Turritopsis dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish (source: muzina_shanghai, https://www.flickr.com/photos/muzina_shanghai/10094563653)

Investing in your health has never promised greater returns

… if you consider decades of additional time on earth valuable. Think about that! Never before have we had a greater opportunity to seriously impact our longevity and this has me making tough changes. But let’s rewind a little.

Throughout most of human history the difference between the average life-style and the healthiest would probably add no more than a dozen years to your life. There is nothing one could consciously decide to do to add fifty years or more. The common thought regarding to lighting a cigarette during my high school years (just 2 decades ago) was “You gotta die of something!”. Forward to today, and Dr Aubrey De Grey’s statement “The first person to reach 150 is already alive” is old news. Multiple research institutions are working on knocking down the walls of aging and one can seriously consider paths to immortality.

In the Fantastic voyage Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman talk about the three bridges of life extension:
Bridge One — Aggressively applying today’s knowledge.
Bridge Two — Putting biotechnology, such as gene technologies, to use with therapeutic cloning and rejuvenation medicine.
Bridge Three — Putting nanotechnology to use by developing a means to rebuild our bodies and brains with nanobots.

Now let’s not get into the specifics of living forever by either continuously fixing the body or uploading our brains or some future solution, but rather focus on what all this means for today. For the first time in human history the radical longevity cards could actually be on the table for those interested in playing. Suddenly a decision to ignore a medical issue or to continue an unhealthy habit could mean shortening our lives by a year and thereby just missing our connection to bridge two. It’s pretty mind boggling to consider, but doing our best could be the difference between dying at 86 and 486. For a year or two, giving up a life-time of some unhealthy pleasure is often not worth it, but for additional centuries? This totally shifts the balance.

I now find myself on a mission to minimize damage to this body, trying to keep wear and tear low, so that future biotech will have something to work from. I’m looking at my 23andme genomics report through new eyes, going beyond curiosity to find actionable points. On the upside I do carry the best version of the well known longevity gene FOXO3. On the downside I also carry many mutations with increased risk for lung cancer, type-2 diabetes, alcohol dependence, and obesity to name a few. I’ve long stopped being a regular smoker, but now even “social smoking” can no longer be a forgiven sin. My joy of sipping on unusual beers, dreams of brewing my own beer have to be shelved for good. Bye-bye refined sugar. Damn, these sacrifices aren’t made easy in this age of gifting sweets, office fikas and after-works, but I secretly hope that once we cross certain bridges, we will be able to enjoy a whole new range of pleasures without paying the life shortening penalty.