Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Yale Medicine Review of Longevity Decoded

We all age. As the years go by, we get grayer, develop new wrinkles, and feel less spry than we once did. It is just part of life, right?Well, what if there was a way to dramatically slow down the aging process? According to Stephen Schimpff, MD, MACP, there is. In his new book, Longevity Decoded: The Seven Keys to Healthy Aging, Schimpff identifies the seven "keys" to living longer and healthier lives.

Before you roll your eyes, you should know that this isn't some New Age, woo-woo mumbo-jumbo. Schimpff's longevity "keys" are both practical and deeply rooted in science.

In fact, you've probably heard most of them before: Eat a healthy diet, exercise, get enough sleep, avoid tobacco, manage stress,stimulate your brain, and engage socially. These so-called "keys"aren't necessarily new or groundbreaking, Schimpff concedes, and many are intuitive. Taken together, though, they can have a real and measurable effect on your life.

"We're always told to start saving for retirement when we're young because it will compound and our investment will grow," he says. "What I wrote about is the same message: If you start early, the benefits will compound over time."

Longevity is more than just a list of what you should and should not eat or do as you get older. It's an accessible and entertaining overview of the latest research on aging, detailing what scientists currently know about the process at a cellular level and what they're studying in laboratories around the world.

Is aging caused by free radicals? The structure of our DNA?The health of our gut microbiome? Turns out that while there's compelling evidence about each of these things, the science just isn't there yet.

"There are a lot of ideas about why we age; yet, when you get right down to it, we really don't know. We don't know what turns it on,and we don't know what turns it off," Schimpff says. "For all of our biomedical research since WWII, not that much has been spent studying the aging process."

As more and more people live beyond 65 years of age--an estimated 19 percent of the world's population will be older than 65 by2030--that is changing. What's more, as research increasingly shows that our bodies begin to decline as early as 30-years-old, concerns about aging are no longer just relegated to the elderly.

"Everybody knows that we should eat better, exercise, soon, but most people don't know why," Schimpff says, adding that people often think superficially and in the short-term when it comes to health.

"We need to get away from that and talk about our health and keeping healthy for the long-term. And if there's a message in this book,it's that we have it within our power to make a very significant change in our life... can we prevent every disease? Absolutely not. But as individuals, we can have a huge impact."

Condensed from a review by Miriam Wasser in Yale Medicine, April, 2018 


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Praise for Dr Schimpff

The craft of science writing requires skills that are arguably the most underestimated and misunderstood in the media world. Dumbing down all too often gets mistaken for clarity. Showmanship frequently masks a poor presentation of scientific issues. Factoids are paraded in lieu of ideas. Answers are marketed at the expense of searching questions. By contrast, Steve Schimpff provides a fine combination of enlightenment and reading satisfaction. As a medical scientist he brings his readers encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. As a teacher and as a medical ambassador to other disciplines he's learned how to explain medical breakthroughs without unnecessary jargon. As an advisor to policymakers he's acquired the knack of cutting directly to the practical effects, showing how advances in medical science affect the big lifestyle and economic questions that concern us all. But Schimpff's greatest strength as a writer is that he's a physician through and through, caring above all for the person. His engaging conversational style, insights and fascinating treasury of cutting-edge information leave both lay readers and medical professionals turning his pages. In his hands the impact of new medical technologies and discoveries becomes an engrossing story about what lies ahead for us in the 21st century: as healthy people, as patients of all ages, as children, as parents, as taxpayers, as both consumers and providers of health services. There can be few greater stories than the adventure of what awaits our minds, bodies, budgets, lifespans and societies as new technologies change our world. Schimpff tells it with passion, vision, sweep, intelligence and an urgency that none of us can ignore.

-- N.J. Slabbert, science writer, co-author of Innovation, The Key to Prosperity: Technology & America's Role in the 21st Century Global Economy (with Aris Melissaratos, director of technology enterprise at the John Hopkins University).