Diet and exercise can't make you immortal, but we now have more evidence poor lifestyle decisions can quicken age-related disease and complications - creating senescent cells faster than normal
It may seem obvious that lifestyle differences can speed up or slow down the march of time to an extent, but it's important to understand why. Good nutrition and exercise have been found to be protective in a wide range of studies, and while no-one's claiming they'll keep you ticking to 150 and beyond, they're an effective change virtually everyone can make.
The protective effects of exercise
Research at the Mayo Clinic have now found that in mice physical activity can lessen senescent cell accumulation and even undo some of the damage caused by poor dietary choices - crucially protecting metabolism and the heart.
"We think at both a biological level and a clinical level, poor nutrition choices and inactive lifestyles do accelerate aging. So now we've shown this in very fine detail at a cellular level, and we can see it clinically. And people need to remember that even though you don't have the diagnosis of diabetes or the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease or the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease today when you're in midlife, the biology underlying those processes is hard at work"
After exposing mice to either a normal, healthy or 'fast-food' diet high in cholesterol, saturated fat and sugars unsurprisingly the fast-food mice quickly developed worrying health changes - particularly accumulating weight in their midsection.
However, all was not lost. When given a program of exercise alongside the diet, this mitigated some of these factors and also aided the normal food groups too. It also appeared able to delay senescent cell accumulation. It seems likely this data could be applied to humans, considering the established links between lifestyle and disease risk. While it's not always immediately obviously how small changes effect us in the long term, the results hint that inactivity and diet may contribute to senescent cell burden and therefore accelerate particular age-related diseases.
"Some of us believe that aging is just something that happens to all of us and it's just a predestined fate, and by the time I turn 65 or 70 or 80, I will have Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. And this clearly shows the importance of modifiable factors so healthy diet, and even more so, just the importance of regular physical activity. So that doesn't mean that we need to be marathon runners, but we need to find ways to increase our habitual activity levels to stay healthy and prevent processes that drive aging and aging-related diseases"
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