I’ve long been interested in the differences among generations. What we prioritize, the things that motivate us, and how we envision a healthy, productive life. Born in 1995, I’m a young millennial, but much of what defines Gen Z resonates. However, nuances aside, there’s a consistency between both generations that I’ve adopted with zest: the desire to live not only longer, but to find joy and pleasure throughout every stage of my life.
Of course, preserving our youth has long been an enigmatic search for people all over the world. It goes beyond anti-aging beauty and outward aesthetics. As a global culture that largely values the spirit and energy of youth above the wisdom of age, we’re conditioned to believe our twenties are the pinnacle of it all. Success, relationships, experience. But yikes—I’m 28, and the possibility that it doesn’t get better than this is a bit, well, depressing.
Thankfully, there’s a new movement oriented toward aging not only with grace but with pride and excitement for all there is to come—and all that we’ve learned along the way.
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
The Expert on Healthy Aging
For insights into this revolutionary shift, I spoke with Max Lugavere, a science journalist, New York Times bestselling author, and host of the top podcast, The Genius Life. Max is often looked to not only for his expertise but his curiosity. In his work, Max speaks with top experts across the fields of nutrition, psychology, mindfulness, and more. His questions point to and simultaneously define the wellness zeitgeist, answering the ultimate question: how do we not only live longer, but what it really means to age well.
I spoke with Max about all of this—from society’s shifting mindset around aging to how his own views on health have changed in his years of research. Trust me: it’s a conversation you don’t want to miss.
Instead of quick fixes, interest has grown in promoting wellness at every age. What do you think has changed our mindsets for the better?
It used to be that people lived much shorter lives, and chronic, non-communicable, so-called “diseases of aging” weren’t as prevalent. The average life expectancy according to the CDC in 1900 was around 47.3 years old.
But there has been a shift due to a number of factors (namely, healthcare) that has contributed to prolonged lifespans. Since people are now living into their 80s, 90s, and even 100s, there is growing interest in looking and feeling good—and not being saddled with disability. It’s often the techniques you read about and see on the internet that people gravitate toward.
The science around aging and living well is always developing. What’s one belief about healthy aging you’ve changed your position on? Why?
I used to believe that disability and decrepitude were natural aspects of getting older. That like a car with excessive mileage on it, breaking down at some stage is inevitable. While aging does tend to bring some degree of wear and tear, we can fight off much of what appears to be “typical” aging today with a handful of high-impact healthy habits: namely exercise, proper nutrition, and sleep and stress management.
On The Genius Life podcast, you speak with thought leaders whose expertise spans just about every specialty in the wellness industry. What is the most profound wisdom or advice your guests have shared about what it means to live a healthy, meaningful life?
I value all of the insights that my guests share on The Genius Life, but a specific one that comes to mind is “don’t major in the minors.”
People often feel that they need to do complete lifestyle overhauls to live a healthy, meaningful life when in reality, making small, achievable, and sustainable tweaks are the best ways to improve one’s overall health and quality of life. Simple changes like prioritizing sleep, mitigating stress, spending more time outdoors, increased exercise (even just walking), improved nutrition, and drinking water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages are all low-hanging fruit that will get you 90% of the way there—and by starting small, the process doesn’t become overwhelming.
Take us through a day of healthy, longevity-focused living for you.
While no one meal will make or break your goals, your meals and snacks for the day all add up. Factors like portion size and type of food can make a big difference when you have a specific goal in mind like weight loss, maintenance, or muscle gain. I like to adjust my meals to make sure that they get me closer to the results I want. While no two days of eating look the same, I make the same health-conscious decisions, like prioritizing protein and drinking water, daily.
While no one meal will make or break your goals, your meals and snacks for the day all add up.
Lately, I’ve been starting my day with an egg scramble utilizing 2-3 whole eggs, 3-4 egg whites, and a bowl of oatmeal topped with sliced almonds for added protein and magnesium. I’ll usually pair this with a cup of black coffee. Then, on most days, it’s off to the gym I go!
For lunch, I like to keep it simple with some sliced grass-fed steak and sweet potatoes (alternating some days with white rice), and steamed broccoli.
After lunch, I try to get some movement in, so I’ll go for a short walk around the block, which is also a great boost for my mental health.
