- in aging , guest/interview by allan
How to turn back the clock on your true age with Dr. Morgan Levine
We all have friends, family, or classmates that just seem to be aging much slower than we are. In her book, True Age, Dr. Morgan Levine explores what we can do to slow our body's aging process to look and feel younger than our chronological age.
Let's Say Hello
[00:07:58.530] – Allan
[00:07:59.650] – Rachel
Hey, Allan. How are you today?
[00:08:01.520] – Allan
I'm doing all right. How are things with you?
[00:08:03.960] – Rachel
Good. Well, we have spring again for now. And you might hear my voice. It's a little raspy. My allergies are the bane of me. As much as I love spring, it does not love me back. So I'm a little bit struggling right now. The beautiful flowers.
[00:08:19.660] – Allan
Well, yeah, you can't have the flowers without the pollen. And depending on where you are in the country, pollen, it can be a bit of a bear.
[00:08:28.800] – Rachel
It is a little bit, but I'll make it through. I'm just happy to have spring today.
[00:08:33.110] – Allan
Good. Yeah. We kind of have spring every day. Lucky.
[00:08:36.150] – Rachel
[00:08:37.890] – Allan
[00:08:39.570] – Rachel
[00:08:44.590] – Allan
We are just now finishing up our busy season on the island. So I think we were full all the way through Easter weekend, which is when high season is supposed to end. And so as we're recording this, we just finished up our Easter weekend. We now have people checking out and then not people checking in. So it will be kind of interesting as we kind of end up with just one or two rooms booked versus having four to six rooms booked kind of what that new pace of life is going to be like.
[00:09:22.300] – Allan
so I've been trying to take on some additional challenges here. I'm actually sitting for right now, another certification, the precision nutrition. So this one is a pretty big one. This one is going to take a lot of effort, but I'm in it. I'd say right now probably about a third of the way through, maybe a quarter through, but it's just getting started on it. So it's pretty intense.
[00:09:48.210] – Rachel
Awesome. That sounds exciting.
[00:09:50.250] – Allan
Yes. Well, I always like to have a challenge, so I'm ready for the tough Mudder, and I might have a little bit of extra time as we go into these next few months. And then Tammy's planning a trip with one of her friends to travel. I'm like, okay, so that's two weeks that she's not going to be here, so I need to have a hobby.
[00:10:12.530] – Rachel
Oh, my goodness.
[00:10:14.040] – Allan
I'll get another certification.
[00:10:16.070] – Rachel
That's awesome. How exciting.
[00:10:18.050] – Allan
Yeah. All right. Well, are we ready to talk about aging?
[00:10:22.810] – Rachel
[00:11:05.850] – Allan
Dr. Levine, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
[00:11:09.510] – Dr. Levine
Thank you for having me.
[00:11:11.220] – Allan
So today we're going to talk about your book, True Age: Cutting-Edge Research to Help Turn Back the Clock. And I think from the perspective of a lot of the books that I've read on aging, obviously, yours being the most recent, there's a lot of good science coming out lately, and you Chronicle a lot of it, and you go way back. We're not just talking about we've started talking about these things. Now you take the research back and you say, what did we know 50 years ago? And how does that reflect what we're doing today? In some cases, there are gaps. We learned a little something like the blood flow between young rat and older rat. And then people just stopped. And now they're kind of saying, well, wait a minute, it wasn't there sort of something there that maybe we want to dig a little bit further. And I think the way you said it is some people are not going the Dracula vampire route. They're going more, okay, let's figure out why this is happening. So maybe we can do something about it. That's cool. And there's a lot of that in the book.
[00:12:15.660] – Allan
But I also like the fact that you took the time to give us some practical things that those of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s can start doing today to reverse our bio age.
[00:12:28.530] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. I think it's critical to not just talk about all the exciting science that really, even though some of it might have been started a century ago or even more, is actually because of where technology is today, we're actually able to understand what is driving this and how to actually implement it, but to give people actual practical things they can do in their everyday life rather than just waiting for new breakthroughs and discoveries, because I know even personally, I don't want to sit around and just hope that something comes out in the next ten or 20 years. I want to know what I can do today. And actually, most of our control that we have over our aging process are just behavioral things that we can actually do. And we don't have to wait for science to catch up there.
[00:13:15.850] – Allan
Right. And that's the good thing, because if you have a base that's a little lower when that stuff does come out, more than likely you're going to see better benefits from it in the long run anyway. No one wants to get to 80 and frail and then say, oh, yeah, now I'm going to reduce five years off of my lifespan, whereas if they felt like they were in their 60s, going back to 55 would feel pretty cool.
[00:13:41.190] – Dr. Levine
Yeah, it's probably easier to prevent than reverse would be my guess.
[00:13:46.410] – Allan
I completely agree. As a personal trainer, I don't think you'd expect anything different from me.
