How to Slow Down and Reverse Aging

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Last Updated: Oct 18, 2020

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The pursuit of longevity and the quest for immortality are not new phenomenons. Humans have looked for ways to extend their lifespan since the dawn of time.

These days, most of us have accepted the fact that our place on earth is temporary and that we’ll likely vanish before our 100th birthday — and maybe much sooner. 

We’ve even come to accept that we likely won’t die of “old age,” but a disease that is often preventable. I’m referring to metabolic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and all the other ailments we inflict on ourselves with the lifestyle choices we make.

As a result, some people don’t even want to entertain the thought of living longer, since it might mean living another 10 years with a disease that reduces their quality of life (and that might cost a fortune to treat).

Ever since I started taking care of my body by embracing a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, CrossFit and a strict sleep regimen, my goal has been to remain healthy for as long as possible, regardless of how long I live.

A few months ago, I read a book about the science of aging* that explained what happens in the body as you get older and what you can do to slow down or even reverse that process.

Reading about the latest scientific discoveries in the field of antiaging got me excited, and I now believe that adding a few healthy decades to my lifespan (barring any accidents) is within the realm of possibilities. 

Note that some of the methods outlined in this article require the help of a knowledgeable medical professional who specializes in antiaging. If you don’t know a doctor who can work with you, send me an email and I’ll put you in touch with the one I trust and work with. 

In this article, I’m thrilled to share the latest scientific discoveries I’ve learned about, as well as what I do to try and slow down aging.

What Happens When You Age

The hallmarks of aging
The hallmarks of aging (source: cell.com)

I always thought that aging was characterized by a slowdown of the body’s metabolic processes. For example, cells would stop dividing and not make new ones. 

In reality, the aging process is a little more complicated than I realized. So let me give you an overview of the scientifically-accepted hallmarks of aging before we dive into how to influence them with lifestyle choices, supplements and medication.

In a nutshell, the process of aging is accompanied by the following factors (don’t worry if these terms don’t mean anything to you, as I explain each one below):

  • Altered intercellular communication
  • Cellular senescence 
  • Deregulated nutrient sensing
  • Epigenetic alterations
  • Genome instability (DNA)
  • Loss of proteostasis
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Stem cell exhaustion
  • Telomere attrition 

Altered Intercellular Communication

Cells constantly communicate with each other via messenger chemicals, and a breakdown in communication prevents the affected cells from working optimally. Some of the consequences of impaired cellular communication (as far as aging is concerned) include inflammation, hormonal imbalances in the brain and an impaired immune system.

Cellular Senescence

Triggers and consequences of cellular senescence
Triggers and consequences of cellular senescence.

In young organisms, cellular senescence (the inability of cells to divide) is important for preventing the proliferation of damaged cells and the occurrence of cancer

As you age, those senescent cells tend to pile up because the body becomes less capable of cleaning them up and replenishing them with new ones. That phenomenon is what many people associate with aging, and what I thought was the primary cause of it.

To illustrate the problem, think about maintaining a brick wall. The bricks in your wall deteriorate over time. When you see a bad brick, you replace it with a good one. 

You can do that for as long as you have a steady supply of new bricks. But once that supply runs out, you can’t properly maintain the wall anymore, which will cause it to deteriorate even further. 

In a sense, aging causes our bodies to run out of good bricks (cells). This is, of course, an extremely simplified analogy. In reality, the impact of cellular senescence on tissue growth and repair is much more complex.

Deregulated Nutrient Sensing

Cellular nutrient sensing
Nutrient sensing plays an integral role in cell growth and proliferation.

Deregulated nutrient sensing is a fancy term for the inability of cells to recognize and respond to glucose, ketone bodies and other fuel substrates. 

Fuel is what the mitochondria (which are your cells’ power plants) use to produce energy. 

The inability to effectively recognize and use fuel for energy can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, which is another hallmark of aging.

Epigenetic Alterations

Epigenetics diagram
Our lifestyle can influence gene expression through epigenetic factors.

