8 Essential Aging Hacks

We face eight key health challenges as we age.

The steps you take to prevent and mitigate these challenges can make the difference between just hobbling through your golden years and actually thriving. There’s just no reason not to enjoy energy and vitality well into your seventies, eighties and beyond.

Everyone’s into hacks: life hacks, brain hacks, productivity hacks, tech hacks, budget hacks, house hacks. I’m into aging hacks. Let us hack.

Here are the top health issues we all must face when we descend to the other side of the hill, and the smart steps you can take – now – to stop them. Although I think it’s worth stating that the hill metaphor of life should be chucked entirely. “Over the hill” doesn’t make sense in this day and age with all the amazing scientific and nutritional advances of which we can take endless advantage. So I prefer to think of life as a gently sloping valley that gets a bit steeper the closer you get to the other side. You just need a few more tools to ace the slope.

1. Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

This is the biggest cause of preventable death, because it’s linked to virtually all the other major causes of death (cancer, diabetes, heart disease). 75% of adults over 60 are overweight or obese. Obesity and poor health go hand in hand. It’s almost impossible to live a long, healthy life if you are seriously overweight. No wonder we’ve got such a massive health care tab and drastically reduced quality of life among seniors. Though I ought to quibble with the BMI, for the purposes of this post I won’t. The general guideline is to make sure your waist is less than 40″ if you’re a man and 35″ if you’re a woman. I don’t recommend focusing on LDL cholesterol to the detriment of other crucial factors like raising your good (HDL) cholesterol and keeping your triglycerides and inflammation under absolute control.

The four simple steps required:

– Eat smart protein that contains good fat: grass-fed meat, wild fish, DHA-enhanced eggs, fermented tofu (and take a fish oil supplement, too).

– Cook with olive oil or walnut oil.

– Absolutely avoid all refined foods that contain processed grains, sugars, corn syrup, starch, flour, etc.

– Move a little. A daily walk is sufficient if you do your best to make it brisk.

2. Arthritis

Half of us will get it. I even have osteoarthritis from my time as a pro runner. We’re also prone to joint troubles thanks to our primal past – er, the fact that we walk upright hasn’t quite registered with our DNA. Hence, we experience knee and back issues like they’re going out of style (only as of yet, they are not). Of course, obesity is a big culprit. Losing just ten pounds can cut your risk in half.

I manage arthritis successfully by doing the following:

– Taking at least a gram of fish oil daily.

– Reducing free radical oxidation with…a diet high in vegetables, gluttonous amounts of olive oil, a few glasses of wine a week, and a potent antioxidant supplement.

– Following all the tips in #1.

– Resistance (weight-bearing) exercise at least 3 times a week.

3. Osteoporosis and Falls

Despite our love affair with Blunder Tonic, osteoporosis is one of our most prevalent diseases (and curiously missing from places like Africa and Asia where they consume little dairy). I don’t go in for the whole “dairy actually causes osteoporosis” scare manufacturing – protein will not leach calcium from your bones. But dairy will also not prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is caused by a lack of exercise (particularly weight-bearing activity) and lack of sunlight exposure.

You can be a vegan or live on smoked gouda for all I care, but be warned: the triple-whammy of being overweight, sedentary and spending all your time indoors will set you up for osteoporosis guaranteed. And a simple fracture in old age can mean death. Falls are the #1 cause of death in people over 65. That’s just crazy, isn’t it?

4. Cancer

Your risk for cancer just increases as you age. I think of aging as being, essentially, progressive tissue wasting. As we age we are simply more susceptible to damage (oxidative, environmental, stress, deficiency, atrophy, you name it). It becomes that much harder for our cells to repair themselves. Immunity becomes compromised. Metabolism slows. Muscles weaken. Susceptibility to disease increases. You have to take sensible steps to mitigate – and prevent – the increased health risks of aging.

Aside from following the sensible diet, exercise, and supplement advice I’ve touched on, you should also be very proactive about medical screenings. Get over the hang-ups or nerves and just go see your doctor regularly because this is the best way to beat cancer. Cancer simply isn’t the death sentence it used to be – far from it. Caught early, survival rates – even five years out – are stunning. Live a sensible lifestyle, get screened, and should you happen to get cancer, your chances for many more quality years are excellent if you take immediate action. If you do not have insurance, there are plenty of economical options for routine screenings in most major cities, so do a little homework. (Of course, quitting smoking, managing stress and avoiding excess alcohol are hopefully things that go without saying.)

5. Cardiovascular Disease

See #1. Cardiovascular disease (CHD) is an umbrella term that includes heart disease, heart attacks, hypertension, arrhythmia and many other cardiovascular complications. In this case, prevention pays: follow a healthy lifestyle and your risk for CHD drops by a massive 80%. That’s huge!

– Get exercise (walking, hiking and intervals are great).

– Don’t smoke.

– Limit salt.

– Avoid all processed foods.

