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Who wants to live forever? Experts and 102-year-old reveal long life secrets

‘I fast for 14 hours a day.  Upon waking up, I go to the gym. Three to four times a week I’ll use the sauna after, as it activates the FOXO3 gene, which is nicknamed the longevity gene. I’ll have a low carb/sugar breakfast, and during the day I’ll drink six to eight cups of green tea and eat around 10 portions of fruit and vegetables. I try to stop eating by 6pm.’

Tony Pemberton works hard to stay young.

‘I didn’t want to be decrepit and look awful when I was older,’ the 37-year-old tells Metro.co.uk. ‘I wanted to get more out of life.’

He also swears by peptide therapy – using a vast range of supplements to stimulate cellular regrowth – to reverse the natural ageing process. He takes an astounding 25 different supplements a day, specifically tailored to his needs. 

While he may have been born nearly four decades ago, Tony, who works as an expert in epigenetics (the study on how your behaviours and environment impact your genes), claims his biological age is just 22. He also says he wakes up with a newfound ‘zest for life’ and energy he didn’t have when he was younger.

Which is funny in a way, as his routine feels incredibly knackering just to read.

While Tony’s quest for eternal youth may seem extreme, it’s nothing compared to that of Bryan Johnson, whose daily routine would make even the hardiest Olympic athlete wince – and has seen the Tech company CEO make headlines recently. 

His mornings starts at 4.30am, just as the sun starts to creep up. In this low daylight, Byran completes a two and a half hour routine which consists of rigorous therapies, exercise, nutrients and supplements. His bespoke diet, uniquely crafted for him by an ensemble of medical experts, consists of legumes, nuts, vegetables and seeds, adding up to exactly 1977 calories a day.

Bryan is 45 years old, but his toned, muscular physique and eerily smooth, pallid countenance, wrinkle-free and strangely glowing, doesn’t betray his true age.

However, unlike Tony, he’s gone that step further than peptide and handfuls of supplements, and now has blood plasma transfusions with his 17-year-old son to observe whether this could impact the ageing process.

‘I spend $2million a year to stay a teenager forever,’ Bryan told Fortune magazine earlier this year.

Society at large may not have the financial resources (or indeed the patience) to mirror Bryan’s extensive and somewhat baffling routine, but he and Tony are far from alone from trying to recapture and prolong his youth. A 2019 study found 80% of people want to improve their personal wellbeing and appearance, with 36% prepared to go under the knife in order to stop any signs of ageing.

The insular nature of the pandemic, paired alongside the prevalence of Zoom calls during lockdown, is what has accelerated the already increasing demand for cosmetic treatments and tweakments in  a bid to look younger, explains Dr Raj Arora. As the founder of The Face Bible, she helps clients to create bespoke anti-ageing plans with a holistic approach to health and skincare.

‘As people are online more thanks to social media and video calls, we’re seeing more filtered, preened and youthful faces,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘There’s an increased interest in looking younger for longer, and ageing gracefully.

‘There is more pressure to look a certain way – but there’s also a glut of information out there which is more easily accessible: you can find out about great skincare treatments on social media.’

Dr Arora recommends clients start with a chemical peel to target fine lines and wrinkles, before moving on to a cocktail of more progressive treatments such as lasers and needling.

However, she also stresses that having a youthful visage is not particularly useful if your body is being battered by stress, tiredness or poor diet.

‘There’s no point ageing well with your skin if you’re not doing well with your general health,’ she adds. ‘It’s important that people talk to their doctors in regards to fuelling themselves properly.’

BANT registered nutritionist Eva Humphries also argues the importance of a balanced diet in keeping us younger. It sounds obvious, but eating healthily – even without the extreme measures undertaken by Silicon Valley billionaires – can help reverse signs of ageing.

Vitamin D and selenium – a component of enzymes that help to make DNA and protect against cell damage and infections – are two of the most pertinent variables to control ageing.

‘Nutrition plays a twofold part,’ Eva explains. ‘It mitigates the damage that accelerates ageing, while also ensures we have the right nutrients to repair after damage has been done.

‘Sugar is the component that breaks down this structures and can lead to quicker visible ageing. If we look at people like Bryan Johnson, who are artificially controlling their blood sugar, that wold certainly mean it reduces the impact on their bodies.’

Tony admits that’s his strict anti-ageing regime was born out of a ‘fear of growing old.’

‘But it’s not all about vanity – though that plays a part,’ he insists. ‘When I’m 50, I want the energy of a 30-year-old. I don’t want to worry about getting “too old” for doing anything.’

Eva agrees that there’s a deep running fear of old age amongst western society.

