Did you know that only 20% of your life span is determined genetically?

The title is a play on words while we’re still alive and kicking, as the date cited above refers to a “date” as an agreed upon encounter with the Reaper and to the chronological point of some future calendar that will inevitably mark the day you, me and everyone will expire.

Since life came as a double deal that has death on its other pole and since we can’t beat death at its own game of elimination and renewal, we might as well learn all we can to fool it for a bit, tweak the odds into our favor by enhancing the mechanism already in place within the body to protect itself and remain vibrant and strong until it is time to leave and forfeit the resources to the young. It was never about living forever, but about living as long as you can with a high quality of life, not ravaged and torn apart by disease to the point where last few decades are tainted by it.

Returning back to our 20% from the intro. 20% is not that significant interference when you think that 80% is under your control. The body is fully able to fix itself and it has mechanisms working on repairing the damage we do to it daily. If we get out of the way and do some research, get to know our body and its needs better, the game changes. Research suggest that this body may very well function properly until about 120 years old. This is a fact of biology and chemistry which, among other things, look at telomere lengths on chromosomes. Telomeres are the caps at the end chromosome strands that keep them from fraying, as a cap on a shoelace would be. They keep the genetic material from degenerating and mutating. As each new cell is copied while the old ones die, there are some errors in the rewrite and telomeres get shorter and shorter. Once they’re gone, you’re gone as well. This is aging – The deterioration of genetic blueprint and accumulation of errors. But in 2009 a Nobel prize was awarded to a team that discovered telomerase, an enzyme which repairs damaged telomeres and elongates the existing ones directly correlating with life span.

The modern way of life is almost exclusively designed so that it shortens the telomeres at an expedited rate. We might live longer than ever before but we’re also the most over medicated population that ever was where the later decades of life are one infinite trip to the doctor’s office. You know what triggers the auto repair sequence in the body by supporting the work of telomerase? Movement. Do regular moderate cardio and introduce some high stress training as well. Don’ overdo it, because you’ll get a contra effect. Food. Eat a good plant based diet, cut out the sugar and processed food, additives, all the neon, toxic crap on the shelves that was never supposed to be ingested at all. Lack of food. Fast regularly. There is no better way to jump start the telomerase system than intermittent fasting and calorie restriction. Just a few months implementation will lengthen the telomeres about 10% already. Translated into utility that is around a decade of extra life. Rest. Sleep deprivation is a cruel cruel mistress and we’ll talk of it more soon. Sleep is one of the prime tools our body uses to protect itself from diseases and decay and there is no system in the body left unaffected by the lack of sleep. If you repeat this stress on the body regularly you’re hurling towards disaster. Even cancer cells flourish in a sleep deprived body. Find your cronotype and stick to a bedtime no matter what. We don’t know how many hours of sleep your body really demands to work as its best self, and you probably don’t either, but can remember that time when it seems all fit into place and you were waking up refreshed. That is it. Find it again. Close relationships. Make your close connections warm, honest, accepting ,nurturing and supportive, a place where you belong and where someone’s hug can literally become analgesic and lower the pain and cortisol levels ravaging in the brain in stress. There are so many things here, and most of them are quite common sense. Start listening to your body. It knows, you’re just being too loud to hear it.

Nothing is predetermined, your life quality and longevity are not already chiseled into your tombstone. The date is not set. It’s up to you and how you choose to treat this vessel you’ve been given. Everything you do matters. The date will come, but the part before it can be the best ride ever. You steer the wheel and slam on the breaks of bad habits.