6. Vision and Hearing Loss

Aside from the basic preventive measures like careful sunlight exposure, resting your eyes, and not subjecting your ear drums to your teenager’s sound system emanations, you can actually eat your way to healthy vision and hearing.

A diet high in produce – I’m talking at least, at least 6 servings of vegetables daily, and preferably 9-12 – will provide your eyes and ears with a protective antioxidant arsenal against aging. No smoking, either. To stave off hearing loss, experts recommend that you avoid earbuds and use regular old headphones if you can – or at least don’t shove the buds into your ears tightly.

7. Teeth

I’ll say one thing, and one thing only: floss. Of course you brush twice daily, and few people need dentures anymore, but you can reduce inflammation and infection – not to mention cavities and expensive dental procedures – with daily flossing. Flossing also helps with bad breath.

8. Mental Health: Memory and Emotional Well-Being

Memory loss is not a requisite of aging. At all. Stress is what affects our cognition, alertness, memory and emotional health. To stay healthy and mentally sharp, you must limit stress.

– Exercise. End of story!

– Find a spiritual or emotional outlet such as meditation, yoga, prayer, or being in nature.

Don’t think of yourself as old. You’re not. Mental outlook and a positive attitude are vital. Taking care of yourself can easily ensure you of 80, 90 or even 100 full years. Don’t talk about “senior moments” and your “brain farts”. Since when is a little extra life experience a reason to think of yourself as aged and crumbling? We’re not blue cheese. We’re people.

– Maintain at least a few close friendships (this is crucial).

– Hug or kiss someone you care about every day. Touch is really important, particularly as we age, when isolation and loss become more common.

– Have a pet, adopt a child, spoil the grandkids – love someone who is dependent upon you.

You also need to take active measures to keep the brain both elastic and healthy.

– Learn a language or build your math skills.

– Read a book a month, or better yet, a week. It is shocking how little we read. Choose difficult books or new topics and mix it up: novels, philosophy, history, memoir. Avoid the emotional political books and other pop culture reads that contain mostly irrational opinion (hey, that’s what blogs are for). Those “books” only cement stagnant and ignorant beliefs rather than truly challenging your mind. They calcify the brain.

– Stay current with technology and trends. Don’t start dressing like your kids (you mortify them enough as it is) but stay informed and interested. Learn and use new technologies like blogging, social bookmarking, portable communication devices, and media players.

– Travel, if you can. If not, make sure to expose yourself to new groups, communities, activities and hobbies. Try to make several new friends every year.

– Learn something new every day. Encourage curiosity and nurture growth.

Health is cumulative. The way you treat yourself aggregates. You must take care of yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend or your children. Do you feel depressed? Are you overweight? You are not taking care of yourself! And it will catch up with you, sooner than you think. If you are suffering from health problems as a result of personal neglect, you’re sending a pretty clear message that you don’t care about yourself. Why?

Further reading:

Most Popular Posts of 2007

This post was inspired by an article at WebMD

[tags] aging, hacks, longevity [/tags]

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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23 thoughts on “8 Essential Aging Hacks”

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  1. I think a lot of the time, we humans, in terms of a whole life span think that we can recover from past mistakes. And we can do that, but, ultimately it’s better to take the necessary steps “now” to avoid possibly future ailment.

  2. I’ve been in a bad mood all day. I had an argument this morning about exercise. I was told all exercise is bad from yoga to weight training. Sorry, won’t except it. In my opinion, the fastest way to old age is living like an invalid.

  3. Whhhhaaat? That is crazy talk! Who thinks we don’t need to exercise to be healthy? I would be cranky about it too.

  4. Question about the waist measuring (because every site I’ve read either has a different way of doing it or doesn’t describe the method in sufficient detail):

    1.) location of the tape measure – around your abdomen (belly button), right, not your “natural waist” (i.e., what in thin people is the narrowest part of their torso)?

    2.) Suck in your gut or not? The reason I ask is that I always thought you shouldn’t, but then Dr. Oz (of the “YOU on a Diet” book) says you should. Also, what to do if you’ve lost a lot of weight and have loose skin? In my case, I’ve lost almost 90 lbs and have a tummy pooch which is loose skin over a bit of fat (or what I think feels like fat). If I suck my gut in, I get a 34 inch measurement (taken at my belly button, lower abdominal circumference). Not sucking it in gets me a 35. My natural waist is 30 inches. (I’m 5’6 and my Tanita says I’m 127.6 lbs, 21% body fat. Should I be worried about the 35 inches?)

  5. Being old is in the head. 😉 No, seriously, I really agree with all of this, and I feel quite sad when I see an older person who has given up on this, especially in my family. Why set ourselves up for needing a walking stick when we’re 60 if we can prevent it? And why live like we’re already dead if we’re not (well, duh, I know this sounds dumb, alright)?

    Prevention, prevention, indeed.

