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Longevity? Let’s play early

This article is published in number 13 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until March 28, 2023

We want and can live longer, but do we know how to best preserve shape and health? If, on the one hand, life expectancy in our country has reached 80 years for men and 84 for women (Istat data), on the other, there is the risk of reaching it but with various pathologies, or healthy but with poor fitness. To age well it is important to plan ahead: he highlights it in Longevity mission (Sperling & Kupfer) Philip Ongaro, astronaut doctor, as well as the first Italian to be certified in anti-aging and functional medicine in the United States. In his new book, Ongaro, who specializes in sports medicine, explains what are the strong points for a long and healthy life, the eating habits and behaviors that favor it, the aspects to think about in order to age better. Alongside the crew of theEuropean Space Agency for several years, the doctor had the mission of defining the new nutrition and psychophysical training protocols to keep the astronauts’ performance at their best and slow down the accelerated aging to which they are exposed during space travel. An experience that allowed him to identify the “pillars” on which all-round longevity and well-being are based.

What are we doing wrong with aging?
«The “wait” approach. Let me explain: astronauts have various problems related to life in space, including accelerated aging and loss of muscle mass. However, a large part of this process is prevented by a “program of countermeasures”. Here: we lack this strategy for approaching old age, we do not implement a scheme of countermoves to act on our aging process. We remain passive, hoping that things go well.

When should we start adopting such strategies?
“Come on 40 years: starting from this age it is good to start thinking about how to preserve our well-being over time».

What to consider?
«What continues to emerge from the studies is the damage that an exaggeratedly caloric diet causes in terms of cellular aging: we eat too much compared to what we consume».

In which cases does nutrition compromise healthy longevity?
«When you go overboard and give way to high-calorie but nutrient-poor foods, such as industrial products full of refined sugars that have little nutritional value. And this is more serious when associated with a sedentary lifestyle: if you go overboard with calories and consume less than you should, the problem gets worse».

What changes to expect from here in 10 years?
«Biotech researchers are doing very interesting studies on senolytics (the so-called “destroyers of senescence”ed.), sui breastblocker (reactivators of physiological cell regeneration, ed) and on various pharmacological substances. For everyone, however, it is essential to correct the lifestyle. I therefore expect new protective substances for ageing, but also more commitment from people to improve their habits. Because the real battle is there: we can
have more effective therapies, but if you don’t take better care of yourself they will hardly have an effect”.

8 guidelines

In the book, Filippo Ongaro indicates what the eight objectives are and how to achieve them to focus on in order to preserve health and prolong the quality of life over time. Important guidelines that represent the result of his many years of experience in the field of functional medicine and aging.

1. Optimize habits
2. Protect cellular health
3. Enhance detoxification
4. Check your weight and fitness
5. Enhance the immune response
6. Preserve memory
7. Manage stress and recoveries
8. Strengthen emotions, relationships and sense of purpose

Time stops at the table

Some food mistakes make you age. “The first is to reduce protein,” says Ongaro. «Protein intake, on the other hand, should increase with age: it regenerates tissue and prevents the loss of muscle mass». But be careful: «A hamburger or salami is not the same as a steamed sea bass or sea bream, animal proteins with a very different nutritional value». Of course, there is a sustainability issue. However, “better not to make extreme choices: we are biological organisms, we function according to a criterion that cannot be changed at will”. Furthermore, current data still indicate little consumption of “fruit, vegetables, whole grains and good fats, such as avocado”.

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Source: Vanity Fair

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