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Dr Michael Mosley: How to have a longer and healthier life thanks to these simple lifestyle changes

In a recent survey by Kasetsart University in Thailand, more than 2,000 British retirees, aged 50 to 75, were asked to take a personality test and also rate their level of life satisfaction.

At 65 1/2, I’m fast approaching retirement age (for men and women of my day, it’s 66).

While I’m happy to continue doing what I’m doing (writing, making TV documentaries and podcasts), many of my friends are retiring, and most seem content with their new, less prosperous but more relaxed lives.

Obviously it depends on your circumstances, but retirement clearly suits many of us. A survey of 300,000 people by the Office for National Statistics in 2016 found that levels of ‘life satisfaction’ and ‘happiness’, which were lowest in people aged 45-59, peaked among the ages 65 and 79 and then slowly decreased.

So that’s something to look forward to if you haven’t hit your 60s yet.

Your personality is also key to how much you enjoy retirement.

In a recent survey by Kasetsart University in Thailand, more than 2,000 British retirees, aged 50 to 75, were asked to take a personality test and also rate their level of life satisfaction.

In a recent survey by Kasetsart University in Thailand, more than 2,000 British retirees, aged 50 to 75, were asked to take a personality test and also rate their level of life satisfaction.

In a recent survey by Kasetsart University in Thailand, more than 2,000 British retirees, aged 50 to 75, were asked to take a personality test and also rate their level of life satisfaction.

Those who were rated ‘conscientious’ or ‘agreeable’ enjoyed retirement more, while extroverts struggled. The researchers said this is likely because extroverts miss the social contact that comes from working.

But enjoying your retirement also depends on having enough money and being in reasonable health.

I’ve been thinking a lot about healthy aging lately, as I’m currently doing a TV series about older people: people in their 70s and 80s who have the brains and bodies of those decades younger.

A survey of 300,000 people by the Office for National Statistics in 2016 found that levels of 'life satisfaction' and 'happiness', which were lowest in those aged 45-59, peaked among the ages 65 and 79, and then slowly declined.

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A survey of 300,000 people by the Office for National Statistics in 2016 found that levels of ‘life satisfaction’ and ‘happiness’, which were lowest in those aged 45-59, peaked among the ages 65 and 79, and then slowly declined.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to scientists about the aging process and why some people seem to age so much more slowly than others.

What is particularly fascinating is the work being done on ‘epigenetic’ clocks: these are tests used to measure your biological age: the actual age of your body, not just what it says on your passport.

The traditional view of aging is that it is caused by a slow accumulation of damage at the cellular level.

Just like a car, parts of us break down or wear out. The problem is that it’s hard to put a number on this.

An epigenetic clock test, in contrast, measures so-called DNA methylation levels: the extent to which special molecules, called methyl groups, have attached to the DNA in your cells.

You can think of methyl groups as barnacles that stick to the hull of a ship and slow it down.

Our levels of methyl groups tend to increase very precisely as we age. The epigenetic clock test is a powerful predictor of healthy aging and life expectancy.

In a 2016 study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) analyzed blood samples collected from more than 13,000 people before they died. Using the epigenetic clock test, they were able to predict his life expectancy with a high degree of accuracy.

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More recently, the same scientists showed that this epigenetic clock test can predict the biological age and lifespan of all sorts of different animals, from elephants to kangaroos to rhinos to goats.

Dr. Michael Mosley: I've spent a lot of time talking to scientists about the aging process and why some people seem to age so much more slowly than others.

Dr. Michael Mosley: I’ve spent a lot of time talking to scientists about the aging process and why some people seem to age so much more slowly than others.

In fact, you can buy epigenetic clock tests online, but their real value lies in measuring the effectiveness of anti-aging therapies: the idea is that you do the test before an intervention, then afterwards, to see if there is a difference.

Although it sounds macabre, one of the most promising current anti-aging therapies involves the infusion of young blood.

A 2020 study in the journal Science showed that giving blood from young, active mice to old mice made the older mice smarter, more alert, and led to the growth of new brain cells. In another study, recently published as a preprint (meaning it hasn’t yet been formally accepted by a journal), UCLA researchers showed that this type of blood transfusion also improved grip strength in older mice and rejuvenated their hearts, livers and memories. Surprisingly, it also cut his biological age in half.

Research is now being done to find out exactly what it is about young blood that has these remarkable and rejuvenating effects. But it is not yet used in humans.

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Scientists are also using the epigenetic clock to test the anti-aging properties of everyday medications.

For example, research published in the journal Cell in 2019 showed that taking a cocktail of common drugs could reverse people’s biological age.

In the study, nine healthy male volunteers ages 50 to 65 took a combination of a growth hormone, metformin (commonly used for type 2 diabetes), and a drug called DHEA (a synthetic version of a hormone that our bodies produce naturally and which aids in the production of sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen).

After a year, not only were their biological ages reduced by an average of two and a half years, but their immune systems showed clear signs of rejuvenation. This was a small trial, so you can’t read too much, but a much larger study is now underway.

We won’t be popping anti-aging drugs or infusing young blood any time soon, but there are some lifestyle changes that have been shown to make a difference.

In a study last year in the journal Aging, 43 men were asked to follow an eight-week lifestyle program that included intermittent fasting, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day, and breathing exercises twice a day to reduce stress, or act as a control.

After just two months, the men in the program lowered their biological age by an average of 1.96 years, while the control group had aged slightly.

So if your job is stressing you out and retirement or working part-time isn’t an option, then that might be something you should consider. I could buy you more time.

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