The term “epi” means “on top.” The epigenome is a layer on top of our genetic code (DNA) that can influence which genes get turned on or off. This is also known as gene expression. 

While it’s difficult to directly change our DNA, our lifestyle choices can influence our epigenetics. And that, in turn, influences gene expression.

In other words, by influencing our epigenetics we can indirectly manipulate our DNA and its impact on our lives.

As you might know, DNA is stored as digital information. But instead of using the binary system we use in computers (ones and zeros), DNA has four positions. The digital nature of DNA makes it easy to copy the information — a process that occurs every time a cell splits. 

So, it’s kind of like a compact disc that can be copied bit-by-bit, without losing any information. 

On the other hand, epigenetics is analog information. Every time you copy it, you lose some of the data. Think of it as a VHS tape or cassette; every copy you make is of slightly lower quality.

To visualize how epigenetics and genetics work together, imagine a CD again. Our genetic code is the digital information stored on the CD and epigenetics are the tiny scuffs and scratches that occur over time. 

Minor scratches won’t impact your ability to read its data or copy it. But if the scratches get too deep, you won’t be able to read all of the digital information.

That’s what happens to our epigenetics as we age and during the development of diseases such as cancer; cells lose information as they split and copy themselves. 

Besides the natural process of aging, certain lifestyle factors can also damage either our genetic and/or epigenetic code, including smoking, radiation, inflammation and free radicals.

At some point, the CD becomes so scratched that you can’t read it at all, and the data is lost (unless you have a backup somewhere).

The same principle applies to our bodies as we age. Researchers are relatively certain that there are backups of our genetic code, but nobody knows how to retrieve those backups at the right time. Figuring that out could lead to a major breakthrough in antiaging medicine.

Genome Instability

Genomic-Instability
Environmental factors can damage our DNA and influence how fast we age.

Our genetic code is constantly under attack by natural radiation and other factors. However, in young and healthy individuals, the body is able to repair most of that damage quickly.

As you grow older, and are influenced by environmental factors and lifestyle choices, your body loses its ability to make those repairs. This leads to genetic mutations — which are not only a hallmark of aging but also of most cancers.

Loss of Proteostasis

Proteostasis is the cell’s ability to process proteins. Most of us think of proteins as the building blocks of muscle tissue. While that’s true, proteins also play a major role in thousands of chemical processes, including DNA folding, the activation and silencing of genes, and much more.

As we age, our cells lose their ability to process proteins, which negatively impacts all of the functions I mentioned above.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction

mitochondria
The mitochondria is responsible for turning nutrients into energy.

The mitochondria are the cells’ power plants, and are responsible for converting fuel into energy. As we discussed above, if a cell loses its ability to efficiently use fuel substrates (such as glucose), that negatively impacts the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy.

A cell’s inability to produce energy leads to its death (senescence), as researchers recently discovered.

Stem Cell Exhaustion

stem cells
Stem cells can grow into almost any type of tissue.

Stem cells are special because they can develop into any type of cell, depending on what the body needs. That capability enables them to repair tissue damage almost anywhere in the body.

Unfortunately, humans have only a limited number of adult stem cells — somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000, based on the latest scientific research. Once we’ve exhausted our repertoire of stem cells, we lose the ability to heal and regenerate tissue damage. 

Telomere Attrition

Telomeres protect our chromosomes.
Telomeres protect our chromosomes.

Telomeres are like the protective end-caps of shoelaces. In our bodies, they protect the chromosomes inside our cells. Once that protective layer has worn off, the affected cell dies.

That’s why it’s important to keep our telomeres long and healthy.

While telomeres naturally get shorter as we age, certain lifestyle factors can speed up their decline. These factors include smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity, stress, exposure to pollution and others.

Five Scientific Methods to Slow Down and Reverse Aging

Many researchers, including Harvard Medical School geneticist Dr. David Sinclair, believe that addressing one of the above factors can effectively slow down the aging process. If you addressed all of them, you might not age at all.

While there is still a lot more research required to figure out how to address all of these signs of aging, we already know how to influence some of them. So let’s start with those.

