Who says you can’t turn back your biological clock?
Vesanto Melina, MS, Registered Dietitian
Recent headlines show that that North Americans now live longer – yet our last decade is often spent suffering from serious illness. For example, on average, Canadian women live to age 84, but are disease-free just to age 72. Results for men are similar. Since these are averages, half the population experiences poor health for longer than a decade. (And the other half can enjoy health into the later years.) So, take a few moments to consider your own choices.
How would you like to spend your next decades? In vibrant health, feeling productive, and enjoying children, grandchildren and friends? Or, focussed on diminishing health, mobility issues, pills, and feeding tubes? We have the power to choose.
In the 1990’s, Dr. Dean Ornish changed medical history. He was, and continues to be, a leading researcher on how comprehensive lifestyle changes may reverse chronic illnesses without drugs or surgery. In his first groundbreaking research, 48 patients with moderate to severe cardiovascular disease were randomized to:
- a group with standard medical advice, (such as cut back on fat, bacon, and eggs) OR
- an experimental group that made 4 lifestyle changes (listed below).
Angiograms were done at the beginning and end of a year. In the experimental group, in a year, coronary arteries that had been blocked opened up. In contrast, with the group following standard advice, arteries became more clogged.
These were the 4 lifestyle changes that had such powerful effects.
- Don’t smoke. Pretty obvious now.
2. Get moderate exercise daily, such as meeting a friend for a walk through the park instead of sitting at a doughnut shop.
- Limit stress and sleep well.
- Eat a mainly or entirely plant-based diet.
I had the privilege of being a staff dietitian in some of Ornish’s retreats with patients who were regaining their health in Berkeley CA.
In more recent years, Ornish has used these same healing lifestyle interventions for men with mild to moderate prostate cancer and found that, in addition, their telemeres lengthened. Telemeres are the ends of the chromosomes that control cellular aging and keep our DNA from unravelling. They have been likened to the protective plastic ends of shoelaces that keep shoelaces from unravelling. As our telemeres shorten, our lives tend to get shorter, and the incidence of chronic diseases increases.
The more people adopt these 4 protective aspects of lifestyle, the more their telemeres lengthen. We can reverse aging at a cellular level. These potent lifestyle interventions have gathered worldwide interest by other researchers for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease. Other choices for maintaining –or regaining– health are various types of fasting, a time-honoured tradition.
Would you like to learn more about reversing chronic disease? Intermittent fasting? Juice Fasting? Water Fasting? Learn more at the website of Michael Greger, MD through his lively short videos at nutritionfacts.org.
Vesanto is a Vancouver Registered Dietitian, and co-author of award-winning books that are classics on plant-based nutrition, internationally known speaker, and personal and government consultant, with websites nutrispeak.com; becomingvegan.ca; and kickdiabetescookbook.com. She is available for online consultations about food and nutrition to keep you in optimal health.