How to Live Longer

by | Jul 27, 2022


Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School, one of the world’s foremost experts on aging, thinks aging is a disease that someday can be cured. In the meantime, there are treatments that can add years (or even decades) to our lifespans.

The information for this IFOD. comes from Dr. Sinclair’s book, Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To

Why do we age?

Our DNA contains our genetic code — known as the genome. But there’s another layer — the epigenome, which is how our genes express themselves. Dr. Sinclair says “If the genome were a computer, the epigenome would be the software.” So, while genes provide your genetic code, epigenetic changes cause genes to turn themselves off and on. Epigenetic changes occur over time due to external agents like chemicals, radiation, bacteria, and viruses, as well as lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, stress, and sleep.

There are various theories about why we age. One theory, which is what Dr. Sinclair subscribes to, is the “Information Theory of Aging.” This theory posits that the body’s repair mechanisms get overworked responding to “cellular insult and damage” and this results in changes in how our genes express themselves. Basically, aging is the loss of information at the cellular level due to epigenetic changes. Here’s the short version of the theory:

Youth → broken DNA → genome instability → disruption of DNA packaging and gene regulation (the epigenome) → loss of cell identity → cellular senescence → disease → death.

David Sinclair, Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don’t Have To (p. 48). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.

How to Treat Aging

While there is no current cure for aging, according to Sinclair, there are ways to trigger positive epigenetic changes in the body that will slow the aging process. He breaks them down into two categories: lifestyle and chemical.

Lifestyle Changes

1. Reduce or eliminate animal products from your diet. Sinclair says, “no matter how you feel about the morals of the matter, meat is murder—on our bodies. There isn’t much debate on the downsides of consumption of animal protein. Study after study has demonstrated that heavily animal-based diets are associated with high cardiovascular mortality and cancer risk.” He backs his claims with the science of why consumption of animal protein leads to negative epigenetic changes that are harmful. Studies have found that vegetarians live about 8 years longer than non-vegetarians.

2. Intermittent Fasting. Caloric restriction has been shown to increase lifespans substantially in mice and other organisms. But it’s a rare person that can live life in the constant state of hunger that caloric restriction requires. Fortunately, intermittent fasting seems to provide the benefits of caloric restriction. Here’s an IFOD on intermittent fasting with more details. Here’s what Sinclair says about fasting: “After twenty-five years of researching aging and having read thousands of scientific papers, if there is one piece of advice I can offer, one surefire way to stay healthy longer, one thing you can do to maximize your lifespan right now, it’s this: eat less often.”

3. Exercise is essential. Especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Exercise stimulates the production of NAD (more of that below) and has other epigenetic benefits.

4. Exposure to cold. There are epigenetic benefits to being cold — meaning actually shivering. He doesn’t mention Wim Hof and his methods for exposing the body to the cold, but these seem to be viable ways to experience cold exposure.

5. Don’t Smoke. Dr. Sinclair notes that smoking creates epigenetic changes that accelerate aging. Smokers look older because they are biologically older.

Chemical Treatments

1. Take a NAD booster. NAD stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It is coenzyme found in every cell in our body and is central to many essential metabolic processes. Our NAD levels decline as we age. Some of the lifestyle suggestions listed above promote healthy levels of NAD, but there are now over-the-counter supplements that boost NAD. Dr. Sinclair recommends taking a NAD booster. Two popular ones are Elysium Basis and Tru Niagen.

2. Consume Resveratrol which is a molecule produced by some plants in times of stress. Notably, it’s found in red wine. You can also buy supplements that contain resveratrol.

3. Take Metformin. Metformin is a prescription medication used to treat type-2 diabetes. It also appears to have a longevity benefit, as diabetics who take the drug live longer than those who don’t. More research needs to be done to explore whether metformin will extend the lifespans of non-diabetics, but the underlying science suggests that it may produce epigenetic benefits that slow aging for everyone. Article from Harvard Health: Is Metformin a Wonder Drug?

A Few Caveats

Is the Information Theory of Aging correct? Maybe. There are a lot of proponents of the theory, but not all experts agree.

If it is correct, do the above interventions work? Each of the above recommendations by Dr. Sinclair is backed by science and consistent with the Information Theory of Aging theory. But the scientific studies of efficacy have mainly been on organisms with shorter life spans, such as mice and yeast. Testing human longevity takes a long time due to how long we live.


  1. I think these are great tips on how to age well. Two others I would add are (1) continue to have purpose in life and (2) focus on having meaningful relationships.

    • Agreed! Good adds, John!


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