The five tips below aren’t ranked in any particular order of importance. However, I think that you can probably start with #1-3 right away, while #4 requires the purchase of supplements and #5 involves working with a doctor who specializes in antiaging.

#1. Intermittent Fasting

Our bodies are genetically used to intermittent fasting
Mammals can switch to burning body fat for fuel in the absence of food.

Intermittent fasting or “meal skipping” is one of the easiest yet most powerful methods you can use to slow down aging. Plus, it doesn’t cost you a thing. 

I encourage you to check out my ultimate guide to intermittent fasting on how to get started, but in a nutshell, here’s what happens when you don’t eat:

Based on an ancient survival mechanism that goes back to the earliest stages of life on Earth, cells enter a repair and maintenance mode if the environment isn’t conducive to growing and proliferating. 

In other words, if you don’t eat for an extended period, the body goes into preservation mode, which triggers cell and DNA repair programs. 

One of those programs is called autophagy — a cell-maintenance program that recycles damaged and misfolded proteins, thus preventing cells from becoming senescent.

It’s important to understand that the effectiveness of intermittent fasting or meal skipping depends on several factors, including the length of your fasting window and the type of food you eat during your eating window.

For example, if you follow a 16/8 protocol (16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating) but consume predominantly carbohydrates during your eating window, you likely won’t reap any significant benefits (as this study has demonstrated).

For example, if weight loss is your primary goal, you need to allow your body to start burning (body) fat instead of glucose for fuel. You can only do that when you significantly reduce your carb intake.

From an antiaging perspective, you should know that autophagy doesn’t kick in until you’ve fasted for at least 18 to 20 hours. In fact, autophagy seems to peak somewhere between the 48-hour and 72-hour marks.

#2. Diet

Keto dinner plate - 00014
I aim to keep my insulin sensitivity high by avoiding excess carb intake.

While fasting and meal skipping are incredibly powerful tools for supporting the repair processes in your body, it’s also important to understand how the food you eat impacts how (quickly) you age.

For example, eating foods that are known to cause inflammation decreases your cells’ ability to communicate with each other effectively.

Additionally, a diet that’s high in carbohydrates is more likely to make your cells less sensitive to insulin, a hormone that’s responsible for shuttling glucose into cells so that the mitochondria can convert it to energy. 

To retain high insulin sensitivity, I recommend a diet that’s relatively low in carbohydrates but high in healthy fats. Just make sure to stay away from seed and vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, because they’re highly unstable, oxidize quickly and lead to an increase in free radicals. The latter is a major contributing factor in epigenetic alterations through a process called oxidative stress.

Additionally, scientific research has shown that an intermittent reduction in protein intake — much like intermittent fasting — can trigger cell recycle programs that effectively slow down the aging process

That’s because certain amino acids, such as BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine) and methionine, can activate the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) — a special protein that serves as a central regulator of cell metabolism, growth, proliferation and survival.

To slow down aging, mTOR needs to be intermittently inhibited. One way to suppress this signaling pathway is to restrict the availability of these amino acids.

As a result, I recommend avoiding protein on days you don’t work out (or at least significantly reducing your protein intake). 

Alternatively, you can play with plant-based sources of protein on non-workout days. That’s because plants are inferior in terms of the amount and bioavailability of most amino acids. 

While that’s a bad thing if you’re trying to build muscles, it’s a good thing when it comes to slowing down aging. 

#3. Lifestyle

Besides nutrition, there are several other lifestyle factors that can slow down or speed up the rate at which you age. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure, poor sleep and chronic stress have all been linked to being detrimental to your health and longevity.

As a result, you should avoid those behaviors and factors if you’d like to extend your healthy lifespan.

On the flip side, exercise has been shown to suppress mTOR but activate AMPK (another signaling pathway that influences how cells utilize fuel under low energy conditions), protect telomeres, and boost nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) levels. 

Low NAD levels are yet another hallmark sign of aging.

#4. Supplements

Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes
Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes.

