Updated: 5 days ago
Benjamin Franklin: “Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vices”
- Poor Richards Almanac
The best way to maximize longevity in 2023 is not a drug, supplement, or other high tech therapeutic; its Lifestyle medicine.
Wonder Medicine specializes in the translation of longevity technologies into clinical practice. This includes things like rapamycin, exosomes, and metformin. But we would be misguiding you if we did not focus, first and foremost, on lifestyle.
What is Lifestyle Medicine?
Per the American College of Preventative Medicine: Lifestyle medicine is a medical approach that uses evidence-based behavioral interventions to prevent, treat and manage chronic disease.
I would take this a step further even. For me, Lifestyle includes:
4. The People Around Us
With environment being particularly relevant and underappreciated in most medical settings. These 4 things drive both health and un-health. By optimizing these four things, a person can greatly extend both lifespan and health span.
Focusing on behaviors alone, will not be enough. This may be why conventional medicine downplays lifestyle changes. If you only address behaviors, changes don’t happen, and as such, the strategy fails.
But this is a shame because lifestyle changes are the only definitively proven way to extend the length of human life in 2023. From epidemiological studies, it appears that people who live a healthy lifestyle can add approximately twelve years to their life (range: 5-15 years).
Death at 88 instead of 76 years, most often accompanied by contraction of morbidity.
Morbidity definition: the condition of suffering from a disease or medical condition
Contraction of Morbidity definition: Shortening the amount of time an individual spends living with significant disease and/or disability. For instance, The 76 year old might spend 15 years living with significant disease before dying. Meanwhile the 88-year-old may spend only 2 years living with disease before passing away. This is contraction of morbidity.
I think many of the wisest figures in history would be absolutely appalled if they saw how the average person is living in 2023. The way most of us are squandering our lives and our bodies is appalling. So, what would Benjamin Franklin, United States founding father, the face of the one-hundred-dollar bill, renaissance man, and one of humanities intellectual giants say?
Well Let's get back to time.
Benjamin Franklin: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time. For that’s the stuff life is made of.”
Twelve good years are worth going after. Especially considering that you will feel better and function much better every year of your life leading up to these additional twelve years. If you are not investing in yourself, what are you investing in?
Most people are in denial about the harmful life they are living.
Again, Benjamin Franklin
“Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults”
But it’s usually not our enemies telling us our faults. It’s our loved ones. If a person loves you, cares about you, and wants the best for you, then why would you not believe them when they tell you a behavior is harmful. Yet, I see this all the time from people. They don’t believe their spouse, parent, sibling, etcetera. It is painful to watch how distorted a person’s thinking and logic can become. Listen to your loved ones and your enemies. As Buddha says: “Listen Better”
At Wonder Medicine, we believe that the right inputs generate the most optimal outputs. For this reason, we have developed:
the Twelve Pillars of Health.
By optimizing these pillars, a person will greatly improve the probability of health, longevity, optimal performance, and life fulfillment. But if even one of the twelve pillars is not optimized, disease, disability, and emotional dysregulation can take hold.
Full disclosure: I am a hypocrite. I break all 12 of these pillars from time to time. Sometimes even epically. Accomplishing incredible things, and sometimes even just having an amazing time, takes sacrifice. Sometimes, even health must be sacrificed. But health and longevity are a long game. Do the right stuff as much of the time as you can. Don’t sweat the occasional deviation, bender, or bad day.
12 Pillars of Health
This overview of the 12 pillars will be brief. We will do a dedicated podcast on each individually.
- Give yourself 8 hours of time to sleep every night.
Benjamin Franklin: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”
Aka: get to sleep, get up, and get to work!
Recently I stayed up all night to finish a grant. My kids keep my wife and I up all night occasionally. But as much as you can, make sleep a priority! Sleep is your most powerful tool to combat dementia, heal your body, brain, and balance your emotions.
- Eat real food. Consume adequate protein to maintain strength and muscle mass.
Benjamin Franklin: “Pay attention to your weight and head what you eat”
“In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires.” Poor Richards Almanac, published 1732.
3. Exercise and Movement
- Move by design, perform restorative exercise for posture and alignment, do cardiovascular exercise, strength train your muscles, and avoid injury.
Benjamin Franklin was an athlete. He is a member of the international swimming hall of fame. An avid swimmer at a time when most did not know how to swim. Franklin believed exercise could ward off disease…..he was right.
4. Cognitive challenge
- Acquire knowledge, change your mind, and learn new skills throughout life.
Franklin Was a polymath. An individual whose knowledge spans a number of subjects: Science, engineering, philosophy, writing, diplomacy, and more.
Benjamin Franklin: “when you are finished changing, you’re finished”.
So powerful! Lifestyle Medicine is all about change.
5. Moderation of Addictions (Vices)
- Enjoy pleasures in moderation. Stop bad habits.