[00:13:51.580] – Dr. Levine
[00:13:52.150] – Allan
Now, one concept you got into the book, and I agree with you at some front that we talk about aging as a disease. And I agree, if we want to get researchers and people looking at it, then it's really good to get it classified as disease because then there's a backing to it. Okay, well, we can solve the problem, then there's money and there's. Ok, now there's medical people are not just going to treat something because that's what you want. I'd love to have a third arm, but I'm not going to find a doctor that's willing to do the research to figure out how to make that happen. But I also think of aging as sort of, if you will, just something that's natural and happens to everybody. So for me to think of aging as a disease, I'd have to think, well, is puberty as a disease? No. Can you talk a little bit about why aging can be considered a disease and what we want to take away from that?
[00:14:56.370] – Dr. Levine
So technically, there are a lot of people in the field who want to classify aging as a disease. I'm actually not one of them. As you kind of mentioned, there are benefits for doing this because the FDA, if they're going to approve anything to go after aging, they need some kind of primary outcome, they call it. So people want to say, oh, aging is a disease, because then they can say, oh, we can treat and tackle it. But I actually agree with you that aging in and of itself is not a disease, because usually when we define a disease, it's a state. So a transition to some state. We know diseases are part of our continuous process, but we usually have to have some criteria for where we say this is a disease state versus non disease state. And like you said, there is no clear way to do that with aging. You can't just say 65 is when you entered some disease state or you can't take the number and classify that as disease. And if you want to treat it, what does it mean to treat aging? So how much do you have to reverse it or prevent it to say you've actually treated or prevented some disease?
[00:16:09.930] – Dr. Levine
And very much like you said, aging doesn't start later in life. It starts, some people believe, before we're even born. So are we already transitioning this disease state? So I like to think of aging not as a disease, but as the kind of basis for most of the diseases that people suffer from today.
[00:16:30.870] – Allan
And I think this is where we can come up to this general split in thought. Okay, we all have a birthday. We all know our birthday. We tend to celebrate it a lot when we're really young. We tend to want to skip some of them once we hit what is it for women age 29 or sometimes it's 39, but there's a full gap stop there. And then they want to reverse it and say, well, maybe I'm going to be 38 next year, but that's our chronological age. Now, there's a concept called biological age, but I think we all know that. We went to high school with all of our friends. My friends posted on Facebook. We're about to start planning our 40 year class reunion.
[00:17:13.410] – Dr. Levine
[00:17:14.280] – Allan
Yeah. Everybody's posting like, oh, my God, don't tell me it's 40 now. I feel old, but we've watched classmates pass. We're in our mid 50s at this point. We've watched classmates pass. We see some of our classmates that look just like they did in high school, practically. And so there's this huge divide over how old we maybe really are inside. And there's an emotional component to it. If you act young, you feel young, and maybe you look young, but there's something else going on there. Can you talk about that?
[00:17:55.650] – Dr. Levine
Yes. So as you brought up, once you reach a certain age, your birthday is not something that people tend to celebrate. I mean, you still go through the motions, but you're not necessarily excited about advancing that kind of year. And the reason for that is because your increase in age is actually accompanied by biological changes, most of which you can't see, but eventually they manifest and you see them in terms of wrinkles or loss of mobility or loss of stamina or even these diseases of aging that we're talking about. But it's not the chronological time itself that's the problem. It's this kind of biological change of the whole organ system that ends up being the problem. And the interesting thing that you brought up that scientists have been studying is that the rate at which these changes occur or accumulate are not the same for everyone. So even though people might have been alive for, let's say, 50 years, chronologically some people will have gone through more of these changes and others less. And so that's kind of how my lab and others have actually tried to quantify biological aging. So do you have kind of the degree of change that's representative of someone who is the same chronological age as you are or hopefully someone who is younger than you rather than older than you?
[00:19:23.820] – Allan
Yeah, I think we've all seen those pictures of the 85 year old woman sitting in the wheelchair, just stuck, probably unable to even stand on her own. And then you see the 85 year old bodybuilder or the 100 yard dash winter who's breaking world records at that age. And it's drastic. It's really drastic. And so what you guys are trying to do with your studies and trying to come up with a biological age, a true age is, okay, how old is your essence, your body? How old are you really? And what are you capable of doing? Now, you talked in the book about kind of three models. I called them three models. I have to put things in my head a certain way because there's a lot of information. And you had a quiz, which is kind of that low length, easy one. Just sit down and do the quiz. And that's going to give you some baseline data, at least an idea, and you can look at what those questions were and ask yourself, okay, why am I answering a one or a half or three quarters on this one? The score I get.
[00:20:30.590] – Allan
You also have kind of a blood measures test, a phenotypic age that you can measure, and then you go in the book really deep into DNA methylation, which is really kind of how all this happens. Can you talk about each one of those? I guess I'm going to call a testing methodology, if you will, just to simplify it. But you can go a little deeper into what these are and what they're telling us.
