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How to stay young: Tips from the science of ageing

Healthy ageing — The worst thing you can do for your health is to grow old. But if you do grow old, and still want to stay healthy, you can do a few things that will help. Ageing researcher Morten Scheibye-Knudsen who offers us his best life hacks.

Morten Scheibye-Knudsen is a medical doctor and a scientist in the field of ageing. He is 42. But the man who offers me a cup of coffee in his lab at the Maersk Tower looks significantly younger. Maybe because he uses his research results on his own body. He wants to live a long, healthy life.

That we even have an old age that we have to deal with is relatively new, he says.

»200 years ago, our lifespan was 40 years. Since then, we’ve been given clean drinking water, we discovered penicillin, and so here we are today. And we can easily imagine something that will significantly change our longevity. I believe this.«

A large part of age’s effect on the body is happening without our being aware of it. As we grow old, we accumulate damage to our DNA and proteins. We accumulate protein waste in our cells, which we cannot get rid of, and we lose stem cells. According to Morten Scheibye-Knudsen, one of the worst things you can do for your health is to grow older.

»You get the vast majority of chronic diseases when you are older. Growing older is much, much, much worse for your health than being overweight for example. Something happens when we get older, which has us becoming more vulnerable.«

Interrupt the relationship between old age and illness

Imagine that you have done everything wrong in terms of your health. You have smoked cigarettes, drunk alcohol, avoided exercise, eaten too much, and eaten bad foods. With this lifestyle you increase the risk of developing cancer by 75 per cent, according to Morten Scheibye-Knudsen.

It sounds like a lot. But this is nothing compared to the heightened risk of developing cancer that occurs from just getting older. If you overnight went from being ten years old to 60, your risk of developing cancer over the next 30 years would increase by 3,500 per cent. Just because you had become 50 years older.

Morten Scheibye Knudsen’s research group is working on developing molecules that can repair DNA. If it works, the research can end up being revolutionary. And even though we, until this happens, seem to be unable to control the effects of ageing on our bodies, there are some things we can do. Because the ageing of the cells is not an isolated process. And there are things you can do to make sure that old age is not necessarily equated with illness.

READ ALSO: Diving into the fountain of youth

Morten Scheibye-Knudsen says that you can start by looking into a mirror if you want an indication of what your biological age is. Do you have a lot of wrinkles, or only a few wrinkles, compared to your age group? You can have a biological age of 44, even though it says you are 57 on your birth certificate. Here are a couple of life hacks from the scientist of ageing to those of you who would like to live a long, healthy life.

Consider fasting

Research indicates that fasting, that is, having a period of not eating, is a good thing for your body and for your future old age. During a fasting period, blood glucose levels fall. You give your pancreas, that produces insulin, a break, and some processes are activated that clean up the trash in your cells, so you optimize your cells a bit.

READ ALSO: Could you simply not eat for a day?

Morten Scheibye-Knudsen himself fasts from 20:00 in the evening to 12:00 noon the next day. But you can also fast for whole days or for several days in a row if you are more hard core.

Enjoy your coffee and chocolate

Scientist of ageing Morten Scheiby Knudsen loves his coffee and dark chocolate. Lucky for him, as both of these things are healthy. Coffee is one of the few healthy stimulants. No one knows why exactly, but in many plant-based foods there are chemicals which acts as a kind of defence mechanism for the plant. They can be slightly toxic for people like us, but they are positive for the ageing process. Dark chocolate contains a lot of antioxidants, which are probably healthy also.

Get your pulse racing

Here is a piece of advice that you know already: You should exercise. But maybe you don’t know how important it is. According to Morten Scheibye-Knudsen, it is, for example, much worse to be inactive than to be overweight. In fact, it’s three times as bad.

READ ALSO: Scientists: 10-20-30 series of intervals is the most effective training

Quit the cigarettes

You most likely know it, but smoking really sucks for your health. As a smoker, you have a far greater risk of developing life-threatening illnesses earlier in life than non-smokers, so stay away from the smokes.