There are at least two types of supplements that have shown promising results when it comes to influencing how we age:

  • NAD boosters
  • Resveratrol

NAD is an essential cofactor that exists in all living cells and influences several cellular processes, including ATP (energy) production, DNA repair, epigenetically modulated gene expression, intracellular communication and more.

Our NAD levels naturally decline as we age. But some scientists believe that boosting intracellular NAD levels can slow down aging and decrease the risks of developing age-related diseases.

You can boost NAD levels naturally by making the proper lifestyle choices (e.g., exercise, calorie restriction) and by supplementing with certain NAD precursors — chemicals that the body can convert into NAD.

Some of the NAD precursors that have shown success in boosting NAD levels in the lab include:

  • Nicotinamide (NAM)
  • Nicotinic acid (NA)
  • Nicotinamide riboside (NR) or 
  • Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN)

The caveat with most NAD boosters is that they’ve only been shown to slow down metabolic processes associated with aging in mice. Unfortunately, the metabolism of rodents is different from that of humans, so you can’t assume that humans will necessarily enjoy the same benefits.

That said, trials with humans involving the NAD precursors NMN and NR (two forms of vitamin B3) have shown promising results in effectively slowing down certain aging-related processes. That’s likely why some geneticists, such as Dr. Sinclair, use such supplements on a daily basis.

The second supplement that has received a lot of attention from antiaging enthusiasts and scientists alike is an antioxidant called resveratrol.

Resveratrol naturally occurs in peanuts, berries, red wine (from the skin of red grapes), the Japanese knotweed plant (where it acts as a natural pesticide, protecting the plant from environmental factors), and other plants.

Research has shown that resveratrol can reduce oxidative damage from free radicals of the cardiovascular system and neurons (especially the neurons’ mitochondria). By decreasing the damage free radicals can inflict, resveratrol can mimic the beneficial antiaging effects of a reduced-calorie diet.

#5. Pharmaceuticals

How metformin influences age-related processes in the body.
How metformin influences age-related processes in the body.

While you can implement all of the above findings relatively easily and without requiring extensive medical support, I highly recommend working with someone who specializes in antiaging when considering pharmaceuticals — especially if you use them off-label.

“Off-label” means using pharmaceuticals for something other than what they were intended for. 

Two of the drugs that have been shown in multiple studies to positively influence the biological age of organisms are:

  • Metformin: a blood-sugar-lowering drug that’s usually prescribed to diabetics.
  • Rapamycin: an immunosuppressant (mTOR inhibitor) given to people who received organ transplants.

Studies have shown that metformin and rapamycin can positively influence aging-related biomarkers and mimic the benefits of low-calorie diets and exercise. More importantly, lab tests have demonstrated that these off-label medications can extend the lifespan in diverse organisms, including dogs, yeast and mice. 

On a cellular level, metformin activates the AMPK pathway, which has been shown to protect against aging by increasing autophagy and reducing cell senescence. 

Rapamycin is an mTOR inhibitor but it also possesses anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties. If that wasn’t enough, recent studies have shown that rapamycin can decrease the risk of complications associated with a COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection.

We know that mTOR plays a major role in cellular nutrient sensing, growth and proliferation. But it’s not yet clear how exactly mTOR influences aging. 

There are randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials underway (such as this one) that aim to prove that drugs like rapamycin can effectively slow down aging in humans. Additionally, this study has shown that rapamycin slows down skin aging in humans when applied as a cream.

However, based on the available scientific literature, inhibiting or suppressing the mTOR pathway can extend lifespan and reduce the risk of developing age-related diseases

Besides using off-label medications, another popular pharmaceutical intervention is hormone replacement therapy. As we age, our bodies produce certain hormones in lower quantities. 

One example is the sex hormone testosterone. As you grow older and your testosterone levels decline, you’ll likely experience an increase in body fat, decreased strength and muscle mass, fragile bones and other symptoms commonly associated with aging.

To counter those effects, you can consider a hormone replacement therapy that boosts your levels to where they were a few decades ago.

What I Have Been Doing to Slow Down Aging

michael current and aged face@2x
My goal is to leverage the latest scientific research to slow down how fast my cells age.