[00:20:54.630] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. Even Besides the ones I cover in the book, there are tons of ways in which scientists are trying to quantify this kind of biological aging process. And the idea is that the changes are starting at kind of what we would call the lowest level biological organization. So this molecular level. So we and others have developed ones that capture those changes. So this is kind of the DNA methylation or epigenetic measures that you mentioned. And basically what that is, is we can look across your genome. Usually we do this from cells in your blood or saliva, and we look at hundreds of thousands to millions of sites and just say, what are the proportion of cells that have this chemical tag there, which is DNA methylation? And just based on the pattern of those chemical Tags, we can approximate something like a biological age using kind of the AI and machine learning. So it basically just says yourselves have this pattern of change that's representative of someone of a given age. And the reason that epigenetics is so exciting is it doesn't change your DNA sequence like the ACG and T. But I like to think of it as like the operating system of the cell.
[00:22:13.210] – Dr. Levine
It gives your cells their state. So it differentiates different cell types that all have the exact same DNA. But what makes a neuron different from a skin cell is the epigenome. But it also differentiates old cells from young cells. So this is kind of how we can do it. So once the molecular changes reach a certain point, you can start seeing this at a higher level in terms of changes in your physiology. So that's where you get the steenotypic age measure, which you can basically calculate from a standard panel you would get at your annual physical. So CDC blood cell counts, and also kind of a metabolic panel that looks like kidney, liver, all these different organ system functioning. But then the most basic one, once your aging is reached almost like the highest level is you see this functionally, this is what we perceive as aging both in ourselves and in others. You can see it physically. You can feel it in your body. So there are other ways, just very simple, almost doing a self assessment to kind of say, has my level of aging reached this point, given this quiz? And then you kind of look across the whole quiz where you kind of stand.
[00:23:33.040] – Allan
Yeah. And I think the advantage of all this, I've always said to my clients, yes, you can go get a blood panel and talk to your doctor. Yeah, you can do. And now you've made it easier that we can do a saliva test or a blood test if you want to go that far and find out. Okay, how's your methylation going as far as really getting down to the detail where we're talking about maybe down to a 10th of a year kind of concept versus this quiz is saying, yeah, you're a little younger than you are chronologically. The quiz will give you some basics to get started in the book, which I like. So if you just answer a few of those questions, you've got some low hanging fruit, if you will, to get started. And these actions, though, I think what's really important is many people look for something to say. Well, is what I'm doing working. And I know in your field, science, that's everything measurement is everything. Now, a lot of us love to do the easy measurements. So there's some easy ones, some really easy quizzes, one so you can get the Cosmo magazine and answer our quiz.
[00:24:38.700] – Allan
And it'll tell you whatever you are. They're on Facebook, too. The quizzes are fun quizzes will tell you a lot. But if you get a little deep, more detailed with the way that you're doing this, then you're going to have better data and make better decisions. Now, one of the data points that a lot of people love to use for measuring their health is weight. And in a minute, we're going to get into talking about nutrition and exercise. And a lot of people, the only reason they think about nutrition and exercise is because of what the scale says. But now you're telling them there's this much more important scale that you have potentially easily in front of you that is a better measure of health. Weight is important. I'm not going to poo poo it at all. It is important. There are some risk factors associated with. But why is this type of measurement something that someone should consider over just saying I'm going to step on the scale every day.
[00:25:45.670] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. And I'd also talked about this a little bit in my book, actually, when we measure our weight or calculate our BMI, which is based on kind of a weight height ratio, this is actually not a great predictor of health. Yes, we know obesity tends to be associated with increased risk of disease, but BMI itself can be due to a number of different things. Muscle mass is also heavy, so people can have the same BMI and have very different body composition. And actually in older ages, we find that a higher BMI is slightly protective than a lower BMI. So it's a very complicated relationship. But the whole point is that the reason we usually associate higher weight with risk of disease is because it tends to basically drive a lot of these changes that are actually age related changes. So it accelerates them. So rather than just assuming, oh, my BMI is probably too high, it's probably driving these it's better to actually just try to directly measure the consequences of this, which is on the pathway to disease versus just inferring something about your weight. And I also think this will get people less kind of weight obsessed because you see heavier people are actually quite healthy and thinner people who are actually unhealthy.
[00:27:06.770] – Dr. Levine
So it's better just to get a direct measure of what's going on. As much as you can approximate it.
[00:27:12.810] – Allan
One of the metaphors you had in the book, which I really enjoyed, was you talked about the Hill. And so as we're younger, we have this, for lack of a better word, inertia keeping us younger. As we go up the Hill, there's this inertia that keeps us in a condition so we're more resilient, we're stronger, we're faster, we're prettier, we're everything. And the older we get, the more we were. But then we top that Hill at some point, we can call it midlife or we can call it 35 when sarcopenia and ostopenia start to become a thing. And then we're going down a Hill. And now that inertia is not helping us. In fact, it's pushing us. And particularly if we're over 40 or over 50, we're going down that Hill pretty quick unless we do a few things to stop it or at least slow it down, maybe we can't stop it. We'd love to stop it for at least a little while. Enjoy this year more. One of the key ones I don't think you could have this conversation without it is to talking about nutrition. What we eat has a profound effect on our health and the scale in many cases.