Moderation is one of Franklins 13 virtues. Like me Franklin is a hypocrite, he broke these virtues all the time, particularly temperance. But having a core framework (call it pillars or virtues) to anchor your thoughts and behaviors to is needed to know when you are deviating from the ideal.
6. Meaningful relationships
- Invest in existing relationships. Make new relationships throughout life. Distance yourself from toxic relationships.
Benjamin Franklin: “A true friend is the best possession”; “when you are good to others, you are best to yourself”
7. Purpose, Spirituality, and Philanthropy
- Find your why and your purpose. Add value to people, society, and the environment.
Benjamin Franklin “Hide not your Talents, they for use were made. What’s a Sun-Dial in the shade!”…..Benjamin Franklin gave the world so much. Talk about giving back.
8. Stress Reduction and Positive Thinking
- Find healthy ways to manage and deal with life stressors. Think positively and constructively.
Benjamin Franklin “Present your thoughts not as ultimatums but as suggestions to be considered.”
Ultimatum definition: a final demand or statement of terms. The rejection of which will result in retaliation or a breakdown in relations
“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”
9. Structure and balance
- Seek balance in work, life, and play. Take on meaningful work and projects that contribute to the greater good.
Franklin 13 Virtues: Order: “Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its times.
10. Earth and Exposure
- Spend time in nature, contact the earth, expose yourself to the elements, feel
the sun’s rays, and protect Earth, our home, and its resources.
Benjamin Franklin is sometimes called Americas first environmentalist. He prevented factories from dumping waste into the river, worked to reduce smog, protected forests, and greatly valued natural resources.
11. Environment, Safety, and Security
- Surround yourself with good people in a healthy, toxin-free, safe, and secure
Benjamin Franklin: “He that lies down with the dogs, shall rise up with the fleas”
This means if you surround yourself with bad people you will become one.
- Obtain financial, medical, legal, human, and security resources for now and in the future. Plan ahead for the hard times to come.
Benjamin Franklin, “when the well is dry, we know the value of water”
So from Benjamin Franklin’s writings it is apparent that he is on board with the 12 pillars of health and you should be too. Work towards optimizing these things, and your life will get better.
How to make change?
Make Changes Methodically and Deliberatively
Methodically – use a method
Decide what high-level, foundational changes are needed to facilitate the biggest positive effects. For instance:
Is your living situation unhealthy, then move?
Are there people in your life that need to be more present or removed entirely. Get the bad people out and the good people in.
Do you need a job or career change for your life to align with your purpose? Then change jobs
Do you struggle from an addiction that is eroding all of the other 12 pillars and must be dealt with first to progress? Then find something more valuable to you then the addiction and quit.
Start by making the high-level, foundational changes. Move, change jobs, get the bad people out of your life, and stop the really bad behaviors. Other smaller changes will usually follow with minimal effort.
Deliberately – with intention
Always make changes with intention. Think about what you will get and the life you will have. Never focus on what you are giving up. Additionally, try hard to avoid distorted reasoning. Distorted reasoning is when we bend the truth to fit our hedonic desires and current comfort zone.
For instance, sweets make me happy and happiness is important. Maybe. But if you suffer from morbid obesity or debilitating metabolic syndrome, I would greatly question what you mean by happiness. In the moment, happiness is more aptly described as immediate pleasure.
A good way to avoid distorted reasoning is to ask your closest friends, loved ones, and other outsiders (people that are not you) what they think… AND ACTUALLY LISTEN (Buddha – “Listen Better”). A 92-year-old recovered alcoholic patient once told me, “only one person in my town of 4,000 people did not realize I was an alcoholic. That one person was me”.
Making life changes is difficult. Humans are creatures of habit. Additionally, distorted reasoning is often deeply engrained. Most people find data or information that fits the narrative they keep telling themselves. They build intricate webs of distorted thoughts, hollow justifications, unlimited excuses, and unhealthy defense mechanisms. This is why good friends, family, a solid healthcare team, and sometimes even therapeutics that improve neuroplasticity such as ketamine, classic entheogens like psilocybin, and MDMA can be so valuable. When used in a therapeutic setting that is.
- The longer you perform a behavior the more ingrained it becomes.
- Good behaviors can become just as addictive as bad behaviors over time.
Some people are in full denial about things that need to change. In this instance, awareness is the first step. Others know what they need to do. But they lack the operational skills or their environment is too abrasive to make the change.
Everyone can change at any point in life. Sometimes help is needed though.
This is where a program and multi-disciplinary team like Wonder Medicine’s Longevity and Performance Program can be so helpful. Operationalizing healthy change is what we do. If you need help, reach out to us.
Final piece of wisdom from Ben Franklin: “Wish not so much to live long as to live well”
Wonder Medicine’s Longevity and Performance Program improves your lifespan and healthspan with a research-driven proactive program that focuses on the big picture of your health so you can perform at your highest potential.