What’s the secret to longevity? Unless you believe the Fountain of Youth is the answer, you probably realize that living a long, healthy life involves many factors, at the center of which is close attention to diet and the nutrients you take in. As women enter perimenopause and then their menopause years that attention often becomes more focused as they not only become more aware of the impact of nutrition on this phase of their lives but on longevity as well.
The word longevity means “living a longer and healthier life.” It is effected by diet, use of illicit drugs and nicotine, alcohol use, exercise, sleep, and chronic stress. If you adhere to healthy lifestyle habits, your chances of achieving longevity are improved. To improve your chances even more, it may help to include some outside assistance, which is why we’re going to talk about the best supplements for longevity.
Why do you need supplements?
Even if you are meticulous about your diet, exercise, exposure to toxins, managing stress, and sleep, you can’t control every aspect of your life and environment. That’s why introducing certain vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and more that have been shown to play a positive role in longevity may be a significant boost to your health and overall well-being.
For example, adequate sleep is critical for longevity and overall health, yet women in perimenopause and menopause often experience sleep issues related to stress and anxiety. The supplement Sleepus contains ingredients that regulate cortisol (Lactium), help you relax (L-theanine), improve sleep quality (magnesium bisglycinate chelate), and help you sleep longer (melatonin). This is just one example of a supplement that can support longevity.
In 2006, a prominent researcher and biochemist named Bruce Ames, PhD, presented his hypothesis about longevity nutrients called the Triage Theory. He proposed that when the levels of certain nutrients are low in the body, it must decide where to send what remains.
If a woman in menopause doesn’t consume enough calcium, for example, her body must decide where to send this mineral. Osteoporosis is a significant risk at this stage of life and bones need the calcium, but is that where it will be allocated? According to Ames, if individuals keep their nutrients at healthy levels, the body will not have to make such decisions. Nutritious food choices and the judicious use of supplements can help women achieve those healthy levels and support longevity.
Consider your efforts to follow a nutritious diet. Plants get their nutrients primarily from the soil. Generally, the healthier the soil, the more nutrients in the plants. (This is a major reason why organic produce is recommended.) But the nutritional value of plants can vary considerably, even among tomatoes from one farm to another. Environmental toxins, food additives, home cleaning and personal care products, furniture, plastics, gasoline, paints, and many more common items stress the body. Poor sleep and anxiety can blunt immune response. Family, social, and work obligations can alter your routines and result in chronic stress.
All of these factors and more can divert even the most dedicated individual from following healthy habits. Adding supplements to your life can help with deficiencies, support optimal functioning, and promote longevity.
Longevity and menopause
A 2016 study looked at the association between longevity, late menopause, and late menarche. Data from the more than 16,200 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) were analyzed. The authors found that women who started menstruation at age 12 years or older had a slightly greater odds of longevity than those who started earlier. However, women who reached menopause (natural or surgical) at ages 50 to 54 and at least 55 years were significantly more likely to live longer than women who reached this milestone younger than 40.
One reason for better longevity among women in later menopause is a lower risk of cardiovascular disease among these women compared with those who reached menopause earlier. Women who reach menopause later also are less likely to be smokers and to have age-related diseases.
Supplements for longevity
The following supplements are among those experts have recognized as supporting optimal bodily functions and perhaps enhancing longevity. Women in perimenopause and menopause will likely recognize that the benefits of these supplements are among the most desirable for making the transitional years healthier, smoother, and more enjoyable.
Vitamin D for Longevity
Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone) is called the sunshine vitamin because the body can synthesize it when the skin is exposed to sunlight. The general recommendation is about 20 minutes of direct sunlight exposure (no use of sunscreen) four to five days a week, although the exact amount of time depends on the intensity of the sunlight, skin color, and a few other factors. Food sources include fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, beef liver, cheese, and fortified foods.
Vitamin D’s link to longevity is its ability to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions that can shorten your life. The vitamin also supports calcium absorption to strengthen bones, which can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. It boosts immune function by aiding the fight against pathogens, and there is also evidence that vitamin D plays a significant role in cognitive function and mental decline, including dementia and mood disorders, which impact lifespan.
Many people are low or deficient in vitamin D, so before you take a vitamin D supplement, you should get a simple blood test to identify your vitamin D levels. Then your doctor can recommend the best dosage for you.
Vitamin C for Longevity
Did your mother always tell you to take vitamin C when you felt a cold coming on? That’s because this nutrient is a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals and helps ward off viruses and damage to your cells. The power of vitamin C doesn’t end there, however. The greater risk of cardiovascular disease among women in menopause may be reduced by ensuring you get enough vitamin C. It has the ability to lower blood pressure, shield against ultraviolet rays and thus protect the skin, engage in skin repair, and boost the synthesis of collagen, which is essential for maintaining skin and connective tissue vitality and even promoting skin health and reducing the signs of aging.
The RDA of vitamin C for women is 75 mg/day. Some of the best food sources are bell peppers, all green vegetables, citrus fruits, berries, pineapple, papaya, tomatoes, and kiwi.