Now that you have a bird’s-eye view of what happens to your body when you age, and what interventions you can consider, let me tell you what my antiaging protocol looks like. 

Note that I’m working with a medical doctor who specializes in antiaging and human metabolism, and I suggest you do the same before implementing the pharmaceutical-based methods I’ve shared with you.

In a nutshell, I’ve implemented all of the five strategies I laid out above, including the following:

Diet and Lifestyle

Intermittent fasting and working out
CrossFit is an excellent way to deplete glycogen stores and inhibit the mTOR pathway.

My lifestyle aims to mimic that of our Paleolithic ancestors. It’s geared towards lowering inflammation, reducing oxidative stress and maintaining high insulin sensitivity.

Practically, that means that I follow a low-carb high-fat ketogenic paleo diet that I pair with intermittent fasting and caloric restriction.

Additionally, I exercise vigorously (CrossFit) five to six times per week, which depletes my glycogen stores, boosts my NAD levels, and inhibits the mTOR pathway.

Other lifestyle choices that support my antiaging protocol include getting sufficient quality sleep, managing stress via deep breathing, using CBD oil, leveraging neuroscience gadgets, such as Apollo, and avoiding excessive sun exposure and alcohol consumption. 

Supplements That Reverse Aging

nad and resveratrol
I take an NAD booster and resveratrol.

Besides covering my bases by making the proper lifestyle choices, I supplement daily with the following products:

Note that the above dosage of resveratrol is likely going to increase as I get older, but it’s what my doctor prescribed for me for the time being.

I’m also considering switching from Nictotinamide (NM) to this Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) supplement*, because NMN has shown to be more effective than NM in slowing down aging in humans.

Medication

Injections twice a week a part of my antiaging protocol
Injections twice a week a part of my antiaging protocol.

In an attempt to influence my biological clock, I’m currently on the following drug regimen:

  • 500 mg metformin (twice a day)
  • 6 mg rapamycin (weekly)
  • 25 mg DHEA (daily)
  • 1 mg anastrozole (twice a week)
  • 5 ml gonadorelin (twice a week)
  • 70 mg testosterone cypionate (twice a week)

Since I already covered metformin and rapamycin in the section above, I won’t go into the reasoning why I take them. Instead, I’ll focus on the other pharmaceuticals in the following paragraphs.

I decided to take the red pill (rapamycin)
I decided to take the red pill (rapamycin) and so far it hasn’t revealed an unpleasant truth.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroid hormone precursor and its levels start dropping around the age of 30. 

My total testosterone levels before starting the treatment were at 284 ng/dL, which is relatively low considering my lifestyle and age. The reference range for adults in my age category is 250 to 1100 ng/dL. That’s obviously a huge range, and an indication that we don’t really know what is “normal.”

Testosterone and gonadorelin
Testosterone and gonadorelin are part of my hormone replacement therapy.

In other words, the reference range reflects an average of the adult population rather than an indication of what’s optimal for an individual. Nevertheless, my doctor felt that I should be closer to the upper range. 

A few weeks after I started the hormone replacement therapy, my total testosterone levels increased to 854 ng/dL — enough to help my body recover quicker after a strenuous workout. 

Note that testosterone levels of 1,000 ng/dL in adults won’t turn you into the Hulk or make you look exponentially bigger. But you can expect to gain some strength, and you’ll likely notice an increased sex drive.

The problem with taking exogenous testosterone is that your body stops making its own, and some of the testosterone gets naturally converted into estrogen (the female sex hormone). 

To counter those effects, I’m also using an anti-estrogen agent (anastrozole) and gonadorelin, a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist that encourages your body to keep producing the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH). 

Frequently Asked Questions

Michael trying to get a blood sample for the TruAge test
To find out if my interventions are working, I needed to determine my biological age via a blood test.
What’s the difference between chronological age and biological age?

Your chronological age reflects your age based on your date of birth. However, based on your lifestyle, genetics and medical interventions, your cells might have aged slower or faster than others born on that same day. The latter is what’s known as your biological age.