‘There’s lots of negative bias towards ageing,’ she explains. ‘We associate it with disability, with not being able to do the things we really want us to do. Most of us are scared of it.

‘We look at 80 year olds and fear we’ll end up in a care home in pain. We look at the very negative aspects at the very end of life.’

This ongoing phobia of ageing may be why there are concentrated efforts, mostly undertaken by the super-rich, to try and cheat death. Altos Labs, who counts billionaire Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos as one of their backers, has assembled a crack team of scientists with the aim in finding a way to rejuvenate human cells. Their efforts aren’t a misguided attempt to create immortal human beings, rather, fight diseases associated with old age, such as dementia, that can substantially decrease our quality of life in our later years.

The Alzheimer’s Society puts the current cost of dementia to the UK at £34.7 billion a year – a figure that is set to almost triple by 2040.

For Professor Janet Lord CBE, who works at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, it’s vital that we focus on increasing not just our lifespan, but our health span.

‘The aim of this research is to help people live a long life but have a short death,’ she explains. ‘The UK data shows on average, women are ill for the last 19 years of life, while for men it’s around 16 years. Even if we could reduce this number by one or two years, the benefit to the individual but also to the NHS and society, would literally amount to billions of pounds.

‘This is a very exciting field as we’re finally putting vast sums of money into an area of medicine that has previously been neglected. If we study certain diseases and find they’re caused by ageing, if we find a viable way to slow down the ageing process, we may be able to treat these diseases.

‘It’s about maximising our health span. There’s no point living forever if we’re going to spend a lot of that time sick.’

Professor Lord is scathing over experimental measures some of the super-rich favour, such as cryogenics and blood plasma transfusion. Cryogenics – freezing your body after you die – has been something the rich and eccentric have long thought to have invested in.  

Alcor, based in Arizona, reportedly has around 100 dead bodies on ice. For a princely sum of $230,000, you can freeze your dead carcass in liquid nitrogen in the hope that you can be regenerated in the future. For $90,000, you can choose just to have your head stored, with the hope it may be attached to a new, young body in the future.

‘There’s literally no evidence cryogenics will ever work,’ Dr Lord says. ‘It’s totally crazy and who would want to do it anyway? Why would you want to be unthawed in the future when all your friends and family are dead? Old age is to be enjoyed, not endured.’

Dr Lord continues that, should there be some miracle drug or procedure that can slow ageing, it cannot only be solely the preserve of the super-rich. Death is society’s great leveller, and so to prohibit access to the masses to a drug which could lead them to live a longer, happier life, would result in a dystopian two tier society.

‘We already have a gap in life expectancy between higher and lower socio-economic backgrounds,’ she explains. ‘Whatever the treatment, it is vital it is widely accessible.’

We are a long way off before these sorts of sci-fi-esque treatments are a reality. However, Dr Lord points towards fairly basic and widely obvious ways in which people fearful of ageing can do to keep themselves healthy.

‘There was a big study on 30,000 people which found that you can add 14 years to your lifespan if you practise healthy living,’ she explains. ‘It’s quite simple: if you don’t smoke, eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, and have a moderate alcohol intake.

‘Of course, I try and practise what I preach.’

For 102-year-old Gladys McGarey, the secret for living a long and fulfilled life is having a purpose to keep us going.

Residing in Scottsdale, Arizona, Gladys is still a practising doctor, and was one of the first physicians in the United States to adopt a holistic approach to medicine.

She has now written a The Well Lived Life – a tome advising the six secrets to long lasting health and happiness.

‘In essence, the secret is to live in every moment,’ she explains. ‘As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more content, and I have my rich bank of memories to thank for that.’

Gladys is disparaging of the stricter regimes the one percent swear by to reverse ageing.

‘If you sit down at the table and you’re being told to eat food, and you’re sat there with a scowl on your face, it’s not going to do much good,’ she explains.

‘Why eat things that make you miserable? Laughter and joy is what is the most important thing. When we laugh, that activates the diaphragm. It tickles the adrenals and gives us adrenal energy. Laughter and joy aidseiyh healing.’

Gladys’s claims are not unfounded. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that older people who reported being the least happy died at nearly twice the rate in the next five years as people who reported being the most happy.

Even after adjusting for factors like illness, finances and depression, people who were the happiest still had a 35% lower risk of death.

‘The most important thing is living in a way that makes your heart sing,’ she continues. ‘Life is about living wildly. If you no longer have that purpose, maybe it is time to move on.’

The Well-Lived Life by Dr. Gladys McGarey is out now (published by Penguin Michael Joseph).

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  • Posted on June 10, 2023