2021 probably won’t be up there as most people’s ‘best-ever year’, will it? I think most of us are grateful to have survived, to have found the resilience and fortitude needed to get through another year tainted by Covid, and to have made the best of it. Here’s hoping that 2022 will be a much more exciting and uplifting 12 months.
Although we’ve kissed 2021 goodbye, it’s worth remembering that in age-well terms it was a terrific year for research we can put into practice in our own lives. So here are a few of the stories we covered last year which had us changing up our daily routines ready for 2022. Click the links to find out more:
NUTRITION: WHAT TO EAT
We were intrigued by detailed research into specific compounds in foods which have a radical impact on how we age at a cellular level. Senolytics – compounds capable of destroying inflammatory senescent cells – have attracted a great deal of attention. One in particular, fisetin, is the subject of multiple trials. Find it in strawberries, apples, cucumbers and onions.
Another powerful antioxidant found in plants, ergothioneine, has been linked to protection against cancer. The best source? Mushrooms. New research found that people regularly eating mushrooms were able to lower their risk of cancer. They’re always on our shopping lists now.
And while we’re on the subject of plant-based antioxidants, a Harvard study found that people eating the most flavonoids were least likely to report difficulty with memory or thinking skills. We seek out flavonoids in berries, kale (and other cruciferous vegetables like Brussels and broccoli), tea – especially green tea, red cabbage, onions, parsley, red wine, dark choc, citrus and soy beans (edamame).
NUTRITION: WHEN TO EAT
Protein is vital for cellular growth and for muscle building as we age. But research published this year suggests we need to think more about when we consume protein. It has a much greater impact on our muscles if we consume it earlier in the day. As we both breakfast late (or lunch early, depending how you look at it) so we can restrict our eating window each day, we’ve added more protein to our first meal of the day.
EVEN MORE REASONS TO EXERCISE….
We know that exercise helps us build and maintain muscle, but the latest science suggests there’s more to it than that. When muscles contract, our skeletal muscle cells produce a protein that protects the brain and retina from natural deterioration by folding proteins correctly in our cells. Many of the illnesses of old age – including dementia – are thought to be the results of proteins misfolding inside our cells as our bodies become less efficient.
An intriguing study published a few months ago brings together two of our favourite age-well topics: movement and purpose. This study suggests that the two are inextricably bound up. A life full of movement provides a strong sense of purpose, and/or a strong sense of purpose encourages us to move more.
Further studies this year examine the impact of exercise on brain health. It’s no secret that exercise is linked to reduced risk of cognitive decline. Now scientists are delving deep into why that might occur, uncovering the mechanisms linking exercise and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. The hope is that new medications and other interventions could follow.
….AND PRIORITISE SLEEP
If we needed more reminders of the importance of a good night’s sleep, research undertaken at Harvard highlights a link between poor sleep and increased Alzheimer’s risk. Study participants getting less than five hours sleep a night were twice as likely to develop dementia as those getting seven-eight hours. It’s a stark reminder of how important sleep is, how much we need to prioritise it and why we should seek help if we’re not getting enough.
Researchers at the University of Exeter have identified the optimal time to fall asleep for cardiovascular health: between 10pm and 11pm. Sounds sensible, but if you’re suffering from Covid-somnia or revenge bedtime procrastination (identified by psychologists as the act of ‘taking revenge’ on our commitment-packed days by staying up too late doing the things we want to do, rather than have to do) a sensible bedtime can be hard to achieve. Something to ponder as we head into a new, and hopefully less restricted, year.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2022
There’s lots to look forward to in the age-well world as 2022 rolls around. My favourite geneticist, David Sinclair, launches a podcast, Lifespan, on January 5th. If you want to get ahead of the game, Sinclair has recorded an epic two-hour podcast, by way of warm up, with Annabel’s favourite neurobiologist, Dr Andrew Huberman. You can find that here.
Back in September I wrote about research by Dr Kara Fitzgerald which found that making straightforward lifestyle changes in nutrition, stress management and exercise led to biological age reversal of three years in eight weeks. Dr Fitzgerald’s book, Younger You, is out on January 18th. I’ve got it on order and will review it for you when it arrives.
2022 will be busy for both Annabel and me. First up, I’m at the Lewes Speakers Festival, talking all things Age Well on Sunday January 23rd at 9.50am. Tickets available here. I’ll be running my Eat Well to Age Well course again in early February and I’m busy writing new courses for a bit later in the year – you’ll be able to find the details here or on my website in the coming months.
Annabel has two fabulous new books out in February – both available for pre-order from your local book shop now. 52 Ways to Walk is a non-fiction guide to the science of walking for wellness and joy, and The Language of Food is a fictionalised biography of Britain’s greatest-ever food writer, Eliza Acton. (I’ve had a sneak peak at both and they’re brilliant). Look out for giveaways and talks here and on our socials in the next few weeks.
RESET RECIPES FOR JANUARY 2022
We’re absolutely not interested in ‘New Year New You’ or January diets: our intention to age well is part of our daily routine at any time of year. But after what feels like a particularly lengthy period of excess, we’re craving simpler fare….and if you’re looking for a little inspiration on ageing well this month, the kindle version of our book The Age-Well Project is just 99p on Amazon for the whole of January.
Here are a few of our favourite ‘re-set’ recipes from the blog – hearty and filling but light enough to feel virtuous: