When Melanie Avalon, 32, decided to pursue an acting career, she was aware of the expectation that women in her industry would look youthful forever, so she began looking for ways to turn back the clock.
“I did ‘biohacking’ before it was really a thing, like when I was in college,” she says. Avalon has been absorbed into all areas of health and well-being, including dietary changes such as intermittent fasting.
But after college, Avalon faced health issues, like chronic fatigue from black mold and a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, that prompted her to look for ways to feel better physically.
This inevitably led her to a new venture, The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast, in which she interviews longevity experts about healthy aging.
“Honestly, the anti-aging piece is pretty selfish. I’ve done a lot of acting and have always been plagued by fears of aging, so from that perspective I’ve always been very interested in longevity,” she tells CNBC’s Make It.
“I thought a biohacking podcast would be the perfect platform to actually connect with all these writers, doctors [and] researchers and ask them all my questions and share what I’ve learned with other people.”
188 episodes later, here’s what Avalon learned from veteran longevity experts she interviewed about healthy aging.
3 things this podcaster learned about healthy aging
Getting enough sleep is “the cornerstone of a healthy life”
“A lot of things related to sleep are really consistent, and I think treating your sleep is the cornerstone of healthy living, anti-aging [and] longevity,” says Avalon.
Some tips for better sleep that Avalon has heard from several experts include:
- Wearing blue light glasses at night while looking at screens: “You can actually tune your body into a more natural rhythm,” she says.
- Keep your bedroom really dark and cool
- Limiting social media use before bed
Exposure to extreme heat and cold can affect your age
In conversations with researchers and experts, according to Avalon, there was often talk of extreme heat and cold.
“Before our modern lifestyle, we were exposed to extreme temperatures, and that actually has an anti-aging effect because it activates cell pathways and stress signals that create repair modes in our body,” she adds.
According to a 2021 systematic review published in Elsevier journal, saunas activate heat shock proteins that may extend your health span and promote cardiovascular health.
“On the other hand, cold is good for inflammation. It can activate something called ‘brown fat’. [brown adipose tissue] this is actually a type of fat that burns energy and is good for weight loss and body composition,” says Avalon.
Researchers at Rutgers University-New Jersey Medical School made brown adipose tissue more active in mice and found that their lifespans increased. More research is needed on how this translates to humans.
Cold exposure can be achieved in a number of ways, including:
- Go outside in cold weather
- To take a cold shower
“Moderate drinking is probably better than total abstinence”
“If you have a thesis on alcohol and health and you want to argue either way, as if to say it’s the worst thing ever or the elixir of longevity, I promise you’ll find 100 studies to back your point to illustrate both sides of the spectrum,” says Avalon.
For her podcast, she brings people with different opinions together, and “alcohol is consistently a J-curve,” she says. If you examine the blue zones, population groups with the longest life expectancies at 100 years and the longest life expectancies in middle age, almost all include alcohol in their diets to some degree, she notes.
“For most people,” says Avalon, “it seems that small or moderate alcohol consumption is probably better for longevity than total abstinence and definitely better than heavy drinking.”
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