In 2022 we know more about how to extend healthspan (defined as the number of years we live free of chronic disease) than ever before. Not only does the latest medical research on anti-aging and longevity continue to explode, but – at the other end of the spectrum – the power of ancient healing wisdom is being re-discovered.

The problem is the amount of information. If you’re one of the millions of people emerging from the pandemic with a focus on living healthier, where do you begin? At Hanya we’re advising our patients and clients to take a slow and steady approach to better health through 2022 using the word “healthspan” as inspiration.

If you’re ready to start, have a look at my top 10 healthspan categories below, together with my tip on the first “small step” for each category. Our team will be drilling down into the detail of each over the course of the year, but as you read them now, perhaps start by asking yourself: If I want more healthy years in this lifetime, how mindful am I about how each healthspan category is showing up in my life?

Category 1: That little thing called “stress”

Research is showing stress – especially as it relates to chronic inflammation – to be a significant risk factor for premature aging and disease. At Hanya House we continue to see positive outcomes in our clients who embrace the whole-system (mind, body, and spirit) approach. This is a personalised approach that blends functional medicine and advanced diagnostic testing with ancient healing technologies and personal development programmes.

Tip: We often come at stress cognitively. In other words, we try to think our way out of it. Hanya House Life Coach and creator of the MIND BODY CONNECT Life Coaching programme, Ryan James, talks about growing peace in the body as opposed to reducing stress in the mind, and he often recommends yoga as the best starting point for people who are struggling with stress. Yoga changed my life. It wasn’t dramatic or instant, but over weeks and months I noticed lower levels of anxiety and more overall calm. It doesn’t have to be yoga but try to find something that takes you out of the mind and into the body. Also, consider joining a Hanya Cleanse this year, built specifically for gut health and anxiety.

Category 2: Intermittent fasting

This is a powerful and ancient practice. Simply put, by practicing extended pauses from eating, your body has a chance to recover and reset. If done correctly (over time and for your specific health profile and life circumstances) there is evidence to show that, with intermittent fasting, insulin sensitivity improves over time, as does mitochondrial function and fatty acid oxidation. These are all critical processes if you’re on the healthspan trail.

Tip: It’s important to know that fasting guidelines differ from person to person. I’ll be discussing fasting as it relates to insulin resistance, weight loss, and healthspan in detail in March. If you would like to start experimenting with fasting, book a 30-minute consultation and I’ll be happy to guide you based on your unique health profile as well as your health goals.

Category 3: Supplementation & supplement “pulsing”

Most nutrition should come from food. That said, I believe in supplement “pulsing” – the practice of using supplement combinations periodically to address specific outcomes. Sometimes we’re anxious. Sometimes our guts are out of balance. Sometimes we’re not sleeping. Sometimes we’ve pushed ourselves too hard. Supplement combinations (whether in pill or intravenous form) can help us to move back into homeostasis.

Tip: If you would like to experiment with supplement pulsing this year, I’m going to be offering price-reduced supplementation-specific consultations twice a year for existing patients: Look out for the first one this April. If you’re not an existing patient, I’d strongly recommend an initial consultation and screening first.

Category 4: Sleep

Two-thirds of adults throughout developed nations fail to get the recommended amount of sleep per night, and this is affecting how they eat, move, and manage stress. The problem is compounded by screen addictions and the lack of still pockets that exist in the working day.

Tip: Look out for our Sleep Masterclass in May, but in the meantime, here are three good starting places: (1) Don’t drink caffeine after 12pm; (2) Ditch the evening glass of alcohol; and (3) Chat to me about sleep supplement blends that our patients are seeing great results from.

Category 5: Sugar & insulin sensitivity

The evidence is overwhelming that, especially in developed nations, sugar is the number one reason why healthspan is not improving. The constant intake of sugar (often in various disguised forms, especially breads, cereals, and low-fat foods) over many years leads to insulin resistance, and insulin resistance is the start of a cascade of metabolic health problems leading eventually to the four most common healthspan killers: Cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. The problem is that sugar has become so acceptable, pervasive, and hidden, that most people don’t fully comprehend just how much they are consuming.

Tip: If you have a sweet tooth, rather than reaching for a cookie or slice of cake, try a block of 85% dark chocolate. Dip it in your tea or coffee so that it becomes creamier and then let it melt on your tongue. In other words, have a mindful moment. I keep 85% chocolate on me, and when I’m at a restaurant and everyone else is having dessert, I order a black coffee or herbal tea (depending on the time of the day) and have my block of 85. Also, watch out this June for our Sugar Detox programme – we’d love you to join in.

