The Science Of Ageing
Hooke is a preventative, proactive health clinic, founded on the principles of longevity science. Offering in-depth, 360 health assessments and annual health memberships, and a Scientific Advisory Board comprised of leaders in the fields of longevity, circadian rhythm, and behavioural change.
Here Arad Cohen talks us through some of the key lifestyle changes we can make to directly impact and improve the way we age.
The Science of Ageing Well
Seventy years ago, the proportion of the population aged over 65 was less than 11%. By 2050, it is projected that, 38% of people will be aged over 65, and that there will be more people aged over 60 than those aged 10-24. If more of us are living for longer, what is the science telling us on how to make those years the most productive and healthiest that they can be? Ageing is determined by changes in our cell and organ functioning, ultimately resulting in a state called frailty. In this state, we experience a loss of physical and cognitive abilities, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other pathologies. However, there are lifestyle changes which can dramatically impact the way we age.
1. Nutrition and Ageing
Thanks to social media, we are constantly bombarded with food fads, various forms of veganism and dairy-free detox diets. But which diets truly benefit us the most?
A recent study conducted in 800 Italians over the age of 65 found that those who strongly adhered to a Mediterranean-type diet scored significantly lower on the frailty index compared to those who occasionally followed a Mediterranean diet. This result indicates to us that by following a diet consisting of plant-based foods and healthy fats (such as olive oil, chickpeas, and a healthy amount of fish) we could have a lower frailty index score, meaning better physical and cognitive functioning at an older age.
Additionally, a study conducted in Americans over 65 years old aimed to find the association between daily total and nutrient specific energy intake (calories) and memory impairment and severity. It found that those with a high energy intake (diets high in carbohydrates and fats) were more likely to have severe memory impairment. A result like this suggests that maintaining a diet heavy in fats and carbs could have serious consequences on our cognitive functioning and highlights the importance of adopting healthier eating habits, more like a Mediterranean-type diet, to enhance our cognitive abilities now and in our later years.
2. Exercise and Ageing
Science tells us that by maintaining and continuing with a safe and balanced workout regime throughout our life and into our older years, we could extend and optimise our lifespan. A systematic review of studies looking at physical activity and healthy ageing in people aged 20 to 87 years old found that 17 of the 23 studies included had significant, positive associations between physical activity and healthy ageing. Exercise is quite possibly the single most effective intervention to impact how we age.
Naturally, as we age, the integrity of our muscles deteriorates. It is important to note that no single intervention can completely prevent the loss of muscle mass and strength because of ageing. However, research has shown that partaking in various forms of physical activity throughout our lifetimes can significantly mitigate and even prevent decline in muscle function.
The take home message here would be to develop a healthy habit of staying active and continuing to do so into our later years, as “a body in motion will age better than one on the couch”.
3. Community and Ageing
This may seem an unlikely tip for ageing well, but science has found that having a sense of community and an active social life in our older age greatly impacts our longevity. A study conducted in 566 people aged 60 and older from southwest China found that a sense of community significantly and positively related to community participation and general well-being.
Positive activity theory, an idea proposed by Bess et al (2002), is the idea that even after retirement, keeping up with our past hobbies and engaging in social activities enables us to achieve a happier and fuller life, improving our overall quality of life. By staying social we can adjust and adapt to the age-related changes occurring in our lives, both physically and psychologically. This in turn increases our positive emotional experience and helps us achieve a state of happiness as we grow older.
We cannot avoid getting older, but we can be strategic in ageing well. By following the science, we can adopt healthy physical and social habits that will optimise and prolong our health span and, ultimately, lifespan.
Hooke is a preventative, proactive health clinic, founded on the principles of longevity science. They offer in-depth, 360 health assessments and annual health memberships including medical, nutrition, fitness, and positive psychology services. Their programmes are created under the guidance of their Scientific Advisory Board, who are all leaders in the fields of longevity, circadian rhythm, and behavioural change.
1.Rudnicka E, Napierała P, Podfigurna A, Męczekalski B, Smolarczyk R, Grymowicz M. The World Health Organization (WHO) approach to healthy ageing. Maturitas. 2020;139:6-11. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2020.05.018
2.Giacomello E, Toniolo L. Nutrition, Diet and Healthy Aging. Nutrients. 2021;14(1):190. Published 2021 Dec 31. doi:10.3390/nu14010190.
3.Tanaka T, Talegawkar SA, Jin Y, Bandinelli S, Ferrucci L. Association of Adherence to the Mediterranean-Style Diet with Lower Frailty Index in Older Adults. Nutrients. 2021;13(4):1129. Published 2021 Mar 30. doi:10.3390/nu13041129.
5.Liu Q, Guo J, Hu L, et al. Association between Intake of Energy and Macronutrients and Memory Impairment Severity in US Older Adults, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2014. Nutrients. 2020;12(11):3559. Published 2020 Nov 20. doi:10.3390/nu12113559.
6.C. Daskalopoulou, B. Stubbs, C. Kralj, A. Koukounari, M. Prince, A.M. Prina, Physical activity and healthy ageing: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal cohort studies, Ageing Research Reviews, Volume 38, 2017, Pages 6-17, ISSN 1568-1637, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2017.06.003.
7.Distefano G, Goodpaster BH. Effects of Exercise and Aging on Skeletal Muscle. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2018;8(3):a029785. Published 2018 Mar 1. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a029785.
9.Huang Tingting, Lyu Houchao, Chen Xueying, Ren Jia, The relationship between sense of community and general well-being of Chinese older adults: A moderated mediation model, Frontiers in Psychology, Volume 13, 2023, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1082399, DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1082399, ISSN 1664-1078.
10.Bess, K.D., Fisher, A.T., Sonn, C.C. and Bishop, B.J. (2002) Psychological Sense of Community: Theory, Research, and Application. Psychological Sense of Community, Kluwer Academic, New York, 3-22, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-0719-2_1.