintenance and Hormonal Health

Emina Suta, MS, RDN, IFNCP, who specializes in healthy aging, advocates for sleep. “Numerous studies have shown a correlation between consistent, sufficient sleep and a longer life,” shares Emina. “The body utilizes sleep as a time for repair and rejuvenation, influencing various biological processes that contribute to overall health and longevity.”

During the different stages of sleep, the body undergoes critical processes that support cellular restoration and repair. This includes the production of growth hormone, essential for tissue repair, muscle growth, and bone density.

Adequate sleep is, therefore, a key component in the body’s ability to maintain and repair itself at the cellular level, directly impacting healthspan.

Check out Emina’s blog detailing the numerous impacts of sleep on health.

Sleep is also a critical regulator of hormonal functions. Disruptions in sleep patterns can lead to imbalances in hormones like cortisol, insulin, and leptin, which are associated with various health issues, including obesity and metabolic disorders. Maintaining a healthy sleep routine contributes to hormonal equilibrium, positively influencing healthspan.

Top Longevity Tip #4:
The Link Between A1c Levels and Premature Aging

Julie Starkel, MS, MBA, RDN, emphasizes, “the importance of maintaining an optimal hemoglobin A1c, a marker of overall blood sugar balance over the past three to four months.” 

The hemoglobin A1c test measures the presence of glucose molecules that bind to hemoglobin in a destructive process called glycation, which, if increased, is a key factor not only in diabetes and its complications, but also an important contributor to premature aging and disease risk. 

Scientists now believe that it is not only those with diabetes or pre-diabetes who should be concerned about the damaging effects of glycation in the body. Newer studies reveal that all of us may suffer from the damage inflicted by advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which are formed when sugars bind with proteins or amino acids in the body. 

Recent research indicates that these damaging end products play a role in heart disease, cancer, neurodegeneration, and the aging process itself. The good news is that even for those that have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, maintaining a lower A1C (either through the use of medication, and/or diet and lifestyle changes), can still have positive impacts on life expectancy. 

Top Longevity Tip #5:
Slowing Visible Signs of Aging One Day at a Time

Chelsea Fechtner-Hemmenway, MS, CN, NBC-HWC, specializes in family, fertility and postpartum nutrition, and stresses the importance of the simple behavior of wearing sunscreen. “Yes, even here in Washington and, YES, even during the winter.” pokes Chelsea. “One of the most effective ways to slow visible signs of aging, like those that impact our skin, is wearing sunscreen, daily.”

About 80% of facial aging is attributed to sun exposure. Photo damaged skin contributes to loss of skin elasticity, skin roughness and dryness, irregular pigmentation and deep wrinkling.

Chelsea recommends choosing sunscreens that include antioxidants, such as vitamin E, to also help protect against the effects of pollution, air quality and other elements that can further age our skin.

Top Longevity Tip #6:
The Surprising Health Risks of Loneliness

Brandy Minks, MS, RDN, CD, CNSC, specializes in eating disorders and healthy body image, and advocates for maintaining social connections and engaging with our communities.

It’s easier than ever to go an entire day without interacting with another human being. We use texts and emails to say “I love you,” we use social media to wish others a “happy birthday,” we do our banking, book our travel plans and order groceries all with the touch of a finger.

But the irony is, the more technologically connected we become, the more we find ourselves wondering how to deal with loneliness.

According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), approximately half of U.S. adults report experiencing loneliness, with some of the highest rates among young adults. “Loneliness and social isolation are linked to serious health conditions,” shares Brandy. Loneliness is one of the strongest risk factors for mortality, ranked higher than smoking!

Loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person’s life by 15 years, equivalent in impact to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

It’s true that during in-person interactions, your body releases hormones that reduce stress and stimulate positive emotional responses. That’s why face-to-face contact with friends and family is so integral to maintaining your mental health. Engaging in meaningful social interactions can contribute to emotional resilience and positively impact cognitive abilities as we age.

It can be harder in this busy, disconnected digital age, but a little extra effort to keep those social connections alive in real life is worth the effort. And it benefits them as much as you.

Top Longevity Tip #7:
The Powerful Effects of Nature on Healing, Stress, Resiliency, and Immune Health

Riana Giusti, MS,CN, who specializes in cognitive and mental health nutrition, highlights the power of getting out in nature. 

“Numerous studies have highlighted the impact of our physical surroundings on our ability to cope with stress, resiliency and even our immune health, for better or worse,” shares Riana. “Goodness knows my first job out of school working in windowless, basement laboratories was not good for my health and wellbeing.” 

Views of green spaces have actually been linked to increased resiliency. Even patients recovering from gallbladder surgery who were placed in rooms overlooking a small cluster of trees, recovered faster from their operation, took fewer pain killers, and were judged by their nurses to be more emotionally resilient, as compared to those whose rooms looked out at a brick wall. 

Research conducted in the Canadian city of Toronto, attempting to quantify the impact of trees on health outcomes, identified just having 10 more trees on a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger. 

Hear that city planners? In the words of Joni Mitchell, don’t pave paradise and put up a parking lot!

Top Longevity Tip #8:
The Critical Need for Regular Self-Care in Our Lives

Emmilia Smith, MS, RDN, who specializes in chronic inflammatory conditions and stress management, advocates for self-care. “I think a big topic of conversation, that may not get highlighted as often, is continuing to nurture your stress resilience with self-care,” reflects Emmilia.

Chronic stress not only accelerates the aging of our cells but also affects cognitive functions, potentially leading to conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “The impact of stress on health has come up a few times with my older clients, as big life events tend to happen quite often.”

Emmilia stresses the importance of not losing sight of your own needs and prioritizing those activities you find reenergizing. Ensuring you have that regularly in your life can make such a meaningful difference in your health. Try gentle movement, getting out in the garden, fostering compassionate self-talk, or having some quiet reflection time through meditation or prayer.

Top Longevity Tip #9:
Building and Maintaining Muscle with Adequate Protein

Rachel Hungerford, MS, RDN, IFNCP – highlights the importance of protein intake, which is closely tied to Maddie’s previous recommendation of movement.

“Older clients need more protein than their younger counterparts and without adequate protein intake, we cannot build or maintain muscle,”  shares Rachel. 

As we age, we progressively lose muscle, but our physiology also resists building new muscle. Muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, ranges from anywhere to 0.5% to 2% of total muscle mass each year starting around age 50.  Current research suggests that most people over the age of 65 should take in about 1g to 1.2 grams of protein/kg body weight per day to both gain and maintain muscle mass and function (more if you’re actively engaging in heavy lifting or endurance activities).  

Ideally, you need the combination of exercise AND high-quality protein. Older adults are less efficient in using amino acids for muscle protein synthesis than are young adults. Exercise increases the efficiency of muscle protein synthesis in older adults.

Rather than feeling powerless to aging, we can instead focus on consistent lifestyle choices that may not only add years to our lives, but vibrant, healthy and functional life to the years we live. 

These recommendations are even more powerful when they’re personalized. Reach out today to work with one of our providers to help secure your future health and wellness!

Get the Help You Need to Improve Both Longevity and Healthspan for Long, Healthy, Functional Lives

Our master-level nutritionists are experts in both addressing existing conditions and concerns, and preventing the major factors that will have the most impact on your longevity and healthspan.

If you’re already doing well but want to maximize your longevity and functional years, our nutritionists help you optimize your health and give expert guidance for what really matters for adding years to your life and life to your years.

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