Life extension is an exciting and controversial topic. And one that I feel a deep-rooted responsibility to write about, because I never plan on dying.
On the one hand, every human being that has ever lived has perished. Emperors and kings, visionaries and inventors — for all of their accomplishments, every single one of them have been similarly reduced to dust in the annals of time.
But on the other hand, recent advances in biotechnology are bringing us astoundingly close to understanding the exact mechanism by which human beings age and die.
We’ve only recently discovered the importance of mitochondrial health, telomere extension, and CRISPR — all in just the last thirty years! And thanks to an ever-accelerating rate of technological change, the next twenty years are likely going to be even more exciting.
Many people have wanted to live forever… but we’re the first generation that has a chance of actually doing so. Not sure what I mean? I’ll explain.
Practical Immortality 101
The basic line of immortality reasoning is as follows (adjust this with you own numbers for a better or bleaker outlook):
- I am in my mid-twenties. Based on my North American lifespan (81), that gives me approximately sixty more years to live.
- Between now and 2083, we will see profound developments in anti-aging technology that will increase our estimated lifespan.
- Due to the exponential nature of technology, on average, new advancements will occur faster and provide larger benefits over time.
- Eventually, I will live to a point at which technology adds more than one year of lifespan for every extra year that I live. At that point, I will actually be getting biologically younger (healthier, more fit) as time wears on.
- Ergo, practical immortality.
Put another way: by the time I would have died, technology will allow me to extend my life by a few more years. Then, by the new time I would have died, technology will allow me again to extend my life. Rinse and repeat until the heat-death of the Universe.
The technical term for this concept is longevity escape velocity (LEV). It’s a fascinating idea, and one that we owe heavily to Aubrey De Grey and David Gobel, two of the leading advocates for life extension.
How to Achieve Longevity Escape Velocity
If I want to live forever, the next question becomes how to achieve longevity escape velocity.
And for most of us, the best way is going to be through instituting lifestyle changes that will increase our natural lifespan as much as possible until technology catches up.
Other, more scientifically-inclined people might consider directly joining the movement by taking up biotechnology and working for labs or the private sector. But personally, that’s not me. As smart as I like to pretend I am, there are many people more intelligent and better suited for the task.
So we’ll concern ourselves primarily with the first: lifestyle changes to make you live longer.
A note before I go further: not all of these have been scientifically shown to work. A few, like exercise, have. But due to the nature of statistics, hard science on life extension takes decades to accurately assess and carry out.
Unfortunately, we don’t have decades. We can’t remain indecisive. If you and I want to live forever, to maximize the statistical probability of achieving LEV, we need need to act now based on our (admittedly) limited knowledge.
The way I see it, even if some of these lifestyle changes don’t contribute to an increased lifespan, they will, at best, have a neutral or only slightly negative effect. Meaning you and I are almost always better off doing more than less.
So without further ado…
Here’s everything I do on a daily basis to live forever:
- I consume approximately 2000mg high-quality fish oil daily with breakfast. Of this, the vast majority (75%+) is EPA/DHA. These fatty acids are suggested to decrease cardiovascular disease risk and improve brain health.
- Every morning, I apply broad-spectrum 60SPF sunscreen to my face and neck. Sun damage is the number one cause of both visible wrinkles and skin cancer. My sunscreen is rated for two hours of direct sun exposure — since most of my day is spent indoors or commuting, I usually don’t have to reapply.
- I take 4000 IU of Vitamin D3 every day with breakfast. I live in a relatively northern latitude (Vancouver, British Columbia) and don’t get enough Vitamin D strictly from sunlight. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to have a litany of health benefits, including decreased cancer risk, decreased cardiovascular risk, and more.
- Every day, I’ll eat at least four servings of vividly colored, nutrient-rich vegetables. This is mostly for fiber and mineral content (including Vitamin K). A diet high in fibrous veggies has been shown to benefit lifespan.
- I minimize my exposure to overly charred food by steaming or pressure-cooking the majority of my meals. What we commonly refer to as burned food is a byproduct of Maillard reactions, reactions where carbohydrates and amino acids are heated above approximately 140 degrees C. Several studies suggest an abundance of charred food is linked to lower lifespans. I personally use an Instant Pot, but you can use whatever you like.
- In the winter months (November through January) I use a small humidifier to raise the ambient indoor humidity of my home to approximately 35%. I am particularly prone to low humidity, and can develop chapped, split skin and a dry cough. I maintain the hypothesis that chronic coughing, sore throats, etc. raise blood levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and lead to chronic inflammation, both of which have been shown to negatively impact lifespan.
- I severely limit the amount of processed food (especially meat) that I consume. I don’t drink soda or eat pre-made frozen meals, and I minimize smoked or processed meat like sausage or bacon. Common consumption of ultraprocessed foods significantly increases mortality risk.
- Every morning, I’ll start my day with a warm cup of green tea. Green tea is high in epigallocatechin gallate (EPGC), which has been shown to offer myriad health benefits like decreased cardiovascular disease risk, decreased cancer risk, and more.
- Once every week or so, I’ll have 50–100 grams of 85%+ dark chocolate as a snack. Occasional consumption of dark chocolate was correlated with an increased lifespan in a Harvard study.
- Every second day, I’ll do 10 minutes of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise. A lifestyle rich in cardiovascular exercise has been suggested to increase lifespan by as much as 4.5–8 years. In all honesty, I could do more cardiovascular exercise, but I strongly dislike it. I also know myself well enough to say that if I added any more, I would probably get sick of it and quit altogether — and I would prefer small consistency over massive variability.
- I weight train three days per week. My line of reasoning is a better body equates to a better self image, which leads to less cortisol and systemic stress. A reduction in cortisol levels leads to a longer lifespan.
People ask me why I don’t want to die. I always found that peculiar — does anybody really want to die? Shouldn’t I be asking you why you don’t want to live?
We’ve been told our entire lives that death is natural and unavoidable, and to welcome it with open arms. But the older I get, the less I buy into that premise. Nowadays, when people tell me death is a part of life, all I ever say is “know what else used to be a part of life? Smallpox. Not anymore!”
Life is filled with too much joy and heartbreak — too many profound experiences — to be content with merely letting it slip through our fingers.
Not to mention the fact that we’ve only experienced a small slice of a fraction of the Universe’s entirety! All of civilization so far has existed on a tiny pale blue dot, winking at eternity. When people say they’ve experienced all that life has to offer, how could that be anything other than incredibly naive?
What about the next thousand years of human exploration and conquest? What about life on other stars? How would it feel to set foot on a different planet feel, or meet another intelligent species? You’d risk all of that, just because of the oft-quoted notion that “death is a part of life”?
Not me. I want to live forever.
Do you do anything in your life that I missed? I’d love to hear about it — more data is always better than less. We’re in it for the long haul, after all.
If you enjoyed the article, I encourage you to clap and share! More of us should learn about the possibilities of practical immortality and life extension.