Clock made of nuts and cinnamon sticks.

Who says you can’t turn back your biological clock?

Who says you can’t turn back your biological clock?

Vesanto Melina, MS, Registered Dietitian

North Americans now live longer – yet our last decade may be spent suffering from serious illness. For example, on average, Canadians live to age 84. In Japan and Hong Kong, average lifespans are a little longer. In France, women live to age 85.5, six years more than Frenchmen. American women can expect to reach age 81 and American men, age 76. Yet for many, the disease-free life expectancy can be a decade shorter. Since these are averages, half the population can experience poor health for longer than a decade. (And the other half can enjoy health into the later years.) So, take a few moments to consider your own choices.

How would you like to spend your next decades? In vibrant health, feeling productive, and enjoying children, grandchildren and friends? Or, focused on diminishing health, mobility issues, pills, and feeding tubes? We have the power to choose.

In the 1990’s, Dr. Dean Ornish changed medical history. He was, and continues to be, a leading researcher on how comprehensive lifestyle changes may reverse chronic illnesses without drugs or surgery. In his first groundbreaking research, 48 patients with moderate to severe cardiovascular disease were randomized to:

  1. a group with standard medical advice, (such as cut back on fat, bacon, and eggs) OR
  2. an experimental group that made 4 lifestyle changes (listed below).

Angiograms were done at the beginning and end of a year. In the experimental group, in a year, coronary arteries that had been blocked opened up. In contrast, with the group following standard advice, arteries became more clogged.

These were the 4 lifestyle changes that had such powerful effects.

  1. Don’t smoke. (Pretty obvious now.)
  2. Get moderate exercise daily, such as meeting a friend for a walk through the park instead of sitting at a doughnut shop.
  3. Limit stress and sleep well.
  4. Eat a mainly or entirely plant-based diet.

I had the privilege of being a staff dietitian in some of Ornish’s retreats, working with patients who were regaining their health in Berkeley CA.

In more recent years, Ornish has used these same healing lifestyle interventions for men with mild to moderate prostate cancer and found that, in addition, their telemeres lengthened. Telemeres are the ends of the chromosomes that control cellular aging and keep our DNA from unravelling. They have been likened to the protective plastic ends of shoelaces that keep shoelaces from unravelling. As our telemeres shorten, our lives tend to get shorter, and the incidence of chronic diseases increases.

The more people adopt these 4 protective aspects of lifestyle, the more their telemeres lengthen. We can reverse aging at a cellular level. These potent lifestyle interventions have gathered worldwide interest by other researchers for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Would you like to learn more about reversing chronic disease? Intermittent fasting? Juice Fasting? Water Fasting? Learn more at the website of Michael Greger, MD through his lively short videos at nutritionfacts.org. Also check out our Kick Diabetes Cookbook (with Brenda Davis), which delivers outstanding, well tested recipes that are entirely free of added fats, oils and sugars- and taste great!

Vesanto is a Vancouver Registered Dietitian, co-author of award-winning books that are classics on plant-based nutrition, internationally known speaker, and personal and government consultant, with websites nutrispeak.com; becomingvegan.ca; and kickdiabetescookbook.com. She is available for online consultations about food and nutrition to keep you in optimal health.


2 thoughts on “Who says you can’t turn back your biological clock?”

  1. What is the amount of sweet potatoes and purple potatoes that can be included in a vegan senior’s daily diet who is normal weight and active? Thank you for your guidance on this.

  2. Karin, these are very health-supportive foods. In the southern islands of Japan where people are known for their longevity, they are a very frequent dietary staple. So these could certainly be eaten daily and even at several meals. The only limit would be to try and get some balance with the other food groups. For overall balance, see:
    https://becomingvegan.ca/food-guide/ Warm regards, Vesanto

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