[00:28:32.830] – Allan
So if we're looking at measuring this from either a health perspective or weight perspective, we have to talk about nutrition. And you went very deep in the book and talking about some of the nutritional strategies that we can have to have the best bio age possible. Can you talk about a few of those?
[00:28:51.230] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. So nutrition has actually been studied quite a bit in the aging field. Most of the original work was just looking at kind of calories or amount of consumption. So dating back actually, I think it's more than a century now. Scientists discovered that actually what would be called calorie restriction or dietary restriction can extend the lifespan of in this case, it was a rat. And actually since then, there's been calorie restriction studies and a number of different species mostly showing the same thing that it seems to be associated with improvements in kind of disease prevention. So elongation of what we call health span. So longer time disease free, as well as possibly longer lifespan as well. And calorie restriction isn't a severe malnutrition, so it's basically reduced calories without malnutrition. So in some of the human trials that are going on, it's about a 12% reduction in total calories. Since then, people have actually become more interested in basically fasting because the idea that someone's going to maintain a caloric restriction diet for their entire lifespan is probably unlikely. And so are there ways that are actually easier that we can do easier that mimic the same benefits?
[00:30:18.390] – Dr. Levine
So people have been really interested in different types of fasting, like time restricted eating, where you try and compress the number of hours each day that you're eating. So maybe you only eat between an eight or six hour window. There's also times where you can kind of some people skip a whole day of eating but then eat fairly normally the rest of the time. Or you can do these kind of short bursts of five day. They're not full fast, but very low calorie fast and do them maybe a few times a year. And we don't have what I would say definitive proof that this is slowing aging. But at least I'm looking at some of these biological age measures that you mentioned. There seems to be some indication that they might be. And then, of course, it's not just how much you eat, but what you eat as well. So a lot of research going into kind of plant based diet and whether plant based or things like Mediterranean diet are actually beneficial. And this seems to be supported looking at individuals who live in these very, what are called blue zones where you have very long lived individuals, but also looking at observational data, just people in, for instance, the US population.
[00:31:35.910] – Allan
Yeah. And I think it should go without saying that we know because we see it in practice. The person that looks and feels younger, at 65, they don't eat a lot of crap and they're not overeating. That's the other side of it. And so some calorie restriction. And as you said to kind of put that in context, if you're eating a 2000 calorie diet, that 12.5%. We're talking about 50 calories. We're not talking about really starving yourself. Now you may feel a little hungrier. And guess what? Hunger doesn't kill you. It might actually keep you alive longer and healthier, because we did talk about we are talking about health span, which I think is another aspect I didn't get into a lot. But we could all live long and not be healthy or we can live short and pop just be done. All those are part of our health span and how that aligns with what we're doing. And so I think we all know this if we're eating good whole foods, cause I don't think they had a reason to study this 100 years ago because corn pops and Twinkies and Hohos and Haagendazs didn't exist back then.
[00:32:56.610] – Allan
And now 95% of our grocery store is that stuff. And so I think most people know if they're eating a whole food diet and they're eating a predominantly plant based diet, Mediterranean style diet, you almost naturally eat less, really hard to overeat spinach and quinoa and those types of things. It just is. So you end up then losing some weight, maybe your calories are a little lower, because again, you're not taking in some calorie dense foods that you would otherwise. Now you got into just a little bit. You talk a little bit about ketosis, and the ketosis that you're talking about really comes about from these fasting protocols. So whether you're going to do true calorie restriction, you're going to do your five too fast, you're going to do some time restricted eating, or you're going to go into a full fast mimicking type diet like the prolonged diet with Baku Vanga. In a lot of cases, folks are at least for parts of time getting into ketosis and producing ketones. Can you talk a little bit about why ketones would be beneficial for us?
[00:34:13.930] – Dr. Levine
Sorry. My throat. Yeah. So I think I'll do the pause. Okay. So I don't think we actually know specifically why we think ketosis might be beneficial for us. And this is actually not something I study. But there are definitely colleagues at Yale who study ketosis. But we're actually starting to have kind of some clinical trials in humans potentially looking at ketosis. And there's some indication that this is why fasting might be beneficial, because as you mentioned, it puts your body in these kind of short cycles of ketosis. And there is some evidence that actually you don't want long term ketosis. And actually it is a cyclical kind of going in and out of it because your body actually can adjust and over compensate in the other way. And again, this is all very preliminary. We don't know specifically what I would say to is it's going to probably to some degree depend on what you're eating if you're on a ketogenic diet, because you can actually have a fairly unhealthy ketogenic diet as well, even though you're not getting a ton of carbohydrates and sugar, if you're eating a lot of very kind of animal heavy food sources, very high in certain types of fat, this also might not be beneficial.
[00:35:54.230] – Dr. Levine
And I think it's probably pretty hard for people to stay on a plant based ketogenic diet. So we'll see, I guess, as the science kind of progresses.
