This actress started a podcast to find out how to age well
When Melanie Avalon, 32, decided on a career in acting, she was well aware of the expectation for women in her industry to look youthful forever, so she began looking for ways to turn back the clock.
“I’ve been doing ‘biohacking’ before it was really a thing, like way back when I was in college,” she says. Avalon was absorbed in all things health and wellness, including dietary changes like intermittent fasting.
But after college, Avalon was faced with health issues, like chronic fatigue from black mold exposure and a hypothyroidism diagnosis, that prompted her to start looking for ways to feel better physically.
This inevitably led her to a new venture, “The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast,” where she interviews longevity experts about healthy aging.
“Honestly, the anti-aging piece is pretty selfish. I was doing a lot of acting and I’ve always been haunted by fears of getting old, and so, I’ve always been really interested in longevity from that perspective,” she tells CNBC Make It.
“I thought that a biohacking podcast would be the perfect platform to actually connect with all of these authors, doctors [and] researchers and ask them all of my questions, and share what I’ve learned with other people.”
188 episodes later, here’s what Avalon has learned from experienced longevity experts she’s interviewed about healthy aging.
Getting enough sleep is ‘the cornerstone of a healthy life’
“A lot of stuff involving sleep is really consistent, and I do think addressing your sleep is the cornerstone of a healthy life, anti-aging [and] longevity,” says Avalon.
Some tips for better sleep that Avalon has heard from multiple experts are:
- Wearing blue-light glasses at night while looking at screens: “You can actually make your body in tune with a more natural rhythm,” she says.
- Keeping your bedroom really dark and cool
- Limiting social media use before bed
Exposure to extreme heat and cold could impact how you age
In conversations with researchers and experts, Avalon says, exposure to extreme heat and cold was often mentioned.
“Before our modern lifestyle, we were exposed to extreme temperatures, and that actually has an anti-aging effect because it activates cellular pathways and stress signals that create reparative modes in our body,” she adds.
Saunas activate heat shock proteins that may extend your healthspan and benefit cardiovascular health, according to a 2021 systematic review published in the journal Elsevier.
“On the flip side, cold exposure is good for inflammation. It can activate something called ‘brown fat’ [brown adipose tissue] which is actually a type of fat that burns energy and is good for weight loss and body composition,” says Avalon.
Researchers at Rutgers University-New Jersey Medical School made brown adipose tissue more active in mice and found that their lifespan increased. More research is required on how this translates for humans.
Cold exposure can be achieved in a number of ways including:
- Going outside in cold weather
- Taking cold showers
‘Moderate alcohol intake is probably better than complete abstinence’
“If you have a thesis about alcohol and health, and you want to make a case either way, like you want to say it’s the worst thing ever or it’s the elixir of longevity, I promise you can find 100 studies to make your point on either side of the spectrum,” says Avalon.
For her podcast, she brings on people of all different opinions, and “alcohol is consistently a J-shaped curve,” she says. When you examine the blue zones, populations with the highest rates of living to 100 and the highest middle-age life expectancies, nearly all of them incorporate alcohol in their diet to some capacity, she notes.
“For most people,” Avalon says, “it seems that a little bit or moderate alcohol intake is probably better than complete abstinence, and definitely better than extreme drinking, for longevity.”
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