The Changing Longevity Landscape

die young late

Living beyond age 100 may become commonplace.

Now, before I go down this rabbit hole, a disclaimer: Extending lifespan beyond known biological bounds is still sci-fi stuff.

However, also consider modern innovations that were also once considered sci-fi:

  • Airflight (planes/jets/helicopters/jetpacks)
  • Space travel
  • Landing on the moon
  • The International Space Station
  • Driverless cars
  • Mobile phones
  • The internet
  • Lab-grown meat
  • Machine learning
  • Video calls
  • 3D printing
  • Smart homes
  • Underwater exploration
  • Online metaverse
  • Wearable tech
  • DNA sequencing

So with an open mind, let’s dive in.

Aging = A Disease

Research focused on the root causes of human mortality is increasingly pointing towards one common denominator: aging.

Aging? As the cause of mortality? Yes, bear with me.

At it’s most basic level, aging is nothing more than an accumulation of damage: breakages in the machinery of your cells combined with build ups of metabolic waste which lead to the failure of biological systems. With the exception of acute accidents, the most common causes of death (heart disease, cancer, neurological disease/degeneration) all increase as we age.

On June 18, 2018, the World Health Organization even added a new disease code which every country in the world is encouraged to use. The code was MG2A: old age.

Aging From 30,000 Feet:
  • Lifestyle and genetics influence cellular health.
  • Cellular health determines our rate of aging.
  • The process of aging leads to biological misfires, cellular breakdown, and disease/death.

Two Theories of Aging:

While slowing down the process of aging could help in forestalling disease, it’s still unclear to what degree aging can be slowed, paused, or reversed.

As it stands now, there are two basic theories surrounding aging/lifespan:

  1. Biological Limit on Life: According to this theory, humans (along with all other species) have a natural limit to their lifespans that cannot be exceeded. Using mathematical modeling, researchers from the journal Nature Communications predict that after 120 to 150 years of age the human body loses its ability to recover from illness and injury.
  2. Longevity Escape Velocity: Also known as age escape velocity and actuarial escape velocity, this is the situation in which technology extends a person’s life expectancy at a faster rate than they are aging. In other words, the potential for immortality. Some gerontologists believe that the odds of LEV are as high as 50% and that we could learn the answer within the next 15 years.

Regardless of which theory ultimately ends up proving correct, it is quite likely that lifespans will continue to be extended (perhaps dramatically) beyond the averages of today. According to the CDC, the average life expectancy for a female in the US is 80.5, for males it is 75.1.

Odds of living to 100 (with vitality)

Simply making it to the triple digit milestone is currently out of reach for many. Per data from the Social Security Administration, for a married couple where both spouses are 65 years old, there is a 8.7% chance that at least one member of the couple will live to 100.

Now, while the US does have the highest number of centenarians globally (approx. 97,000 people, or 0.03% of the US population), they are a rare bunch.

Getting to 115 is currently a 1-in-100-million proposition. And reaching 130 is a mathematical improbability of the highest order. At least it is right now.

However, for those able to invest in their health and maintain physical and cognitive function over these next 10-15 years, the future is looking bright.

According to Dr. David Sinclair, author of Lifespan and co-director for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School, “if even a few of the therapies and treatments that are most promising come to fruition, it is not an unreasonable expectation for anyone who is alive and healthy today to reach 100 in good health—active and engaged at levels we’d expect of healthy 50-year-olds today.”

The Science

You may have heard the following:

Genetics load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.

Studies of family genealogies and identical twins place the genetic influences on longevity at between 10% and 25% which, by any estimation, is surprisingly low. Conversely, your lifestyle accounts for 75%-90%.

In other words: Our DNA is not our destiny, lifestyle plays an outsized role.

With recent advancements in both technology and medicine, our longevity rates may be increasing faster than many realize.

Perhaps the greatest leap forward occurred in 2012 when Shinya Yamanaka discovered what he referred to as the “elixir of life.”

And no, the “elixir” was not a trendy food or supplement. It was the discovery of a process called “reprogramming” – that is, in a crude oversimplified sense: using genome-editing CRIPR technology to revert mature cells into younger cells.

This discovery would earn Yamanaka the Nobel Prize of Medicine.

