This week I want to talk about aging. In fact, folks who've been following me for a while or have been part of the H.V.M.N. community for a while, you guys know that aging is actually the whole reason why I got interested in the biohacking or human performance space in the first place. It's been an interesting journey of working with elite athletes, World Champions, elite military folks, top researchers in all sorts of physiology metabolism, but my initial interest was always around the notion of aging. How do we extend our lifespan? Health span? How do we enjoy more of life? And it's kind of a funny statement, because sometimes when I talk to people about my interest in anti-aging or longevity, you think I'm kind of an egomaniac. Like, why do you think one should live forever? And my response to that question is, life is short, time is short. And I think we all should have the opportunity to explore, experience, and create the most out of the limited time we have on this planet. And we should all have the choice and the capability to extend out that time, that limited time that we have.

In fact, you can make the argument that almost every pursuit, whether that's technology, whether that's health care, to prevent sickness, that's all essentially a specific form, extending our life. So, in that sense, we should not be ashamed to talk about wanting to live forever, or working on extending lifespan or health span. It's in fact, one of the only real things that actually move the needle for all of us, because end of the day, it's not money that's limiting creativity, or life, right? Because it's really time. You can turn your time into money, but you can't necessarily turn money back into more time or more life. So we should be thinking about aging in a more serious, more thoughtful way, and I'm glad that over the last few years, more and more serious academics, researchers and professionals are really looking at aging, and anti-aging as a serious field of inquiry. So let's talk about this and define a few concepts within aging. And I want to introduce a new concept that hopefully adds additional color or thoughts to this space.


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So what is age? What is longevity? Typically, when people talk about age, they talk about chronological age, right? That is your classic, how many years have you existed? How many revolutions Have you survived, as you have sat on planet earth and revolve around the sun? Cool, it's a great first order heuristic of how much life you have left. But within recent years, as the folks who have been more attuned to the longevity space have realized there are just much more useful or much more practical definitions of age, biological age. And a definition of biological age is basically how much health span or how much expected lifetime you have left. And that's oftentimes predicated on your actual health, essentially.

And in recent years, there's more and more understanding of what quote unquote, biological age could actually be like. And we start now bifurcating away from chronological age into a separate definition of biological age. If we didn't know anything about biology, we didn't say, hey, these are kind of like direct one to one mappings. But now we know that there are potentially epigenetic markers, or things like methylation, or beta-hydroxy beta relation, these are actual manipulations on the histones on our actual DNA that actually affect the folding and unfolding of our DNA that directly impacts gene expression, and protein production. And in recent years, in recent publications, great research groups have shown and published data suggesting that you can actually predict or associate biological age with some of these epigenetic markers, meaning that and this should not be surprised because we all have intuitively seen this in our day to day lives. They are some we have friends or we know people that look really old. They look like a very aged 28 year old, right and in some of the patterns are that they may be have party too much. They've done too many drugs, they don't take care of themselves. They don't eat well. They don't exercise, don't sleep enough, and they look pretty aged. And if you take their epigenetics into look at their biological age, they likely have the epigenetics of someone that's much older chronologically, and vice versa. We also probably know people in our lives that are maybe in their 40s or 50s, but they are very, very youthful looking because they maybe, you know, don't drink, they don't go out and party and beach to Chennai, right, and essentially take care of themselves. And they look very, very youthful. And of course, if you look at the epigenetics, they might look like they might have the epigenome expression like a 25 year old.

So intuitively, we understand that people seem to age differently. And it's great that with recent technology, where we can actually analyze the epigenetics of our different tissue, we can actually see, hey, there is this notion that there should be a distinction between chronological age, and biological age, or epigenetic age. So these are the two dominant ways people have thought about age. But I want to introduce another layer, a new concept of age. And to me, this is best encapsulated by a term that I propose to be cognitive flexibility, the ability for a person to adapt, and learn and roll with new ideas and new concepts. And I don't think that this is necessarily novel, or completely surprising, in some sense, it's very intuitive, that youthful people seem to be more receptive and more adaptable to new ideas, and old people seem very stuck in their ways. And I want to unpack this a little bit more, because it's less quantitative, but it doesn't necessarily need to be. And maybe there are some ways to apply this observation into way where we can extend the youthfulness of not just our biology or physiology, but also our cognitive and our psychology. So I think there is actually some actionable takeaways of introducing this concept of cognitive flexibility. Now, what do they think of the term cognitive flexibility? Well, I'm inspired by the term metabolic flexibility. And again, for folks who have been attuned to my podcast, you know, all about metabolic flexibility, where one should be able to be flexible in terms of metabolizing, using all different types of nutrition, right? Someone that's healthy, should not only be able to thrive on a ketogenic diet, or should only be able to thrive off a low-fat diet and a high carb diet.