The purpose of all the methods I described in this article is to reduce your biological age (or in other words, to slow down your biological clock).

What’s the epigenetic clock?

An epigenetic clock is a biochemical test, such as TruAge, which can determine your biological age.

How can I find out what my biological age is and if my interventions are working?

The best way to determine your biological age is a test, such as TruAge*. Such tests examine up to 900,000 data points in your genome to determine your biological age.

I recommend taking such a test before you begin your antiaging intervention (to establish a baseline) and then again in a year or two.

I just learned about TruAge — one of the most advanced epigenetic clocks — a few weeks ago and my test results are still pending. I’ll update this article with my results as soon as I receive them.

If you’d like to give TruAge* a try, you can use discount code MK50 to get $50 off.

How much do you pay for your antiaging protocol?

If you add up the doctor’s fees and cost of medication and supplements, you’ll be looking at several hundred dollars a month. 

I see it as an investment that has the potential to pay off in several ways. If my lifestyle and interventions extend my life expectancy by a decade, I’ll get to spend that extra time with the ones I love, including my grandchildren (assuming my kids decide to become parents someday). 

From a purely financial perspective, a longer life leads to a lot of compounded returns from the money I’ve invested in stocks and real estate. 

Isn’t what you’re doing called cheating?

I don’t see it that way; certainly not from a moral perspective. However, I should point out that I’m not participating in any sort of regulated sporting events that prohibit the use of certain pharmaceuticals, such as anabolic steroids. If you’re competing in sanctioned events, I encourage you to check the doping guidelines and ensure you don’t do anything that might get you disqualified.

Aren’t you worried about potential side effects?

Every medication has potential side effects. The same holds true for supplements, and even for food. For example, the consumption of peanuts and shellfish can severely harm or kill people whose immune system overreacts due to allergies. 

So yes, I’m conscious of the potential side effects of everything I do. To mitigate the risk as much as possible, I listen to my body and frequently get my blood levels checked. If something is off, my doctor and I figure out a way to fix the issue.

Have you tried using growth hormones?

I have not, because there isn’t sufficient evidence that supplementing with GH extends life. In fact, scientific evidence suggests that suppressing the activity of GH can extend life, not the other way around.

I’ll keep an eye on the topic but won’t include GH in my current treatment plan.

How old are you, Michael?

I’m turning 39 in a few months, as of this writing.

Conclusion: Why the Aging Process Is a Disease We Can Treat

Aging can be characterized as the slow onset of one or more of the age-associated diseases. But some scientists suggest that aging itself is a disease that can be treated, and perhaps even cured one day.

If that turns out to be true, then there’s no reason why we can’t turn back the clock on a person’s biological age and significantly increase the human healthspan.

I’m acutely aware of what’s going to happen to me if I don’t do anything at all. That’s why I decided to do something that’s based on the latest scientific evidence available. As that evidence keeps evolving as new studies are released, I’ll adjust my strategy accordingly.

I’m also aware that most studies involving interventions to slow down aging have been performed in the lab on old mice and that not everything scientists have learned will necessarily translate to human cells. But I think applying some of those findings is worth a shot.

I’m fortunate enough to be in good health and I’ll continue doing everything I can to promote healthy aging.

If you want to take control of your life and how you age, I highly recommend you check out Dr. David Sinclair’s book “Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To*.” And if you want to speak with a doctor who has been working in the field of antiaging for decades, drop me an email and I’ll put you in touch!

2 thoughts on “How to Slow Down and Reverse Aging”

  1. I have been eating PK for a couple of months but find I eat too much protein almost by mistake. Having read this article I want to cut back, but then I wonder what I could eat instead. What fats do you eat to achieve satiety on days when you go basically zero protein? Or which plant proteins?

    Reply
    • Zero protein days are almost impossible for me unless I’m fasting. Right now I’m 36h into a 3-day fast and that helps me to avoid all protein :)

      On other days, I just try to reduce them as much as I can by avoiding meat and, instead, ramping up my intake of foods like avocado (guacamole), non-starchy vegetables and fruits that are lower in sugar.

      Reply

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