FROM LIFESPAN TO HEALTH SPAN : BIOHACKING OF A 82-YEAR-OLD

Longevity is equivalent to life span. Humans have been looking for this one magic pill for centuries.  In modern days, biohacking, biochemical mechanism, epigenetic, genetic pathway analysis, functional medicine, paleo, keto, lifestyle hacks all show us how to tweak ourselves in ways to increase longevity. 


Aforementioned methods indeed sound busy and involved with time investments.  It doesn’t really fit in most categories of busy daily living……..or does it? I’d say it actually isn’t as complicated as it seems.  

Simply taking a cold shower, having a quality sleep, drinking a cup of coffee during fasting state, or even the way you breathe are all a form of biohacking. The last one actually can result in brain activation as well as encouraging cell functioning in each and every cell throughout the body due to correct breathing method brings nitric oxide to the blood and heart in order to nourish your body.

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What Captures Me


Besides business meetings, another reason to fly back to Hong Kong was a celebration for my Ms Sunshine’s 82nd birthday*. Looking at her, she hasn’t changed much since her early 60s, with the exception of being a lot wiser (for sure I got to put some nice words here).  Her vibrancy. Her glow. The mental sharpness and mobility are fantastic.

*I call my granny from my dad’s side Ms Serious, and Ms Sunshine from mom’s side. 

23 years ago, my beloved uncle passed away due to dementia and heart disease.  It was difficult to see him go through cognitive issues. This had a side effect of taking the loved ones who took care of him daily, through mental and emotional depletion prior to his passing. That was the first death experience in my existence. Shortly after came Ms Serious, who passed away with Cervical Cancer.  Later on, another uncle passed with leukemia. And my cousins battled with severe diabetes and strokes in their 40s.

After experiencing my own thyroid tumor at the age of 22, I looked at the profiles on both sides of my family. I believe the majority of the health issues come from food, thought, and lifestyle as gene can’t determine my destiny.

Photo: Ulric Collette's work - Grandmother / Granddaughter: Ginette, 61 And Ismaelle, 12 (2013)
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Root Problems

Following all of this, I started becoming obsessed with internal healing, looking at both family backgrounds. I began looking at dietary preferences, lifestyle, self-imposed stress, environmental stressors, and all the aspects in their daily living.  Twenty years ago, I made a statement to myself that if Ms Sunshine was still alive by the age of 80, it’d be wonderful to see how she’d turn out and compare the two family profiles.
Feeding my own curiosity with this comparison, most of them aren’t about genetic inheritance.

Lifestyle
 Dad's Side
Mom's Side
Relationship with Food
In Asian culture, especially Chinese, it’s common to have a full table of meat or highly fatty, unhealthy foods along with pure white rice. Typically, it’s used to represent wealth.
Simple meals.
Usually go for small portion of eggs, fish, and veggies.  And since they are Indonesian, curry is the usual daily food.  The meals always contain coconut oil, adaptogen herbs such as turmeric and ginger.
Drinks, Booze, cigarettes, concentrated tea, and cigars

They are all businessmen, generation after generation. Networking and nightlife are a large part of their activities.  These substances never leave their hands.

In order to show wealth, they’d also use a lot of tea leaves to make the tea super concentrated.

Their go to :

Coffee, Tea, Vitamin C, and Water

1 to 2 cups of black coffee each morning and around noon.  Indonesian coffee is part of the daily essentials.
They’d also drink as much water as they can throughout the day. 

To them, tea is a drink to serve guests. 
Vitamin C tablets in water is what they think helps them be stronger.

Movement
No exercise
Walking two steps was already hardcore training for them. Elevators, escalators, and cars are must have daily essentials. 
Move Around
They go for walks after dinner and regularly go dancing with their peers, even today at the age of 82.
They also are regularly out and about, hanging out with their friends or community. 
Treats
Pastries and cakes for tea time almost everyday just to celebrate life and success. (Oh, how I loved that as a kid)
Although she eats whole food most of the time, she would treat herself at fast food joints with a small quantity once in a while. (Hey it would also “benefit” me when I was a kid). This was limited though, to about once a month.
Stress management
High levels of stress
Work, networking, business, hierarchy systems… it’s all just part of that sort of life, yet it isn't really all that fun.  Their stress management is back to the drink and booze
Laugh It Off
I’m not sure if it’s a good thing when they kind of take things too easy.  Not that they don’t have to deal with stress, however their living philosophy is to enjoy every moment and let things go. They tend to not hold on to the old that puts strain on their current living.
Beauty Ritual
Not much that I can remember.
Keep a beauty routine daily
Ms Sunshine has had her beauty ritual for as long as I can remember.  She’s had this floral scent and using the same brand of cleansing milk for decades.  She doesn’t use sunscreen, yet her skin is simply amazing for her age.
Mindset
Hierarchy
Ms Serious, the highest honour in the household, that means she had to work to maintain her daily image of stature, not really connecting to anyone except those who took care of her.
Continue to learn
She reads newspapers daily and loves games that require strategy.  She tends to play any strategy game that she sees in newspapers.
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Photo : Ms Serious
The Answer

Genetics do play a part. It’s called Genetic Polymorphism, with the most known type being single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).  These types of genes are what you’re born with. However, there is a broken record saying: Your genes are not your destiny! 