Category 6: Processed foods & toxic load

In 2022, clean it up, knowing that all the small toxic exposures over multiple years eat into your healthspan. From additives, heavy metals, and microplastics in foods, to household cleaning products and cosmetics. The way I see it is that we want to eliminate as many toxins as possible that are inside of our control, so that our body has the best chance of dealing with toxins outside of our control (maybe you live close to farms where there is routine spraying, or maybe you live in a big city with lots of pollution).

Tip: Genetic testing gives us a snapshot of how well your body detoxifies, and from here we can tailor functional nutrition and supplementation to support your unique detoxification process.

Category 7: (And this is my favourite) Functional nutrition

The art of using foods to live better is ancient and sacred, and the food is medicine renaissance is just getting going. Not only are many of us growing our own produce and eating mindfully guided by genetic tests and gut microbiome tests, but we’re also starting to teach our children about whole foods, detoxifying foods, anti-inflammatory foods, antioxidant-rich foods, and DNA-protecting foods.

Tip: Throughout 2022, keep your eye on the Hanya House Instagram page (especially on Fridays) for our Food is Medicine inspiration. Also, where possible, support local farmers who are mindful of sustainability and are consciously reducing toxic load (pesticides, hormones, etc.).

Category 8: BioTech, because it is 2022 after all

There are things that look fancy but are just plain old expensive. There are things that we are still learning about, waiting for the evidence. And then there are technologies that are changing the way we approach our health. I include genetic testing and gut microbiome testing in this category, but in 2022, as a team, we are specifically interested in continual glucose monitoring (CGM) and heart rate variability (HRV). CGM is right up there for me because it tracks how all foods (not just the sugary ones) affect your blood sugar. HRV provides us with feedback on heart rhythm, which is closely related to your emotional state, and allows us to apply scientifically validated techniques to guide you to a state of higher coherence (in rhythm) which equates to states of peace, calm, and gratitude. In both cases, the real-time monitoring allows us to see the shifts as they occur.  

Tip: If you would like to start experimenting with HRV, try the Welltory app. I am sure they are still ironing out the technology, but it will give you an idea of the kind of data and analytics that we can start to get using just a cell phone camera and your finger. If you’re interested in longevity hacks, start following Peter Diamandis, Dave Asprey and Ben Greenfield to get a feeling of the pace of research in the anti-aging space. I don’t necessarily agree with all of their views all of the time, but they certainly have their fingers on the pulse.

Category 9: Movement, especially flexibility and strength

For beginners, 2022 is going to be the year of “just start.” In month one, commit to 15 minutes per day, choose two or three bodyweight exercises that are manageable, and surprise yourself by how many exercises you’ve completed by the end of that first month (15 minutes per day times 30 days is 450 minutes of exercise more than you would have done). For those already exercising, healthspan is all about ensuring a blend of flexibility and strength. Our preference is regular yoga together with high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Tips: (1) We’ll be running some introduction to yoga classes in 2022; and (2) If you would like a beginner’s 30-day challenge, reach out to Ryan, who is a great accountability partner and has spent a lot of time mastering the 15-minute routine.

Category 10: The pursuit of meaning

Something that always stands out for me when I’m thinking about the Blue Zones (areas in the world with the highest number of centenarians) is that researchers found that a common variable was meaning and purpose. People over 60 years old in the Blue Zones didn’t lose their sense of purpose; many continued working or spent time every week in community, with family and friends. In 2022, if you haven’t already, start thinking about mortality. Not in a morbid way, but in a way that makes you want to squeeze every last drop of experience out of this crazy little thing we call “life”. Because although life is relatively little (in the universal scheme of things), we can choose to make it immensely bigger. 

Tip: One of my favourite books is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Start here if you haven’t already read it. Also, if you’re ready to “dream and scheme” but you’re feeling stuck, chat to one of our Life Coaches who have a number of tools focused on identifying your dream and wildly improbably goals (WIGS) and then helping you create a small-step plan to start in that direction.

The Take Away

Better health doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen by catching the tail-end of whatever is trending online. It begins with understanding healthspan principles. And then – slowly – putting these principles into practice so that they become part of your life, now and always.

Come with us on a journey of healthspan this year. If you can make steady changes every month this year (and understand the principles of those changes according to the 10 healthspan categories above) imagine where you’ll be come December.