Following Yamanaka’s discovery, we’ve entered a period of exponential medicine: genome sequencing, RNA transcriptomics, Wnt pathway modifiers, vaccines, liquid biopsies, CAR-T cells, gene therapy, exosomes, and stem cells are just a sampling of the technologies (many of which the world’s billionaires are fast-tracking).

The ability to reprogram cells along with these other interventions could prove revolutionary in delaying biological decline.

For instance, when it comes to cancer, the body is always producing cancer it’s just that our immune system zaps the cancer 99% of the time. Early stage cancers, those in stage 1 and stage 2, are highly curable. It’s when a cancer metastasizes beyond those initial stages that the fight typically becomes more difficult.

In the case of cancer, as opposed to being reactive to the symptoms before it’s too late, there is now proactive screening for 60+ different cancers to catch them in the earlier, more treatable stages.

Proactive care, as opposed to reactive treatment, is the future of healthcare.

Lifespan vs. Healthspan

In a previous blog on the Centenarian Olympics, we discussed the idea of “backcasting” – or reverse engineering – the tasks that you would need to be able to complete at age 100 to maintain independence and how you could begin training for them today. The reason for this is that, for many of us, the goal is not to simply increase the quantity of years lived. Instead, it’s to increase the quality of our years by decreasing the number of years nursing disease.

Between 1950 and 2020 the world population swelled from 2.9B people to 7.8B people. During that same window of time, average (global) life expectancy rose 26 years, from 47 to 73 years of age. While life expectancy has risen, maintaining health, function, and overall quality of life has lagged.

Unlike the average lifespan, which is now 79.3 years in the US, the average healthspan (i.e. period of one’s life that one is healthy) is only 63.1 years old. In other words, roughly 1/5 of an individual’s life is now spent managing end of life morbidity.

With new medical advancements and lifestyle improvements it’s looking more and more likely that there are solutions to close the gap between the quantity of your years (lifespan) and the quality of them (healthspan).

Financial Planning & Playing the Long Game

At wHealth Advisors, we view the traditional definition of “wealth” – your investments, salary, net worth etc. – as a bit limiting and one dimensional. Like the term “success”, true “wealth”… ehmm wHealth… is more nuanced, nebulous, and unique to each of us. What is optimal for me may not be optimal for you.

Therefore, the wHealthy person is the one with a uniquely optimized balance of financial independence, health (mental/physical/emotional/spiritual), rest, and social connection. They are also likely to have sufficient degree of autonomy and purpose in their professional and/or personal life.

All the returns in life – whether in finances, health, knowledge, or relationships – are the product of good decisions being compounded over long periods. Therefore, improving our overall wHealth is not typically something we can change dramatically overnight, it’s incremental.

Final Thoughts

As financial planners, we feel immense responsibility – and gratitude – in applying our technical expertise to empower our clients to be the people, and live the lives, they’ve always dreamed of.

The maxim of “health is wealth” is all too cliché and oftentimes not met with action. Like with finances as is the case with health – the best time to have started investing in it was 10 years ago… the second best time is today.

So, assuming that you could live with vitality to (or beyond!) age 100 – how might that change the way you make decisions today?

Would you make any changes to your current lifestyle?

Would you invest more into (or divest from) certain relationships?

Would you dedicate more attention to any areas of your overall health (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual etc.)?

Would you make different career decisions/transitions?

Would you invest more time, energy, and intention into closing the gap between who you are today and the best version of yourself?

Let us know so we can begin planning for that future today!

Conscious Breathing: Our Hardwired Superpower

Depression, anxiety, and sleep dysfunction rates among both children and adults have reached epidemic levels and are getting increasingly worse. To our own detriment, many of us go through life not aware of the benefits of conscious breathing.

Out of all the daily self-care modalities available, conscious breathing is arguably the lowest hanging fruit. It does not require much time, it is accessible to individuals of all abilities, and it is free.

Benefits:

One of the greatest benefits of conscious breathing – an umbrella term encapsulating different types of breathwork – is its ability to reprogram our nervous system and combat low-grade, chronic stress.

Physiologically, as opposed to the sympathetic “fight or flight” system, conscious breathing turns on the parasympathetic system – also referred to as the “rest and digest” system – which is essential for overall health and longevity.

