The first expert Q&A from neurosurgeon and anti-aging physician Dr. Brett Osborn is below. We will be answering your questions, as this will likely be a bi-weekly feature. If you haven’t already, add your question in the original thread or post your question here. (All of the information comes from Dr. Osborn himself. I edit only for style.)
“What can a man in his mid-20s do to optimize his health and looks/appearance in his 30s to 50s?”
First things first. Make the proper mindset shift. What is “aging”? Modern science would have you believing aging is a natural process. Wrong. Aging is a disease.
Aging is a degenerative disease, which means the body will undergo wear-and-tear like any other machine. (Remember your physics class and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The entropy and disorder of the universe – and your body – is increasing.)
One doesn’t die of age-related disease overnight nor do a car’s cylinders crack shortly after driving the vehicle off the lot. Age-related disease, not unlike an engine failure, is the result of accumulated damage to a particular organ system.
The major organ systems of your body include the circulatory system, skeletal system, digestive system, the urinary system, respiratory system, Lymphatic system, and nervous system. Damage to one or more of these major systems is what causes aging and ultimately death.
All age-related diseases are the same.
The common-age related diseases are dementia, atherosclerotic heart or cerebrovascular disease, and renal insufficiency.
What causes age related diseases? All age-related diseases have common underpinnings: free radical damage/oxidative stress and inflammation. In this regard, by treating one disease, you are in essence treating them all.
A better strategy is to launch a preemptive strike, before diseases rear their ugly heads however. Think back to the car analogy.
Get your oil changed routinely and your car will last forever. You want to engage in activities allowing your own body to have an “oil change.”
Perform preventive maintenance and you will thwart age-related disease. Start early. Even in your 20’s.
1. Strength training, in particular rigorous strength training is critical. Amass as much muscle as possible while the hormonal milieu is favorable. Also, strength training unto itself maintains one’s hormonal profile in a youthful state. The best natural way to boost your testosterone and growth hormone levels is to lift weights.
I lay out my full training program in Get Serious. In general, you should stick to five basic movements in a 5×5 scheme: squats, overhead press, deadlift, bench press, pull/chin-up. Make gradual progression. And remember, safety first, injury prevention second.
2. Do not deplete the body of carbohydrates as is advocated in popular low-insulin schemes. The most anabolic hormone in the body is insulin, not testosterone. And what is the stimulus for insulin secretion? Carbohydrate (and to a lesser degree, protein). That said one should avoid robust insulin spikes by consuming mostly low glycemic index carbohydrates except pre- and post-workout (in which cases the insulin surges are beneficial).
Excess insulin accelerates the aging process and predisposes one to insulin resistance. Spread your low glycemic carbohydrates throughout the day.
By no means should you avoid carbohydrates altogether; you risk shedding significant amounts of muscle. And you know what that means. Scrap the Paleo diet.
3. Supplement aggressively. I list my 10 best supplements in Get Serious (Amzn). I recommend high-dose omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, green tea, resveratrol, B-complex, vitamin C, vitamin D3, Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), curcumin, and probiotics.
And while Omega-3 fatty acids are probably the best “brain food” out there, one should consider trialing the various nootropics. There are many time-tested nootropics such as piracetam, vinpocetine, phosphatidylcholine, all of which have a relatively benign side effect profile. Some (and there are many, including prescription-grade) are touted to increase cerebral blood flow while some temper free radical damage. Regardless of their mechanism of action, in consideration of risk-benefit ratio (how all surgical decisions are made), nootropics are certainly worth the minimal monetary expenditure for their potential brain-boosting effects.
4. Use sunscreen. Skin aging is a function of sun (UV) exposure amongst several other factors. The appearance of your skin is a key determinant in other’s perception of your age. This is how plastic surgeons make a living, right? Well, if you take good care of your skin by shielding it from the sun, you are less likely to develop age-related diseases of the skin: wrinkles, deep furrows and pigmentation abnormalities. Again, it’s the same disease process in a different time zone. I recommend a vitamin C-based sunblock that should be applied every morning.
5. Get adequate sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is directly correlated with the development of adiposity and interestingly Alzheimer’s dementia. Why? Because REM sleep serves to “wash” the brain of potentially deleterious toxins that have accumulated throughout the day. Not enough REM sleep (for the insomniacs out there)? You’re setting yourself up for trouble. The work can wait until the next day. Get 7-8 hours of nightly sleep.
6. In conjunction with the above, avoid chronic stress. Acute stresses such as strength training and mental exercises better the individual. Too much stress (overtraining, for example) serves the opposite function and accelerates the aging process. How can you handle stress? Take up meditation, yoga. I ride motorcycles. Pick your poison. Or rather your anti-venom.
7. Drink water. This is overlooked, as it falls into the “boring but basic” category. We too often look for exotic remedies causing us to overlook simpler ones. Most people are chronically dehydrated. The body is comprised of 70% water, and water is essential for all bodily processes including “flushing” out free radicals. A dehydrated body cannot perform at optimal performance. Remember, we want to live optimal lives, not so-so lives.
How much water is enough? That varies based on the person, and is is possible (although rare) to drink too much water. In general your urine should be clear when you wake up on the morning. If your urine is not clear most of the time, you likely are not consuming enough water.
8. Keep your bodyfat low. Fat is inflammatory. Contrary to popular belief, fat does not simply “hang out” on the body. It’s an active endocrine secretor. Fat is also inflammatory. The more fat your body carries, the most inflamed and estrogenic your body will be.
Fat also gives one the appearance of premature aging. Oftentimes patients look several years younger simply because they faces are less inflamed from all of that excess body fat. A face with less bodyfat also has a more attractive, angular features.
While having abs is not essential, you should not be able to “pinch an inch” of bodyfat. If so, undergo a fat loss program immediately for your health’s sake.
9. Perform cardio at higher intensities. Long-duration, steady-state cardio training is highly inflammatory. Instead of spending hours on a treadmill, perform some sprints, Tabata intervals, or try a mid-week strength-endurance session as described in the appendix of Get Serious.
10. Express gratitude for all that you have. Part of stress management is developing a more positive, optimistic mindset. Life presents challenges for all of us, and we all have our “off” days. Yet it’s crucial to your long-term health to focus on the many gifts you have rather than allow jealousy or other negative emotions take over. Remember, a health mind begets a healthy body
Have any other questions for Dr. Osborn? Ask away.
P.S. If you haven’t already, you can buy Get Serious on Amazon.