Theoretically, one that is healthy should be adaptable to all different types of fuel. And when people get too caught up in sort of the dogma of a nutrition school, it almost backfires. Because if one can only live kids genetically, or if one can only live with high carb and plant base, etc, that's actually not very flexible, you're caught in a very narrow existence and a pretty brutal existence. In fact, “healthiest of us” can metabolize high fat, low carb and low fat, high carb and do equally well. That's what very much athletes look like, they can eat almost anything, and still yet run very efficiently. So that's the goal point. And the same analogy can be made for cognitive flexibility, one should be able to receive, understand, break down and accept or reject new ideas forever. And it's very interesting to me that when I observe people who seem quite old, and this often correlates to prestige, or titles, or previous success, they get so caught up in their existing prestige or models of the world, that they start rejecting out of hand, rejecting out of prejudice, new ideas, where the young person coming up, and just learning and being open to all sorts of new ideas are constantly receiving properly digesting and grokking new ideas, and integrating that into their own models of how they see the world actually exists.

Now, essentially, maybe to get more specific here, I'm really talking about academia and professors. In my job, I've been able to work with a number of leading academics ranging from young up and coming researchers to very prestigious tenured professors who've been in this space for 20, 30, 40 years. And they're, you know, “famous” or regarded in the space and when I was younger, or more naive or less confident in my understanding of the science of the field, I would almost rely on prestige as a way to judge competence and what I've now understood is that prestigious a lagging indicator. Prestige is often the last thing one earns, but also the last thing that goes. So, if you follow prestige is oftentimes the wrong thing to follow. Because you're following the last generations contributions, what you want to be following is actually, the explorers and the pioneers on the very cutting edge, because when you talk to these prestigious folks, they have so much reputation to protect, and so much built up assumptions, in previous body of work, they need to protect that they're no longer open to new ideas. So in some sense, they've prematurely aged themselves out of relevancy, because they've already put blinders on to new information.

And this is not just academia, this is I see this pattern business, I see this pattern in art, I see this pattern in also all walks of life, where once there is prestigious, they must protect the previous body of work, and they start blocking all the other contradictory information out, so they never learn any more. So you might argue, hey, maybe that person that's prestigious and is blocking all this stuff out. They they're doing that because they're right. Now, my argument against that argument is that one has any human in history been 100%, right on anything. You tell me who that person is. And I'll go pray at that person's altar. No one in human history has figured everything out. So why is there arrogance or conceit to assume that someone that exists today has everything figured out? Every generation has evolved, improved and furthered our understanding of literally every single pursuit of humanity, whether it's science, or art or culture.

So no one should have the arrogance, the blockout new information essentially. And that is exactly the point. When you get more prestigious, you become arrogant. And as you become arrogant, you stop learning. And with this observation with this insight, I think as we continue to chronologically age, we get experienced, we get capital, we get success, we need to constantly fight against cognitive inflexibility, because as we get more progress, we actually are very prone to become cognitively inflexible.

So the point of this Free Fatty Friday is to describe this phenomenon, talk about the attributes, and then suggest that we need to constantly fight against cognitive inflexibility and promote cognitive flexibility. Because my hypothesis here is that it is hard to tell the causation or correlation between aging and cognitive flexibility. Is it because we have more chronological age, and therefore we have more biological age, we get more stubborn and more cognitively inflexible? Or is there some sort of back-and-forth relationship here? Where if you maintain as much cognitive flexibility to actually drive more youthful biological age? I think that's an open question, right? It's kind of like mind over matter a matter of your mind. If your smile, your body actually thinks it's happy, you actually releases the neurotransmitters of happiness. So is there a parallel effect with cognitive flexibility? If we focus on being open minded, and youthful, in our thinking, youthful inner reception to extreme ideas, does that somehow impact our biological age? And I think that's an interesting research question. To answer. My hypothesis is yes, there's something to that fact around the openness of the mind, causing and driving a youthfulness to potentially the epigenetics of our neurons, that would be a phenomenal result. But even if that were not the case, which I'm very open to being proven wrong in that hypothesis. There is still that individual historical journey, again, where almost essentially, every single generation of humans, there's some people that are arrogant to think they got it figured out. And essentially, every generation gets proven wrong by the next generation. And when I look at people that I look up to, that are more aged chronologically, and or biologically, I looked up to the people I looked at the most are actually very youthful in they're thinking they're very very cognitively focused.

They're constantly curious. They can't see ask questions. They don't assume that they're always right based on tenure or age. And they have this excitement, this hunger to learn. And that's something that's inspiring to me to embody in myself where, regardless of how much success that I may or may not achieve in my life, I always want to be curious, I always want to be learning, I always want to be humble, to be proven wrong, so I can improve and learn and receive new ideas.

So I'll leave it at that. I want to introduce the notion of cognitive flexibility. And this notion of prestige being a lagging indicator, and always be open minded, always be receptive to new ideas. And that's not to say that you have to take the new best trend as fact, it's saying that you should not dismiss it out of hand because oh, it's the crazy kids idea. Now, it's, every single generation is the crazy kids idea, are the ideas that actually change the world and drive humanity forward.

So hopefully, this was interesting food for thought. Stay cognitively flexible. Let's stay biologically young. And we can't do anything about chronological age, but we can do something about our biological age, and our cognitive flexibility. All right, if you like this talk, please leave something in the comments or read every single comment or reach out to me @geoffreywoo on Twitter and Instagram. Love to continue the conversation.

Until then onwards, looking forward to talk to you again all very soon!