Breathwork is essentially our inner pharmacy to calm the mind, relax the body, and even provide us with a boost of energy/clarity. It’s no wonder that the Department of Defense and Navy Seals ascribe to different forms of conscious breathing.

Personally, breathwork can be helpful before, during, or after a difficult, or stressful event. It can help keep us calm in traffic or down-regulate our thoughts/emotions before bed. Professionally, it can calm our nerves before a meeting or speaking engagement.

Interoceptive Awareness

Just as we’re attune to our body’s need to eat or to go to the bathroom, so too should we be mindful of our body telling us we need to breathe. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

By getting more in touch with what’s going on within us we can better control how we respond to the world around us.

Explore for yourself and consider teaching your children about the benefits of conscious breathing before their sporting events, exams, and during any moments of anxiousness.

Resources

In our blog post on cold therapy, we shared the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Linked below are some additional videos that we’ve found helpful:

5 Ways To Improve Your Breathing with James Nestor (12 minutes)

Breathing Techniques (4 minutes)

Nervous System Reset – Guided Breathwork (22 minutes)

 

The Centenarian Olympics

Training for the Centenarian Olympics

Training for the Centenarian Olympics

Training for a long, healthful, and functional life is not the same as training for performanceEminent longevity doctor, Dr. Peter Attia, notes that, for most people, the body will fail before the other systems (brain, heart, etc.).

To identify the training protocols that would allow one to compete in what he refers to as “The Centenarian Olympics,” Dr. Attia suggests we should “backcast” (i.e. the opposite of forecast), or reverse engineer, the activities that we would need to do at age 100 and begin training for them today.

Some things your 100-year-old self may need to do:

  • Play with your potential future grandkids and great grandkids
  • Lift a 30lb suitcase into an overhead bin
  • Get up from the ground
  • Go grocery shopping and carry two 10lb grocery bags up/down two flights of stairs
  • Bathe, shower, and dress yourself independently

Dr. Attia has said: “If you have the aspiration of kicking ass when you’re 85, you can’t afford to be average when you’re 50.”

When backcasting these activities, the training protocols are based around a few essential pillars:

  • Stability
  • Strength
  • Aerobic Performance
  • Anaerobic Output

Let’s talk about each of these:

Stability: 

The foundation of the four exercise components – most people start to fail first with their stability. Dr. Attia recommends working with a qualified Postural Restoration Institute professional. You can also practice stability focused routines/exercises which include Pilates, yoga, and tai chi, to name a few. For those striving to be functional 100-year-olds, light stretching should be part of the daily routine and longer 60-minutes stability-focused sessions can be completed weekly.

Strength: 

Aging robs us of our strength – we lose 35-40% of our strength between age 20 and 80. Approximately 1-2% of our strength is lost each year after age 50. In fact, grip strength alone is shown to be a reliable biomarker for future injury (and death) prevention. To maintain strength, longevity experts suggest strength training three days per week. Some longevity-focused strength training exercises are linked here.

Aerobic Performance: 

Aerobic exercise consists of less intense, longer bouts of activity. Dr. Attia is a big proponent of Zone 2 heart rate training for aerobic performance – that is, the highest metabolic output/work that you can sustain while keeping your heartrate 60-70% of your max + lactate level below two millimole per liter.

In other words, for many of us, this might translate to walking uphill on a treadmill at a 15% incline going 3-3.4mph. Another option is riding a stationary bicycle at a pace that allows you to carry a conversation, but the conversation feels a bit strained (the person you’re speaking with would know you’re exercising). Zone 2 aerobic training should, ideally, account for 2-4hrs of your overall activity per week.

Anaerobic Output: 

Anaerobic activities are much more efficient and therefore do not require as much time as aerobic. This type of activity is more intense and focused on your Zone 5 heart rate (i.e. 90-100% of maximum HR). Anaerobic-focused workouts include HIIT, Tabata, and different boot-camp type workouts. However, they can be even shorter (30-60sec) “all-out” bursts of exertion performed by running/rowing/cycling or anything that gets your HR to Zone 5.

Less discussed, but arguably just as important as your physical training for the long haul, is the quality of your sleep. Take a look at our past blog for ways to improve your sleep and increase your quality of life.

