In 2009, then 55-year-old Aviva Mayers was told that she had beaten breast cancer. As thrilled as she was, the treatment left her body feeling debilitated, and she knew that the disease could return. If only she could “wind the clock back,” she says, to a time when she was younger and healthier, then she wouldn’t have to worry about the issues that come with aging.
Mayers obviously can’t get any younger, but she did start looking into ways to try to slow down that clock. She came across some supplements that her doctors said could help ward off age-related cancers, including DHEA, a hormone that depletes as we age, and estriol, a form of estrogen. She’s also upped her already high exercise level and nearly eliminated the amount of white pasta and flour in her diet. Will it work? It’s impossible to know for sure, but most of us would try anything to stay young and healthy for longer.
“Age is a state of mind related to how you feel. How you feel is related to how well you’re going to take care of your body.”
For people who are interested in slowing down the aging process, it’s both an exciting and confusing time. In the last few years, hundreds of promising studies have examined the role that various genes, proteins, hormones and supplements play in aging. A 2013 study found that a derivative of vitamin B3 led mitochondria in old mice to perform like they do in younger mice. Another study showed that adults who routinely fasted were able to rejuvenate stem cells in their immune system, which tends to decline with age.
While that may sound exciting, Siegfried Hekimi, a McGill University biologist, points out that the science is still in its early stages and aging-related research often yields contradictory results. Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, a renowned researcher in geriatric medicine and dementia, adds that there’s no research to suggest that a magic pill or supplement will help you live longer.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to be resigned to wrinkles. Studies do show that eating and sleeping well, eliminating cigarettes, exercising 45 minutes a day five or six days a week, moderating alcohol consumption and being social can prolong life, says Dr. Rockwood. Staying active can also reduce one’s risk of Alzheimer’s, heart disease and other issues that can affect quality of life.
While Mayers knows that her anti-aging regime can’t literally turn back time, it can’t hurt to live a healthier lifestyle at her age, she says. “Age is a state of mind related to how you feel,” she says. “How you feel is related to how well you’re going to take care of your body.”