[00:36:05.030] – Allan
Yeah, I've talked to people all the way up from Carnivore all the way down to vegan keto. It's doable.
[00:36:12.790] – Allan
But like most things, the more strict and stringent something is like calorie restriction at 25% or saying, okay, I'm not going to eat a certain food group for a long, long period of time. The more restrictions you put typically, the harder it is because those things are just there. Like you're not going to walk around and not have food like our ancestors, where you got to go Hunt and find it or dig it up or climb up a tree or whatever you got to do to do. We don't have to do that now. My refrigerator, quite frankly, is like maybe 10ft away from me right now. So if I wanted something to eat within a minute that things open and I'm eating it. So, yes, these things can be very difficult to maintain. So finding the right way. And again, that comes from measurements. So if you've measured and you have a baseline and then you do a protocol, and then after appropriate period of time, you test again, that's going to give you some of that personalized evidence, some of that information that you could use then to know if a protocol is right for you or not.
[00:37:24.530] – Dr. Levine
Yes. Because again, it comes back to what you're actually going to be able to implement in your life and what you think is worth implementing. There are definitely people who can be on very health what seems like a very healthy but very restrictive diet. But that's not going to work probably for 95% of the population. They just won't be able to maintain it. So I think the important thing is to do what you can but acknowledge to have kind of the accountability for what you're doing. And if you can't go maybe and keep the most ideal diet, but you can do it 90% of the time or you can work in some of these other things and take these small steps. I think that's how people are going to get the most benefit.
[00:38:06.980] – Allan
Yeah. I think the cyclical approach is a very sound way to try something for a while, get some data, and then if it's working like you mentioned, just even with some of the fasting is doing the fast like three times a year or five times a year or every other month or something like that where you have a protocol and say, okay, I'm on a five day fast. I'm still going to have some nutrition that my body needs, but I'm going to do it in a very controlled way. So I know that I'm getting the nutrition my body needs. And then after I come off my fast, I finish that protocol. I can remeasure if I want or I can continue this. And then I now have some data that says, okay, yeah, this way of eating works. One, it has to be sustainable. But then beyond that, yes, I'm actually seeing measurable results in my bio age. And then the other side, you go back to the quiz, look in the mirror when you wake up in the morning, how do you feel? Are you stiff? Are you hurting? Are you aching? Is your arthritis acting up?
[00:39:12.010] – Allan
What are the things going on that your body is telling you, hey, we're not 100% here. Then you know that what you're doing is either working or not.
[00:39:23.450] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. And the other important thing that I don't think I touched on is that different things are going to work to different degrees for each of us. So there isn't one optimal diet that can be optimal for everyone, even in terms of the health benefits. So not just in terms of what we can each kind of maintain. And it's really hard to know what that diet is. So some people probably will do a little bit better on purely plant based where some people might need some kind of animal protein in their diet. And I think it's hard to use kind of genetics to predict what the optimal diet is for a person. And there are companies and scientists trying to do that. But it is just easier if we can actually have valid and reliable measures that give us feedback on how the things we do in our everyday life are affecting us.
[00:40:15.480] – Allan
Yeah, that N equals one experiment where you're the single subject. And I can tell you if you're doing an N equals one experiment, that's a very important sample size to have because you are getting real information of what's working for you at that point in time. Now, there's another area that's really important for aging, and you go into a few several in the book. And yes, we can wait for science to do a few things that's going to probably help us in the long run. They'll come up with some pillar shot or something that's going to be better for us and help us in our health, but it's exercise. And it's interesting to me. I've always said to people, it's like if you can take one more breath, you can do something to improve your health and fitness. But the way you said it in the book I really enjoyed here is this, no matter your age, disease status, or athletic proclivity, nearly everyone can benefit from staying active. And I appreciate you saying that. I really do. Why is exercise so beneficial for us in actually slowing down or improving our true age?
[00:41:27.890] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. So I think we don't truly know on a mechanistic level how exercise is improving health. But from decades and decades of research into exercise, we know that it is. And it seems to be not conditional on who you are. As you mentioned, even when they do these kind of interventions in very frail individuals who are kind of in nursing homes, physical activities seems to have a benefit for them. Of course, there's going to be a limit, right. You have to do it within a safe environment to not push past your abilities. But all of us benefit from exercise, and it's probably because our bodies are these complex dynamic systems. So something that's going to kind of prime that and, you know, make it more resilient is something that's going to be dynamic. And it doesn't necessarily act through one pathway or one kind of mechanism. It's probably honing in on our entire system and really kind of improving our resilience and robustness and our system's ability to function because it's needing to be adaptive to this very mild stressor, which in the long run will actually make it stronger.