And it’s not just a saying, it’s a fact.  There are types of genes called Gene Expressions that completely depend on your mindset, food choices, daily routines, and environments. These all combine in various ways to impact the way they are expressed over time.  If you don’t have a comprehensive test report to tell you the SNPs that you have, you can still learn to be conscious on your daily choices in order to start helping from lifespan to healthspan journey.

At Ms Sunshine’s 82nd celebration, I questioned her about the secret of her longevity and youthful glow.  Her answer for this secret is - “I never stuff myself”. She only fills her stomach for about 70% from each meal.  In addition to eating less, moving more has been essential since she was in her mid-40s. 

I guess we have an example to help us start prepping before we hit perimenopause and menopause. Of course, we shouldn’t stop there. Maintaining our health during post menopause is the only legit way to go.

Photo : Ms Sunshine & Me
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The Science

Don’t take my or her words for it.  Here are some scientific studies on this health span living.

  • Eat Less

    The size of your stomach is approximately the size of your clenched fist.  It stretches up to 3 - 4 times when a large meal goes in. It does shrink back down to clenched size, however, it will eventually lose its elasticity and stay in an expanded state if you over stuff yourself frequently .

    Humans do not need big portions of food. If you do it properly, you can go without food for quite some time.  You might have heard it’s an ancestral hunter-gather thing and assume you’ve mutated to the point you need food all day long. The fact is, humans haven’t changed much in this manner.  Over nutrients (fancy words for overeating) inhibits or reverses body function. We aim for quality over quantity of both macro and micronutrients. 

    Another benefit of ‘Eat Less’ is putting less stress on the digestive tract, which helps the digestive system as well as promote proper liver function.  When you overeat, your genes alternate the metabolism to slow down. This causes trouble in methylating, which is a key process to facilitate hundreds of functions in the body, from skin repair, digestion, detoxification, mood balance, and clear thought. 
  • Move

    Not saying you must join a triathlon, but a simple stretch after getting up in the morning and before bed is a great start to improving body flexibility.

    We have 3 - 4 times more lymph than the blood-circulatory system in the body.  The lymphatic system works with movement It doesn’t have a pump like the cardiovascular system, so in order to help it circulate and rid the body of the toxin=, just get up and move. 

    A gentle walk or slow training (especially in fasting state) helps gut microbiome stay healthy and promote cell growth. Some heavily trained athletes have been showing damage both physically and hormonally due to the amount of stress they put on their bodies.

    If you happen to live in places that have long winters (like where I’m at now) and you aren’t ready to be the next Wim Hof, gentle yoga, qigong, tai chi, or breath work are something nice to keep your body going indoors.
  • Treat Yourself

    Self discipline is vital to daily living and leads to good health.  However, don’t deny yourself some treats here and there. There’s nothing wrong with it. The bottom line is to understand the price needs to be paid. Make a healthier choice on treats.  Keep in mind that most processed food stays in our system for at least 21 days and alcohol for 40 days before being cleansed out. So it’s probably a good idea to eat clean after that treat.
  • Coffee

    It’s been controversial for being an acidic diuretic drink.  If you suffer stomach issues, it’s ideal to eliminate coffee. However, if you are the one who can handle coffee, a moderate consumption of black coffee brings you benefits such as polyphenol, which helps the gut microbiome (according to Dr. David Permuttler) and gives you a nice little brain lift in the process (according to Dr. Rahul Jandial’s new book).  
  • Hangout with friends

    Being solitude is an elegant way to spend time with yourself, however having social connections or human interaction actually does make people’s cognitive function healthy. 

    A weekly catch up or just a simple text to who truly cares about you play some magic to longevity. Not saying more friends the merrier, but having one or two real friends that you can talk to are definitely good for you mental and emotional health.

  • Beauty routine

    In Asia, the older generation doesn’t have the concept of sunscreen or retinol. They don’t even know what Vitamin A is or if Beta-carotene is capable of converting to retinyl palmitate within the body.  Ms Sunshine’s been very gentle to her skin with a simple routine such as using cleansing milk and a dose of vitamin C. Based on her diet of rich vegetables, eggs, fruits, and anti-inflammatory herbs (along with the vitamin C drinks), she’s been feeding her gut environment as well as cells and blood with both macro and micronutrients. This incidental cocktail has aided in her glow from the inside, out. 
  • Never Stop Learning and Exploring

    Mahjong, Sudoku, Solitaire, Chess, Crosswords, Card games are all based on strategy. Even learning a new language helps your brain work on its memory, hearing, speaking, and general thinking functions. It a gym that helps increase and harness neuroplasticity.

At 82, Ms Sunshine’s been biohacking without even knowing it.  Her last protocol is “Longevity isn’t the most important thing. Life is an experience Living long with happiness is the goal.”

There’s no doubt, attitude towards life is everything.  At the end of the day is about Food and Thought.

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Research & Source
1. New evidence that optimists live longer
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/buso-net082119.php 
2. Healthspan is more important than lifespan
https://publichealth.wustl.edu/heatlhspan-is-more-important-than-lifespan-so-why-dont-more-people-know-about-it/

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Dr. Ben Lynch, an Author, an Epigenetic Pioneer, a Naturopathic Physician who received his Cell and Molecular Biology, BS from the University of Washington and his doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine in Bastyr University.  He is passionate about disease prevention and health promotion. MTHFR gene mutations are a specialty of Dr Ben's.

In his new book - Dirty Genes have shown the mutated gene that you're born with and how to turn those gene button off by lifestyle changes.

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