  6. Crystal,
    I agree W/Sara,that is crazy talk.
    If someone told me “not” to exercise, i’d
    get cranked up with’em and tell them
    to ” Go Take A Hike Somewhere!” Donna

  7. Oh, if it is possible to get slapped through the computer screen, I was. I am having some thyroid/adrenal challenges. I have a doctor that works with me but I am tired of doing all the work. So, I’ve been waiting for 5 weeks to see another doctor, which will be tomarrow. I already know the results but I need help. Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve been spending a lot of time on another site who deal with these issues. I was a little shocked when the common belief was that exercise of any kind was out of the question. Not just for me, but for everyone. O.K., maybe it’s hard on the adrenals but what about the rest of the body? It’s not that black and white. So, I got mad and went ot the gym. Later…

  8. Shinypenny-Wow 90lbs, great job. I wouldn’t worry about the 35 inches. Your weight is good and sounds like you’re doing well.

  9. Shinypenny, I concur. Keep working at it but do not stress yourself out about it. You have made terrific progress. Part of my issue with the BMI is that it doesn’t take into account your individual physique, muscle vs. adipose tissue, etc. Don’t worry about “sucking it in” – it’s all rather arbitrary in the sense that these are just general guidelines. If you are losing weight, working out and making progress you are doing well.


    You know my feelings about excessive cardio or prolonged, stressful intensity in regards to exercise, but what you’re getting slapped for is utter nonsense. The human body was made to move and be used. If you do not use it, tissue wasting progresses – that’s aging, baby. Osseous material and muscle tissue must be used to maintain themselves well into our twilight years. It’s the lack of exercise that is causing the health problems, for heaven’s sake. With your specific adrenal condition, you certainly don’t want to do anything too stressful, but walks, a bit of resistance training, hiking, etc. release beneficial hormones and tell your body it needs to stay strong and healthy. Where is this forum? I’ll tell them a thing or two.

  10. Well thank you, mark, I’m sure you could tell them a thing or two. Telling me I can’t exercise again is like telling me I’m terminal. The truth is it’s a great site even if I don’t agree with the no-exercise rule. I gave them my opinion but that’s as far as I’m going. It’s not a very happy site like MDA because most people are very sick. I have recommended proloftin for some of those high cortisol, stress cases. A couple years ago, my last doctor told me I had a fascinating physiology. That was the whole diagnosis. Well I’m a little smarter now. It’ll be figured out this week.

  11. Crystal, that is too bad but understandable. MDA is definitely more of a lifestyle/wellness blog.

    Speaking of diagnoses, the worst one I ever got was the time I got back from a summer in Costa Rica and was feeling really ill and fatigued for weeks. Just running at 70% and felt really “off”. The doctor put me through a battery of tests and a slew of questions and visits, nothing. Still I was sick. Finally, his scientific diagnosis, after weeks of me feeling like a poopmuffin, was this:

    “You know, I really think it’s just some jungle thing.”

    I kid you not. The best part was that he shrugged while saying it. Like, you know those JUNGLE things. I did a veggie/fruit detox and slept at Mom and Dad’s house for a few weeks and recovered. But who knows, I could have some weird mutant disease just lurking in my bloodstream! 😉

  12. About 2 years back my cousin’s daughter from New Orleans took a trip to Aruba. She’s a vegetarian so she ate only salads. She came back extremely ill. The Dr. told her it he believed she ate something toxic. She stayed ill a few weeks, also.

  13. Hi Chris, It’s great that you have collected all these aging issues all on the same page – it’s great for us to do a “checklist” for ourselves to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep healthy and youthful. A great resource for antiaging I found was the Okinawan diet, in the book “The Okinawan Way” which describes the diet and lifestyle of the Okinawans who have 80% less heart disease and 50% less cancer than the US population, and interestingly, their “antioxidant activity” of their bloodstreams were 5 times that of Americans. A good read for more antiaging “hacks” 🙂

  14. Thanks Mark for the tips. As my 50 birthday approaches, I’ve started to educate myself on healthy living especially since I grew up in an overweight household. I’ve never really paid too much attention until now…Much appreciated!

  15. Interesting stuff. I’m reading this post because this week Dr. Oz had a program on osteoporosis and said you should be able to balance on one foot, with arms outstretched, for at least 5 seconds. Allegedly, if you are unable to do this, it is a predictor of falls. Good news for those of us who are building our muscles. I can easily do this exercise and I don’t even need my arms outstretched for balance. I can do it with my arms at my side, or behind my head or above my head.

    1. Some of this stuff lacks nuance, and/or contradicts other points on this site. Limit salt? What about actual, mineral-rich sea salt? Table salt contributes to hypertension, sure, but real salt needn’t be used sparingly. And cooking with olive oil is a bad idea, directly contradicting the alternative food pyramid propagated by this site.

      1. Lol, you do realize that is article from 2007 right? This websites authors as well as anyones views on just about everything will evolve as new information comes in.