IG Live: wHealth Advisors speaks with The Wisemen Project

Wisemen

wHealth Advisors co-founder, Dennis McNamara, recently spoke with Christian Valeriani of The Wisemen Project regarding men’s health and the constant juggling of priorities men face as parents, partners, and professionals.

The conversation centers on the intersection of health and habits and making “investments” in your health to maximize your long-term ROI (both personally and financially).

Instagram Live: Dennis McNamara & Christian Valeriani talk shop

NOTE: Conversation gets going around the 4-minute mark.

If this conversation piqued your interest be sure check out the upcoming Wisemen Experience and note that the early bird discount has been extended to January 1st, 2022.

Four simple tips to take back your health

Take back your health

While genetics certainly play a role, the overwhelming majority of our health outcomes are a product of our nourishment (including the content our brains consume!), rest, activity, and habits. Wherever you are in your health journey, consider these four steps to improve your health.

1. Eat The Rainbow

Phytonutrients—special plant chemicals that interact with your biology – can act like switches on your DNA to heal your body (called epigenetics). Phytonutrients can be found in blueberries, arugula, broccoli, bok choy, raspberries, purple cabbage, and more. Functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Mark Hyman, suggests making vegetables the bulk of your meals, and add in a small serving of quality protein, like grass-fed meats, organic or pasture-raised poultry, or wild-caught fish, while also being generous with healthy fats (think: avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil).

2. Do Not Neglect Your Sleep

Our screens (TVs, laptops, smartphones etc.) all emit blue light. This confuses our body and suppresses melatonin which impacts the quality of our sleep and can disturb our circadian rhythm. Consider purchasing blue light blocking glasses and/or not looking at your phone or TV for at least one hour (ideally two) before going to sleep.

Upon waking up, consider starting your morning with meditation/journaling, 15 minutes of sunlight, and a tall glass of water.

Keeping your room cool and dark and maintaining a consistent sleep and wake schedule also help support a healthy sleep routine.

3. Move Your Body

No, you don’t need a gym. All you need is your body and a little bit of space for some HIIT, yoga, or stretching. Exercise increases the number of mitochondria – or the “powerhouse” of the cell –  improving your body’s ability to produce energy. In other words, the more mitochondria you have, the more energy you can generate during exercise, the faster and longer you can exercise, and the more resilient you become to aging, illness, and disease.

Here are three workouts on YouTube. They are for different levels of fitness, so be sure to consult your trainer or physician if you’re just getting started:

4. Reduce Stress and Anxiety

One of the risk factors for worsened COVID-19 is fear and anxiety, which, let’s face it, most folks have been struggling with throughout 2020 and 2021. We can’t change the facts, but we can change our response to what is happening around us. Just taking the time to breathe, do a digital detox, spend time in nature, connect with loved ones, and do joyful things can significantly reduce anxiety. Eating whole, balanced meals reduces anxiety because it keeps our blood sugar balanced.

Take note of how you spend your time daily and what sorts of inputs you allow into your life. If you are constantly doing things that feed your anxiety, it’s time for some habit changes. Make a list of things that reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and make time for them daily.

Takeaway:

Start with these four simple strategies to improve your health, and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel. For the men, also be aware of the upcoming Men’s Health Retreat with The Wisemen Project.

Men’s Health: The Wisemen Retreat

The Wisemen Retreat

About The Wisemen Project

The Wisemen Project is a men’s holistic health group that melds proven, ancient techniques of movement, breath work and meditation with cutting edge scientific research. The group was formed as a powerful antidote to the seemingly endless noise, stress, disease and disconnection in our modern world.

The primary pillars center around:

  • Fuel: Our food and what we “feed” our brains.
  • Mind: Cultivating resiliency and proper brain function.
  • Move: Movement to heal the mind, body and soul.
  • Rest: Dialing in the proper amount, type, and frequency of rest to allow mind and body to recover and grow.
  •  Social: Community is interwoven within the fibers of our ancestral DNA, helps to reduce stress/anxiety, improve mental health, and increase our lifespan.
  • Wealth: Perspective, action, discipline, and reflection to cultivate an abundance mindset.

