Commusings: How to Become Young at Any Age by Dr. Mark Hyman

Sep 11, 2022

Hello Commune Community,

A few years ago, I came across an astounding chart in Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal.” The graph compared life expectancy in 1900 versus 2020. Of course, through taming infectious disease, medical science has been able to prolong chronological life from an average of 47 years to 78 years. 

However, despite extending our orbits around the sun, the last sixteen years of life for the average American is a slow, often agonizing limp into death. This slog is characterized by the development of multiple chronic diseases – including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s, among others – and generally treated with a cocktail of pharmaceuticals all having their associated side effects. Yes, we’re surviving. But we’re not thriving. 

In the name of life extension, suffering has also increased. And our pain is not just our own. Family members suffer, too, as they take on often gruesome caretaking duties. Further, the societal expense is staggering. Our national sick care bill is $4 trillion per year.

This phenomenon has also transformed the way we perceive our old folks. Once considered elders – sacred holders of wisdom deserved of respect – our older folks are now increasingly recognized as the elderly, often shunted into spotty care facilities. The price of forgoing the passing down of transgenerational knowledge cannot be estimated. 

There is good news, though. These chronic diseases that are crippling us in later life can be addressed by adopting specific lifestyle behaviors. I am beyond thrilled to partner with my friend and today’s essayist, Dr. Mark Hyman, on our new Commune program, The Emerging Science of Longevity. This program demonstrates that we don’t have to hobble through later life. As Mark says: It’s possible to die young at a ripe old age.

Here at [email protected] and playing along on IG @jeffkrasno.

In love, include me,
Jeff

• • •

How to Become Young at Any Age

by Dr. Mark Hyman

 

As soon as I turned 60, my focus on longevity intensified. I want to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible. I know many of you want the same. You want to keep up with your kids and grandkids. You want to be lifelong learners and go on adventures and climb mountains and swim in the oceans. I want that for myself, and I want that for you too. 

The science of longevity has exploded in recent years. We have more access to innovative therapies, techniques, knowledge, and technology than ever before. Yet, as a society, we are sicker than ever.  Most people spend the last few decades of their lives (and sometimes more) with dysfunction and disability, suffering from preventable and reversible ailments and on piles of pills.

We are so fixated on keeping people alive longer, but what about keeping people healthier? 

This is the difference between healthspan and lifespan. 

Your lifespan is how long you live. Your healthspan is how long you live a healthy, vibrant life. Ideally, you want your healthspan to equal your lifespan. 

It turns out we know a lot about how to increase and improve our healthspan. The science of longevity and healthspan, based on the principles of Functional Medicine, has been my primary focus over the last few years. I’ve learned so much about this fascinating topic and what it takes to increase healthspan, that I decided to get together with Commune and film a new, free 1-hour master class, The Secrets to Healthy Aging, which is part of an even more expansive program, The Emerging Science of Longevity

Before I dive into the specifics of increasing healthspan, I want to step back and clarify why using the principles of Functional Medicine can have such a profound effect on how you age. 

Imagine you’re standing on a tack. How would you treat this condition? Would you just put a band-aide over it or take a bunch of pills to stop the pain? Of course not! In order to get better, you’d have to remove the tack, right?

Now, imagine you’re standing on two tacks. Would removing just one of the tacks make you feel 50% better? No! You would need to remove all the tacks.

This simple, yet powerful analogy perfectly explains why the conventional approach to managing chronic disease just doesn’t work. Ignoring, masking, or dampening symptoms doesn’t make them go away. The only way to make them go away is to find and address all of the root causes to truly heal the disease.

This is how Functional Medicine approaches the diseases of aging. Instead of throwing a bunch of medications and band-aids over symptoms as they arise, we seek to identify and address the root cause. Instead of asking “what” the disease is, we ask “why” the disease is.

The body is NOT organized the way conventional medicine treats it—into organs, with specialists for every single body part. Rather, it is one integrated system.

So let’s say you have irritable bowel, joint pain, migraines, and depression. Conventional medicine would treat each of these issues as separate problems, each needing a different specialist and different medication. 

But Functional Medicine recognizes that ALL these problems are connected and can be treated by getting to the root cause and optimizing your body's systems without treating them individually.