[00:42:47.210] – Allan
Yeah. I just imagine our ancestors running sprints and doing push ups just for the sake of doing them. And they weren't they were climbing because they needed to get to the top of that tree either to get away from something or to get to something. They were walking or running long distances because that's how they could hurt and catch the animals that could run out faster than them but eventually would run out of the aerobic capacity and we would catch up to them, and then we would eat meat that night and then again digging for roots. When you don't have a backhoe, it takes some work. So work and exercise were a big part of our upbringing. Now, one of the things you said in the book, and I think this is where a lot of people can kind of put this together is exercise is a stress on the body. And we're kind of led to believe that stress is a bad thing, that there's good stresses and there's bad stresses. And even some of the foods we eat are hermetic, in effect, meaning they stress our body, but we produce good things as a result.
[00:44:02.150] – Allan
But the states that you went through was the homeostasis, which our bodies love balance. So stay balanced. And then we put a stressor in front of it, and then we have allostasis, which is the improvement, and then we have a return to Homeostasis. Can you talk about that process? So if I decide, yes, I'm going to start running, I'm going to put some stress on my body that it won't necessarily like me for doing initially, but it's the right thing to do. Can you talk about that process that way? How that's working?
[00:44:38.870] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. So exercise, as you pointed out, is a perfect example of this concept of homeostasis. So this very mild stressor, which is actually going to kind of prime your system and actually make it more robust in the end. And when we're in a steady state, our bodies are trying to maintain homeostasis, which is a given temperature and all these kind of biochemical ranges that your body tries to maintain. As we encounter stressors in our life, we go through allostasis, which is kind of your body's response to that stressor. So it needs to move out of homeostasis to respond to the stressor. And then the idea is that it should move back. And actually if you do this, you kind of dynamically can have these mild stressors, and then you move back to homeostasis. Our bodies get better at doing that and better at adapting to stressors that might come up in our lives. You can imagine, though, if you have a huge stress or your body might not actually be able to move back very well or you might end up in a slightly different kind of state. So the idea is to have these mild ones that our body can adapt to, and then there's potential that actually they can get a little more stressful over time, but you're better at adapting to them.
[00:46:03.530] – Dr. Levine
The important thing is something we see in exercise, too, is also the recovery. So you have enough time for your body to move back to this homeostatic kind of steady state space. And this is where we see things like chronic stress being a problem because your body never has time to move back to this adaptive states. So we know there's a lot of chronic stress in terms of psychosocial stress that people undergo that just never lets up. And I think this is kind of maladaptive stress. But actually these acute small stressors can actually be very beneficial to our overall functioning.
[00:46:38.640] – Allan
Yeah. And the way I like to look at it is one is these are the gentle nudges. So you're doing a little bit more work than you did before because you can't compress 30 years of not working out into a few workouts. Trust me, that won't work. But then, yeah, your body adapts, it gets stronger and the fact it can keep getting stronger. I think one of the data points you had in there was that they were taking what we basically call frail older people and putting them through a resistance training program. They increased their strength by over I think it was 112%. That's phenomenal. When you start thinking of doubling in probably was a matter of five, six, eight weeks. Most of these programs don't go more than twelve just for a cost perspective, that they were able to double their strength in that little amount of time, doing it in a safe environment. We're not putting them in the gym and saying, okay, we want you doing Olympic lifts here. They put them in a safe environment, they train them. And being trained, they become effectively better people, better athletes. And probably had you measured their bio age, which you weren't part of that experiment, but they probably would have come back a little bit better.
[00:47:57.930] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. And I think for a lot of these conditions that we see that arise with aging. So I think you mentioned before Sarcopenia, which is this muscle wasting, and it's also accompanied by loss of strength, also things like osteoporosis. Some of the best interventions we have are exercise. And I know people who are developing these might feel, well, I'm getting too weak to undergo a stressor like exercise. But actually that's what their body needs to kind of push it back into a stronger state. It needs that kind of you want like the push to come both ways. Right. If nothing's kind of pushing back on it, just continue to deteriorate.
[00:48:38.950] – Allan
Yeah. I like to think of nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress all of those are information. So our body, as you will, is literally just a computer, if you will, and it's collecting information about your environment. And if you're able to just sit on your butt every day and do nothing, in its mind, you're doing nothing but using your brain. You're not moving. You're eating foods that are not beneficial. You're giving your body information. That okay, it's time to shut down. It's time to just sort of just collect some fat. That's great. And then we're shutting down versus the opposite when you start giving it the information, hey, I'm going to need you to start actually lifting a little bit more weight. I'm going to need you to be able to travel a little bit further on your feet or in a wheelchair even. But you're moving more. You communicate to your body that it needs to be better and it reacts appropriately.
[00:49:41.970] – Dr. Levine
Yeah. Our bodies are amazing dynamical systems that will react to our environment and behaviors and all these inputs that we have the ability to kind of use to kind of Hone in on a better kind of overall system.
[00:49:59.730] – Allan
The good news of your book, True Age, is that this is not something we have to wait for somebody else to solve for. This is not even though we can say or they want to classify aging as a disease. It's not a disease that we can't reverse or at least control. It's something that's in our control and our lifestyle choices are a big part of how we age.