As a post-lunch snack, I’ll usually opt for something light but satiating like carrot sticks, sliced turkey, and a handful of almonds. One serving of almonds (28g) has 13 grams of unsaturated fat, 1 gram of saturated fat and 6 grams of protein—making them great way to sustain my energy levels. If I have a sweet tooth, I’ll snack on some dark chocolate covered almonds instead.
For dinner, I like pairing a protein like chicken, fish, or more beef with vegetables, sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, or sauteed greens. Throughout the day, I make sure I’m drinking plenty of mineral water and will often have a refillable water bottle on hand to ensure that I’m staying hydrated at home and on-the-go.
Max’s Top Tips for Prioritizing Wellness
To make sure that I’m prioritizing both my physical and mental health, I have a few simple but effective practices. I ensure I stay away from my phone in the hour before bed and the first hour after I wake up, prioritize 8 hours of sleep daily, spend time outdoors, do my best to nurture my relationships with friends, and do some deliberate exercise—even if it’s just stretching or walking—for at least an hour a day. I find that this combination of mindful eating and intentional practices help me look and feel my best.
Promoting longevity looks different at every age. What are common areas of focus we should all prioritize throughout
In any stage of life, there are three key areas to prioritize when focusing on longevity that can look slightly different based on the season of life you’re in: nutrition, movement, and mental health.
Across the board, it’s so important to eat nutrient-rich foods. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, and risk only increases as you age, I love to reach for heart-healthy snacks. One of my favorites is almonds because research shows snacking on almonds may reduce cardiovascular disease risk. And as you get into your 30s, 40s, and 50s, [try] diversifying and increasing the fruits and vegetables you consume. (This study found eating more of them can be linked to longevity!)
Another key element for longevity across different age groups is rethinking your relationship with alcohol to minimize intake, as continued drinking has negative impacts on your liver, brain, and other organs.
Movement is crucial for healthy aging, which can change as you move through life stages. Maybe in your 20s you exercise more frequently and try out different forms of movement, and as you enter different seasons of your life where your schedule is fuller and you have less extra time in your day, you begin to prioritize resistance training to build strength, which is incredibly important for aging well.
As you get older but really no matter what age, don’t underestimate the power of walking, as well. What may be most important though is picking an activity you enjoy that you can sustain.
One thing I’ve learned through interviews on my podcast is that mental health can have a major impact on physical health, which is why it’s a key focus for longevity. Life ebbs and flows, big things happen, so it’s important to take care of ourselves holistically so we can be our best.
- Be mindful of screen time. In your 20s, revisit your relationship with social media by unfollowing negative people and reducing screen time.
- Practice mindfulness. As you get older, try deep breathing techniques, meditation practices, or journaling for stress management.
- Prioritize time outside. No matter how old you are, try to spend more time outdoors. I love getting sunlight in the morning to start my day.
- Pour into your relationships. Another one of my daily non-negotiables is spending time to chill and laugh with my friends. No matter what age you are, prioritize nurturing those relationships. (It can be a great stress reliever.)
Whether it’s spending more time doing what you love or quitting that toxic relationship, learn to mind your mind.
Which three healthy aging habits would you most encourage people to prioritize?
Choose Healthy Snacks
Healthy aging isn’t just about correcting the wrinkles on your skin—maintaining your heart health is just as important, so choose foods that are nourishing for that area of your health. One that checks the boxes is almonds, especially because just a handful a day offers 50% of the daily value of antioxidant vitamin E, which is beneficial to skin health, and 20% of the daily value of magnesium, which supports a healthy immune system and helps keep bones strong.
Along with healthy whole-food, plant-based foods like almonds, I am also a strong proponent of animal-sourced products such as eggs, grass-fed beef, and fish to keep your bones, brain, and muscles strong.
Treat Sleep as Sacred
Making sure you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep can offer some of the biggest wins in aging. Research shows that poor sleep is associated with increased signs of aging, particularly for skin health. So here’s to getting a minimum of 8 hours of quality sleep each night.
Get Some Sun and Go for a Walk
You can always find me soaking up the rays in the morning. It’s something simple that really can help boost your health. (Just don’t burn!) Additionally, walking is another powerful, yet simple method to boost your health. A recent study found that 12 weeks of walking (yes, just walking!) for 30 minutes, four times a week improved memory function and neural connectivity for both cognitively healthy older adults and those with cognitive decline.