Archive for May, 2013

How to Live Forever – Part 1

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

How to Live Forever Part 1

Ok so the title of this post might be a touch on the optimistic side and instead it should probably read “How not to become a useless crippled specimen of humanity that ends up a burden to his family before subsequently dying a lingering death of preventable causes” but it didn’t sound quite as sexy.


Regular readers of my blog and newsletters will know that I spend a lot of time working with people to help them develop a high level of performance for sport and military applications. This is very cool and tons of fun however in the last few years my personal focus on training has shifted ever so slightly to include working on the question of optimal health over the long term.

At this point some people may be wondering if I’m about to start raving about going paleo and spending 2 hours a day doing mobility work and meditation but the good news is that while I’m going to touch on paleo and stretching this is not some born again rant about the evils of hard training and the need to renounce the iron game for a life of tofu and yogalates.

So for a start what prompted this increased interest in the pursuit of optimal health?

The answer comes in several parts, some of the personal and some of the social.

1. I got older. Yep, happens to all of us. I ticked over 30 and of course started to notice that I now suffer more when I abuse my body whether it’s from excessive training, under recovery or the occasional overindulgence.

2. I had a kid. Its cliché but it’s true. Before that time there were really no external consequences of bad habits, if you drop dead at 40 or 50 and you don’t have kids then chances are the only people you’ll disappoint are self sufficient enough to bury you and move on with their lives.

3. The fitness industry, media and some medical professionals I know started to get increasingly vocal about how basically western society (and any society stupid enough to copy us) is basically digging itself into a grave with our forks and spoons.

4. I started working in the life insurance industry as well as running Octogen. (bet you didn’t realise that one!) This gave me first hand access to dealing with the medical conditions that cause people to end up sick and off work for long periods of time and this was massively eye opening!

So for all these reasons I decided that both on a personal level and for the benefit of my clients I would investigate the steps that anyone from elite athlete to office worker can take to optimise their health and minimise their chances of becoming a horrible statistic or cautionary tale.

Now, if you believe some of the mega health nuts out there you would believe that if you want to live for a long time you have to spend so much time and energy on living a healthy life that you will end up not doing anything except living a healthy life without having the ability to appreciate the benefits of your continued good health.

I certainly don’t intend to fall into that trap and my observation of health and physical phenomenon is rooted heavily in the law of diminishing returns.

Simply put this means that at the start of making a change a little bit of effort gives the most substantial result and as you progress further up the curve of benefit you have to input progressively more and more effort to get smaller and smaller improvements.

Fitness and health are full of extremists that advocate the advantages of a diet or system and insist that 100% adherence is necessary without realising that perhaps 90- 95% of the benefit comes from only the first 50 or 60% of effort!

Now before we go and look at these interventions I want to outline the goal of this exercise.

1. Everyone has a bullet out there with their name on it. We are all going to die but the aim of this exercise is to either dodge a bullet entirely, reduce the calibre so it hurts you less or delay the firing until you are 85+, still participating in activities you enjoy and merrily annoying your children because you refuse to die and leave them an inheritance.

2. The major causes of adult mortality in the west have WITHOUT EXCEPTION got lifestyle factors associated with their onset. We want to reduce these.

3. Long life is no good if quality of life is rubbish. Doctors can keep lots of people alive well past the time when they cease to do much more than take up space. If you spend your last 30 years taking 15 medications and living in a hospital then I would argue you are not really living. We want to compress the declining phase of our lives into as few years or months as possible or better yet just drop dead doing something awesome at 95.

So without further ado let’s look at a bunch of things you can do in your life to improve the long terms quality of your life.

Do some basic screening

Before you start taking action it’s a good idea to identify the areas that might cause you problems now and in the future. A good place to start with this is to go to your doctor and get a regular medical check up. This should include a full blood count, blood pressure, weight and height and basic screening for lifestyle and age related factors. I would also request specific blood tests for Magnesium, testosterone and Vitamin D if you are male and Iron and Vitamin B if you are female.

The aim of these tests is to identify things like high cholesterol, liver problems and low vitamin levels so that you can take appropriate action. Depending on your age and family history a doctor may suggest screening for bowel, breast, prostate and skin cancer. For example I’ve got pale skin and spent a fair bit of time in the sun over the last few years so I get skin cancer checks annually because I figure if anything is going to jump out and nail me now it’s going to be skin cancer.

Next I would go get a DEXA to get an accurate measure of your body fat and bone density.

From my experience of working in life insurance I can tell you that the big things that are mostly preventable and are going to seriously ruin your quality of life are the following.

1. Heart disease

2. Diabetes

3. Prostate, breast, bowel and skin cancer.

4. Liver cancer or lung cancer if you smoke and drink heavily

5. Falling over and breaking a hip or femur

6. Psychological conditions

7. Dementia

If you ameliorate the risk of these conditions then you have achieved the largest part of our process to improve your length and quality of life. Most of the interventions mentioned from here on are designed to address one or more of those conditions.

In Part 2 we’ll start looking at specific interventions.