Vitamin E for Longevity
This fat-soluble vitamin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that benefits heart health and may reduce cardiovascular risk, which helps with longevity. In a 2022 study, for example, the authors concluded that “the data so far reported did not reject the hypothesis that vitamin E or other antioxidants may prevent atherosclerosis and its complications” and that the best candidates are individuals “with low vitamin levels.”
Vitamin E also offers protection against cancer. In a 2020 review that looked at both human and lab studies, researchers compared the cancer-prevention activities of the two forms of vitamin E: tocopherols and tocotrienols. They reported higher cancer-prevention activity among tocotrienols.
The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams (22.4 International Units). The Toco-E supplement provides tocotrienols that can support cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Foods that provide good amounts of vitamin E include seeds, nuts (especially almonds), broccoli, spinach, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin K for Longevity
One of the main benefits of vitamin K for women in menopause is its ability to make bones stronger by promoting bone mineralization and thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis and life-altering fractures. Adequate vitamin K is also helpful for lowering the risks of cardiovascular disease, guarding against excessive bleeding during surgery or trauma, and making sure the blood clots effectively.
The RDA for vitamin K is 90 to 120 micrograms daily. Food sources include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cereals, eggs, blueberries, and figs. Look for vitamin K2 (menaquinone-4, menaquinone-7) supplements.
Vitamin B12 for Longevity
This B vitamin has a significant impact on brain and nerve health, which makes it essential for maintaining cognitive function and reducing the risk of neurological conditions, both of which affect longevity. B12 is also essential for forming red blood cells. A deficiency of vitamin B12 is associated with anemia and its symptoms of weakness and fatigue.
The RDA for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms. The best food sources are animal foods, fortified cereals and plant-based beverages, and nutritional yeast.
Melatonin for Longevity
Although known for its ability to help with sleep problems, melatonin is also being called the “next vitamin D” because both of these hormones have similar impacts on health. Melatonin plays a significant role in supporting immune health and has “widespread effects on multiple systems” throughout the body because of its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Magnesium for Longevity
This mineral is involved in more than 300 biochemical activities in the body. This wide-reaching impact on health makes it a good candidate for aiding longevity. Among its many roles are protecting heart health by reducing high blood pressure and regulating heart rhythms and in controlling blood sugar. It also plays a significant part in bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis, assisting nerve function, and producing energy.
The RDA for magnesium in women is 310 milligrams, although some women may need more. Dietary sources include leafy green veggies, avocado, bananas, dark chocolate, nuts (especially almonds), seeds (especially pumpkin), and whole grains. An excellent magnesium supplement that is easy on your stomach and fast acting is magnesium bisglycinate chelate. Just 300 mg daily as part of a healthy diet can contribute to longevity.
Zinc for Longevity
The most important roles for zinc in longevity are its ability to protect the immune system, ensure healthy cell function, speed up wound healing, protect skin health, and support DNA synthesis. Research indicates that it may be involved in preventing diseases and other health issues associated with aging. Your best sources of zinc include shellfish, red meat, legumes, nuts, dairy, eggs, and seeds. The RDA is 8 milligrams for women.
Selenium for Longevity
This mineral has compounds that impact optimal health and healthy aging. The primary compounds are selenoproteins, but it also has other elements that support longevity. Research has shown that older adults with the highest levels of selenium were more likely to be alive at the end of a nine-year study while the risk of dying was 54 percent greater among those with the lowest selenium levels.
The RDA for selenium is 55 micrograms for women. You can get about ten times your daily selenium needs from just 6 to 8 Brazil nuts. Other more modest sources of selenium include tuna, halibut, turkey, shrimp, cottage cheese, brown rice, sardines, eggs, and baked beans.
Carotenoids for Longevity
Dr. Ames stresses the importance of carotenoids for longevity, noting that “there is good evidence that these carotenoids help optimize a healthy lifespan” while low levels are associated with various life-limiting conditions. The carotenoids he recommends are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. Numerous carotenoid supplements are available from different suppliers. Except for beta-carotene, there are no Daily Values established for carotenoids.
Omega-3 fatty acids for Longevity
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from marine sources (e.g., sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon) has been associated with increased longevity. For example, in a study of nearly 2,700 older adults, those who had high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids showed a 40 percent reduce risk of death from coronary heart disease, 35 percent reduced risk of dying of heart disease, and a 27 percent lower risk of dying of any cause. In addition, their lifespan was 2.2 years longer than those with the lowest blood levels.
Other longevity nutrients
Dr. Ames also mentions several other nutrients important for longevity. All are found in some foods and available as supplements.
- Ergothioneine is a powerful antioxidant amino acid found in mushrooms, black beans, oat bran, liver, and kidney beans.
- Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is also associated with promoting energy and healthy aging. It is found in fruits and vegetables such as celery, green peppers, spinach, papaya, and kiwi.
- Queuine is a micronutrient found in tomatoes, cow and goat milk, coconut water, and wheat.
Is there a secret to longevity? A focused process of providing your body with a balanced diet and adhering to critical lifestyle habits (e.g., exercise, sleep, stress management, and so on) is the basis. The addition of longevity supplements that support a longer, healthier lifespan could be considered the “secret” that many people are missing.