We’ve learned in Functional Medicine that the “why” for most chronic diseases stems from dysfunction in one (or more) of the seven major systems in our body. 

These systems are all connected, so having dysfunction in one system can cause downstream effects into other systems. The key to creating vibrant, optimal health, increasing your healthspan, and feeling younger at any age is to support all seven systems.

So, how do you become young at any age?

A systems-based approach:

 

  • Digestive system and gut flora: Focus on removing the things that damage your gut, like ultra-processed, sugary and starchy foods, damaged fats, environmental toxins, unnecessary medications, stress, etc. and adding in the things that heal your gut, like prebiotic and fiber-rich foods (non-starchy veggies and whole fruits), fermented foods, probiotics, and L-glutamine.
  • Immune and inflammatory system: Create a healthy inflammation status and immune response by limiting the things that cause chronic inflammation, like dairy, sugar, and gluten, chronic stress, toxic overload, and food sensitivities/allergies and adding in the things that support immune health, like colorful, organic vegetables, quality protein, plenty of healthy fats, wild-caught/low mercury fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies, etc.), high-quality fish oil, vitamin C, and vitamin D.
  • Detoxification system: Make sure your body’s ability to remove waste and toxins is supported by reducing the amount of toxic exposure through limiting plastics, BPA-lined cans, artificial chemicals, unnatural ingredients, additives, artificial fragrances, etc. Support your body’s detoxification system by drinking plenty of water, sweating often through exercise and sauna, eating cruciferous vegetables, and having consistent bowel movements.
  • Energy system: Support your mitochondria (the energy-creating organelles in your cells) by eating whole, real foods, loading your plate with colorful vegetables, and eating anti-inflammatory foods, healthy fats, and MCT oil.
  • Communications systems (includes your hormones, neurotransmitters, and more): Focus on lifestyle factors like eating plenty of healthy fats, limiting stress, increasing enjoyable activities (hobbies, creative outlets, connection with friends, building relationships, etc.), limiting processed and refined foods, and adding extra support like MCT oil, magnesium, and vitamin D.
  • Transport system (includes your lymph and vascular system): Keep your transport system moving by exercising often, sweating frequently, getting a massage, dry brushing, and adding support like CoQ10, high-quality fish oil, and L-carnitine.
  • Structural system (includes your cells, muscles, bones, organs, and tissues): Keep your body healthy by eating whole, real foods, moving daily, limiting stress, increasing enjoyment, building relationships and connection, incorporating play, and relaxation.


I know that might sound like a lot, but remember: these systems are interconnected—when you support one system, often the other systems improve too. And the factors that affect these systems most significantly are the ones most readily at our fingertips.  

In fact, there are places in the world–termed “Blue Zones”–where the geography, diet, culture, and lifestyle unintentionally support these systems. People living in the Blue Zones tend to share a few important things in common: they eat wild, colorful, whole food that they often forage themselves, their lifestyles are active by nature, they have strong communities and relationships, and they experience minimal stress. I have visited many of these special places and recently spent time in Sardinia, which has a very high population of centenarians. I begin my new Commune master class, The Secrets to Healthy Aging, with some of the fascinating insights I uncovered there.

The takeaway: You can live your life in a way that naturally checks all of the boxes above. It’s actually the blueprint you were born with—and the amazing thing is that it’s never late to reboot your biology.

We have the tools, the knowledge, and the ability to turn on the switches for longevity and turn off the ones for disease. I cover exactly how to do this, and so much more, in my master class. I hope you’ll join me in continuing with curiosity into the emerging science (and art) of living of a long, healthy, vibrant life. 

Or as I sometimes quip, “If you learn how to live well, you can die young as late as possible.”

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD

 


Mark Hyman, MD is a practicing family physician and internationally recognized leader, speaker, and educator in the field of Functional Medicine. He is the founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, Senior Advisor for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, and a fourteen-time New York Times best-selling author.

Dr. Hyman is also the founder and chairman of the Food Fix Campaign, dedicated to transforming our food and agriculture system through policy, the host The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast with 125+ million downloads, and a regular medical contributor to shows such as CBS This Morning, Today, Good Morning America, The View, and CNN.

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