The Longevity Compass
How to combine science, lifestyle and self-experimenting for health & Longevity optimization
You want to have a long and healthy life.
When you look at aging, you want to put everything on your side to ensure you keep your vitality and strength for as long as possible. During the process, you also want to feel great, have a lot of energy, and live a great life.
Today’s information age should be the best time to help you in your quest, right?
Well, yes and no.
My personal story with health optimization is that it can get complicated, overwhelming, and leaving you without you were searching for.
All the information you need is out there, that’s true. But as society has grown to become an information society, in addition to the useful content you have a lot of useless and even harmful content.
We could think that science, by definition based on facts, would be spared. We would be wrong.
I will try here to share my approach to find the answers to my questions. I am not a doctor nor a scientist, just a guy on the internet trying to find what really works for health and longevity with an aversion to pseudo-scientific.
Let’s start with the problems with health advice and the scientific approach in general:
There are actually a lot of problems. Here the most important to my mind:
Science is made of trials and errors. It works this way. All the great scientific discoveries come from errors that were corrected with time, to finally give something that is “less wrong”. Because it works this way: a theory is right until proven wrong. So it’s “normal” that certain things we thought were healthy and promoting longevity are in fact doing the opposite. A science that We would be lucky if it was the only problem…
Today, information is money and especially big and attractive headlines. Science gets oversimplified, articles quote research papers in ways that don’t respect the conclusions of the authors… With the bite-sized pieces of information, we lose the nuance, we create confusion, and we don’t help people actually find what they could do to be healthier and live longer.
Another huge problem is identity. We know about identity politics but what about identity science? Today there is a growing number of people that reversed the way science should be used. Instead of using science, facts, and rigorous studies, they have an idea about a topic and they use science to back it up. What if a study contradicts their belief? They will find a way to discredit it and explain that the only valid ones are those aligned with their belief. Health and science should never be about identity. This is very hard for us not to take the identity that comes with our beliefs because very often communities are created around beliefs.
To quote Paul Graham’s essay: “More generally, you can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn't engage the identities of any of the participants. What makes politics and religion such minefields is that they engage so many people's identities.” If science gets like identity the debate doesn’t make sense anymore.
Among the other problems: bad studies by design,
Okay, I see… A lot of problems here.
But I still want to have reliable information on health and longevity, so what do I do?
Curate the content you consume
As Tim Ferriss often says it: “garbage in, garbage out”.
Here you want to choose deliberately chose the type of content you are going to consume. If you randomly pick the articles you read and the books you read, chances are you are going to get some good but also some bad.
I try to read and follow people that don’t consider themselves as a “huge proponent” or “advocate” of some health practices. I will rather pick sources that are interested in the scientific approach. It’s not to say that doctors and scientists should never think a given health practice is good for you, but they should never be 100% certain about everything about it. Remember that two centuries ago, doctors were still using bloodletting to treat diseases… With science getting better, we will look back at certain beliefs the same way, so let’s always keep an open mind.
Among the doctors and specialists that I find to bring the most value to the discussion are:
Rhonda Patrick with Found My Fitness: she is extremely rigorous in her way to analyze new studies and she is actually interested in how we can implement what science says in our lives, today. Her podcast and her reports (on Sauna and Cold Therapy) are an incredible source of content.
Dr Peter Attia: his reversed engineered approach to longevity is science-based and provides the framework to reduce your risks of developing the diseases that create the biggest risk for your healthspan and lifespan.
Once you developed a basic foundation of knowledge regarding your health and the principle to get healthier and live longer, it’s time to apply those principles and test them for yourself.
Test, track and learn
You can read as many studies, articles and books as you want, you can follow the exact same habits and lifestyle as other health and longevity specialists, it will always have to be adapted to you.
Adopting the habit of testing things for you with an open mind will be beneficial in many ways:
It will make you want to expand your knowledge on health and longevity
It will teach you a lot about how your body works
It will push you to take a proactive approach regarding your health and longevity
It’s a fun and constructive hobby!
The way I like to do it is to understand what are the practices that are the most widely accepted as promoting health and longevity. From what I could learn, these are:
Fasting: either as time-restricted eating (for example Intermittent Fasting 16:8 to start or 18:6) or longer fasts (36h, 48h, 72h or more if you can!)
Exercise: as long as you are not hurting yourself, exercise is good for your health. But the type of exercise will change the health outcome of it in major ways. To try to do it in a longevity-promoting way, I like the Centenarian Olympics concept. It consists of training your body to promote healthy aging.
Sauna usage: it has been shown to make you 50 percent less likely to die from a cardio-vascular related cause. Between 4 and 7 sessions of 20 minutes would be optimal. The ideal temperature is between 80°C and 90°C (176°F to 194°F).
Cold therapy: I use cold showers, slowly building up my tolerance to cold water. I really want to progress on this one and eventually add breath work as the Wim Hof Method teaches it.
Sleep tracking: Awareness of the importance of sleep starts to grow. If you want to get better and promote overall health, new devices give comprehensive data to help you in that. I haven’t started tracking my sleep but the devices I would like to try are:
Your diet: here, unfortunately, we get to the identity part of the problem. Whether we like it or not, diets have become communities to which certain people belong. My approach to it is a non-dogmatic one. I am always open to being proven wrong and I am always open to try a new diet and see how I feel with it.
I like to focus on mastering the basics first before looking at the details. This another problem over information can cause: losing the big picture and the pyramid of priorities regarding health optimization.
The idea is to start small and learn with time, while always questioning your beliefs.
I like to put actions at the center of my life because it’s so easy to get caught up in the ocean of health-related and habit making content.
A way to do it that I find enjoyable is to work in phases. Last year I got into fasting, experimented with all kinds of protocols, saw how my body responded to it, and now I can safely say that I know a lot more about what is fasting and how it affects my body than last year.
Now I focus on the cold. The Parisian winter water is perfect for it!
Find the practice that resonates with you now, track your progress, and learn how your body responds to it! If it’s hard in the beginning, motivate yourself by saying the little stress you impose on your body called hormetic stress is a powerful longevity tool, and as Pr. David Sinclair, author of Lifespan writes: “A little stress to induce hormesis once in a while likely goes a long way.”
A few links
Rhonda Patrick with Dr. Matthew Walker on Sleep for Enhancing Learning, Creativity, Immunity, and Glymphatic System
To understand the identity problem: The Joe Rogan Experiment on The Game Changers Debate
Some frequently asked questions about fasting: Will it Break My Fast?
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