About The Retreat:

Tucked in the northern-most terrain of the Pocono Mountains, situated a couple of hours away from NYC and Philadelphia, the retreat will be hosted at The Barn at Boyd’s Mills.

The retreat aims to be an opportunity to disconnect from modern stressors and practice proven principles to optimize your health.

Activities:

  • Exercise, functional movement
  • Daily hikes
  • Deep & extensive breath work
  • Cold baths & fire
  • Grounding/earthing
  • Stress reduction modalities
  • Qigong/meditation
  • Nourishing and sustainable foods, chef prepared meals
  • Human connection/reconnection

Why wHealth Advisors is sharing:

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

– Mahatma Ghandi

Our long-term goals, visions, and portfolios are more likely to be derailed if we neglect our health. Health itself is a priceless wealth and we strongly support investing in it while you can.

As someone who is personally passionate about men’s health and follows evidence-based protocols for personal health optimization, I (Dennis) am very much looking forward to the activities and connection that this retreat is sure to offer.

Please feel free to pass this info along to anyone you think could benefit. There are 16 seats available and the early bird discount ends in December.

SIGN UP:

The early bird discount ends on 12/1/2021 – sign up now while seats are available.

Disclaimer:

There is no financial incentive or underlying remuneration for wHealth Advisors in promoting this event.

 

Seven Types of Rest You Need

Rest Wheel

In a perfect world, we’d all get 8hrs of quality sleep each night. In reality, many of us fall short on this – either in terms of length (i.e. getting more like 6-7hrs) and/or quality (i.e. restlessness).

However, according to physician Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D., author of Sacred Rest, “If you’re waking up (after sleeping) and still exhausted, the issue probably isn’t sleep. It’s likely a rest deficit.”

Listening to your body, and getting a better understanding of which type of rest you’re in need of is essential to recharging your battery and feeling your best.

Physical Rest:

Sign you need it: Physically exhausted, struggle to keep eyes open.

Rest to get: Go to sleep 30mins earlier, swap out the morning HIIT class for some restorative yoga.

Mental Rest:

Sign you need it: Brain feels like it’s going to mush. You’ve been staring at the same page for 10 minutes. You just sent a barely comprehensible email.

Rest to get: Turn off your screens. Repeat a calming mantra. Meditate or follow a guided meditation via Youtube or a meditation app (i.e. Calm, Headspace).

Social Rest:

Sign you need it: You feel alone, or disconnected/disengaged from friends and family.

Rest to get: Social rest feels like interacting with another person and leaving fuller than you started. It comes from meaningful interactions where there is no fear of disapproval or rejection – to be completely authentic with another human.

Social Rest – ideas to consider: Talk to a friend or close family member on the phone (NOT via text). Set aside time (15-30mins) to discuss day and emotions with spouse or partner. Go on a walk (or schedule one!) with a friend. Join a book club. Setup a coffee date with a friend. Plan a double date with another couple. Plan a getaway with your spouse or a friend.

Creative Rest:

Sign you need it: Sluggishness in solving problems or brainstorming new ideas.

Rest to get: Take some time to STOP doing and instead to observe, to think, to journal, to explore. Go on a walk in nature, or read an engrossing book. Anything to take the pressure to create off your mind.

Emotional Rest:

Sign you need it: Tolerance for strong feelings is a lot lower, you lose your temper more easily, you reach the tears threshold faster than usual.

Rest to get: Remove emotional triggers (like social media), give yourself space where you don’t have to react to others’ emotions and where you can be alone to process your own. Schedule a regular therapy session. Find people with whom you can be 100% yourself.

Spiritual Rest:

Sign you need it: Feeling afloat or unanchored. Feeling a lack of purpose or fulfillment.

Rest to get: Engage in something greater than yourself. Consider adding prayer, meditation, or even volunteerism/community involvement into your routine.

Sensory Rest:

Sign you need it: Your senses feel overwhelmed. This can be due to bright lights or noisy places, too much screen time, too many people talking to you at once etc.

Rest to get: Intentional sensory deprivation. Close your eyes for a minute in the middle of the day. Put down the screens past a certain time. Try to get yourself to a quiet place with minimal sensory distractions and let yourself take deep breaths away from all the input.