[00:50:24.570] – Dr. Levine
Yeah, I think I say this in the book. If someone had a pill that had the same benefits that we get with exercise, this would be one of the biggest breakthroughs, I think, in modern medicine. And the thing is that it already exists. We just have to kind of take the time out and actually do this. And yes, there might be really exciting discoveries down the road we're working on and colleagues, and we're very excited about those. But in the meantime, people don't have to sit around and wait for them. There's very impactful things that they can do right now.
[00:51:00.270] – Allan
And as you said in the book, there's a Goldilocks zone of this exercise. So we're not saying you need to be able to do an ultramarathon to consider yourself doing exercise. It's starting where you are doing a little bit more and then just finding that spot where you're optimizing how you feel and potentially how you look and how your body actually is responding to that stress and now potentially getting stronger and younger and all of that.
[00:51:35.070] – Dr. Levine
Yes, this comes back to this kind of acute stress versus chronic stress. You don't want to go out and just do so much, and then your body can't even really kind of recalibrate from that. But yeah, you do these little acute stressors enough to feel it like it shouldn't be easy per se, but enough to kind of break a swipe, get your heart rate up to a decent high level for a short amount of time, and then we can slowly build from there. But yeah, you don't need to be able to run a marathon. You can go for a 30 minutes walk or whatever kind of works for your lifestyle.
[00:52:08.130] – Allan
Dr. Levine, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
[00:52:19.110] – Dr. Levine
For me, I would have to say one is figure out what works for you. So, you know, if you can't stick to a diet, then that diet is not going to help you. We all kind of overestimate, I think what we will stick to in the future. So I would say find something that actually works for your lifestyle where everyone's busy, but just make sure you're trying to get that little bit of exercise or eat plant based or whole foods most of the time. I'm not saying you can't have cake on your birthday, but figure out what you can actually manage in your life. The other thing I think related to that is just to know your numbers, to actually have some information about how you're doing so that you can make those choices on whether something is worthwhile implementing in your life versus not. And this makes you accountable for your decisions you make. But also, I think, can give positive feedback that what you're doing is actually benefiting you. And then probably the last step. And I guess this may be relates a little bit to number one is you don't have to go from zero to 100.
[00:53:40.090] – Dr. Levine
You can take small steps and then get there. You don't need the perfect diet on January 1st. But you can start by implementing one thing at a time and over time kind of get to a healthier lifestyle. And in doing that, cut yourself a little bit of slack. Right. You need to be accountable and not cut yourself too much slack. But everyone messes up. I eat unhealthfully occasionally and we have to don't be so critical and set on being perfect and let that kind of ruin your progress overall.
[00:54:17.250] – Allan
Great. Dr Levine, if someone wanted to learn more about you or more about your book, True Age, where would you like for me to send them?
[00:54:28.930] – Dr. Levine
My book is coming out, I think, today May 3, so you can buy it on Amazon or other outlets. To learn more about me, my lab has a website. I think it's morganlevinelab.com. I also people feel free to follow me on Twitter or Instagram. I like to post a lot about aging research where we are the new science coming out and also talk a little bit about what I do in my everyday life. So those are probably the main outlets for people who want to learn more.
[00:55:03.440] – Allan
You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/536 and I'll be sure to have links there. Dr. Levine, thank you so much for being a part of 40 Plus Fitness.
[00:55:15.070] – Dr. Levine
Thank you so much for having me.
[00:55:26.690] – Allan
Welcome back, Ras.
[00:55:28.170] – Rachel
Hey, Allan. What an interesting interview about aging. There's a lot to talk about here.
[00:55:33.640] – Allan
Yeah. I think in less than three or four months we've had three different guests now talking about aging and from different perspectives. One guy's in the technology aspect of it as kind of we were this time, companies providing services like how do you get your true age and what are the things we can do to deal with it? But the reality of it is we're not learning anything new. And I hate to say it that way, but you probably have heard common themes. What do I have to do for weight loss? And it's like manage your nutrition manager, movement manager, sleep, manage your stress. What I do is if I want to age slower, same four things.
[00:56:22.290] – Rachel
[00:56:23.750] – Allan
So these foundations of health that we go over week in and week out, there's a right way for you. There's the right size for you. And the sooner you get on it, the better, because we talked about that Hill and how the inertia or the momentum of aging kind of works in your favor for the first half of that Hill where the ball is trying to roll back against you and you've got much more resilience and much more strength and much more everything. And then you hit a point, a tipping point, and then now aging is running away from you. And if you're not doing the right things, it could end really badly and out of your control. Loss of independence, loss of health, loss of fitness. It can go bad, fast. And for some people, we're in our 40s and 50s. I don't know about you, but you get on Facebook and every other day there's this diagnosis, that diagnosis. And you're like, okay, sometimes that's just enough to get them to start fighting that inertia that aging inertia. Sometimes they're already past the top. And now it's just, okay, this is where I'm going.
[00:57:35.770] – Allan
And so we have a lot that we can do in four fundamental areas to manage our health and wellness. And it plays out over and over in all the different themes about how to have better strength, how to have better bone mass, how to feel better, how to have more energy, how to all four basic pillars that if we're working on those on a consistent basis, we're improving our health, we're improving our existence. And as a result, our true age is younger than potentially our chronological age.
[00:58:15.830] – Rachel
That's an interesting concept right there. To think that if you could manage your health in such a way that you might feel younger than other people at your age, we have an interesting, I don't know, concept of what aging feels like. When I was a kid, I thought 50 would be crazy old and I'd be slowing down and not doing the things that I'm doing right now. And here at 50, I'm still running marathons and doing some fun stuff, and I have no intention of stopping. This is how I like to spend my time, and it's giving me a higher quality of life. I mean, it's social, it's entertaining, and I'm doing what I can to maintain my age. And I just really wish people would also find something that they love to do at this age to keep them active.
[00:59:06.090] – Allan
Yeah. And it doesn't have to be running. It doesn't have to be weight lifting. It doesn't have to be super strenuous. I mean, it can be something as simple as pickleball or just something that's slightly active. Get out in the state park and go for a hike, find a group that's doing something that some movement involved and make it a thing. They're out there. And I think that's the point. There's running clubs, there's hiking clubs, there's pickleball, there's all this different stuff that's out there. Or it might be just something as simple as the Zumba class at your community and you don't have to be able to dance. Just go out there and have some fun and move at your pace at your thing and just enjoy yourself because you only get one shot.
[01:00:05.590] – Rachel
Right. I just think that's the best part, though, like Zumba class would be just a hoot. And I've got an aunt and uncle. They do Taichi a beautiful, graceful movement for them and they enjoy it. They have friends at the gym, and it's just such a fun, social atmosphere for them. And they're having a high quality of life. They get out of the house, they do these fun things, and they're healthier for it. You don't have to let aging just happen. You don't have to just get old and sit around and do nothing. How boring would that be?
[01:00:39.690] – Allan
Well, we see it. I mean, that's kind of what's interesting, as you were saying. It's like, okay, there was the great grandma who was right at the end and forgetting things and always sitting in her rocker. And then there was the grandma and yeah, she'd Cook a meal and then she'd sit down, and then there was mom, and then there was us and we're running around like wild animals, and everybody else is sitting and not and they're not playing and they're not doing these things. It wasn't done. It wasn't a regular thing. In fact, at one point, women couldn't even run a marathon. They weren't allowed like, well, okay. And that's probably why, again, if you're not going to let somebody do something, then they're going to want to do it that much more.
[01:01:33.680] – Rachel
[01:01:34.490] – Allan
So, yeah, you can't do this exercise thing. Don't listen to us. You can't do yeah, Yes. But it's like it's not a button. It's not easy.
[01:01:47.630] – Allan
But you have tools. You have the capacity, if you take a breath to do something, and if we're just going to sit around and wait for them to come up with the easy pill, that one pill thing that you're going to take, that's going to be your exercise for you. You're going to pass before that happens. Science is great, but it's not going to be that great. In fact, what science is more likely to do is to keep you alive in a bad health state. So your health started declining in your 50s and you lived until your Eighties. It was 30 years plus maybe of poor health that you had to endure. And it's within your control to eat better, move better, sleep better, and manage stress better. Every little bit of that that you're able to do is going to help improve your lifespan and your health span.
[01:02:46.770] – Rachel
And the quality. The quality of life. Yes. You don't have to take aging sitting down, get up and get active.
[01:02:53.930] – Allan
Get out there. Yeah. And realize that if you are on the other side of the Hill, you can slow the descent. It's not this fixed aging curve where you have to live the way that you saw your parents live or that you see older siblings or relatives live. You can slow that curve with the right interventions, which are not medical. They're physical. They're what you put in your mouth or what you put in your brain. They're what you physically move around and do. It's all information. And if you're informing your body that you need to be active and manage an active lifestyle with good food and all that your body responds is like, oh, well, we still have to do stuff versus if you're just sitting around and you're not getting the exercise, you're not eating well, you're communicating to your body that it's okay for it to go ahead and start shutting down. That's a bad message.
[01:03:48.060] – Rachel
It is a bad message. Not very fun. Not fun at all.
[01:03:52.140] – Allan
No. So again, I'll probably still keep having guests on and we'll keep talking about aging because it's an important topic. But just recognize that all of my shows are the same show. They are. We're talking about the same four things but your four things are different than my four things and so you just have to find your four things and how you move, how you eat, how you sleep, how you manage stress and doing the best that you can with what you have, where you are. And if you're doing that then you're aging at a slower pace than you would have otherwise and you're going to have a longer, better life.
[01:04:33.750] – Rachel
Yes, that's perfect.
[01:04:36.490] – Allan
All right, well, rach, we'll talk next week.
[01:04:39.050] – Rachel
Sounds great. Take care, Allan.
[01:04:40.670] – Allan
You too. Bye.
[01:04:41.770] – Rachel
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