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According to the Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, this particular molecule is one of the most important molecules for life to exist. Take it away and you are dead in 30 seconds. The property we are talking about is a compound called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or what is referred to as “NAD+.” It is a molecule found in all living cells and is critical for regulating cellular aging and maintaining proper function of the entire body.

Scientists know that levels of NAD+ in both people and animals significantly diminish over time. What if an anti-aging pick-me-up of NAD+ could be formulated to increase or restore the body’s cellular levels of NAD+? Might it be our ticket to the fabled Fountain of Youth? There are many products already entering the market touting NAD+ and selling this very concept. None at present stands up to medical scrutiny.

The results of one randomized control trial were published in November 2017 in the journal Nature. Researchers found that people who took a daily supplement containing NAD+ had a substantial, sustained increase in their NAD+ levels over a two month period. The process of securing U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for this product as a drug to be prescribed by a doctor or purchased over the counter is considered years away. Part of the problem is the federal agency with oversight does not consider aging a disease. Various versions of products containing NAD+ are currently being sold as a supplement.

In the early 2000s, a demographer and physician named Giovanni Pes found remarkably low mortality rates and high life expectancies among several villages (including Tiana) located in central Sardinia. He marked each settlement on a map, eventually creating a cluster of blue marks he called a “blue zone.” This term is now applied to all areas around the globe with extraordinarily long-living populations.

Tianna lays claim to Antonio Todde, the first man in the world ever recorded to live to 110 years of age. He died in 2002, having lived to the age of 113. In finding an explanation for such longevity, Pes analyzed the population’s gene pool. He came to believe that the fundamental role of family in this village was at least equally a contributing factor in living such a long life.

What makes the Sardinian region unique is its larger-than-average population of elderly men. In Tianna, older people are welcomed home and cared for by their families as they age. Sardinia is known as an island with low income and endemic disease, yet it is unusual for older people in this region to be put into institutional care.

As well as being a core part of the household, sporting events in the main square of the village provide occasions for locals to gather with older people. The elders are a part of social networks in the community, taking part in local events; more so than older populations in other areas studied. The centenarians of Tianna were found to be in excellent health, they took little if any medication, were lucid with extremely low levels of depressive symptoms. Researchers could find no single explanation for this.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, living our lives is increasingly taking on the look of a growing health risk. The average life expectancy is dropping, a grim trend stemming from a toxic mixture of more drug and alcohol-related deaths, as well as more heart disease and obesity. The gap in life expectancy between rich and poor is widening. According to one study, if trends continue, the number of poor or nearly poor seniors will double to 4.3 million by 2022. Some studies also show retirement – that reward for all our years of labor – significantly increases the risk of a diagnosis of a chronic condition.

Living a long life should be a blessing, not a stage of life defined by loss of vigor, increasing frailty, rising disease risk, failing cognitive faculties and isolation.

Loneliness is on the rise in this country and feeling lonely has been found to increase a person’s risk of dying early by 26 percent. It is worse for the body than either obesity or air pollution. A remedy found in a recent study demonstrated that friendships, especially later in life, to be a stronger predictor of well being than even family ties.

As pointed out in a recent series of reports in Time magazine on the “Secrets of Living Longer,” the end of life is a non-negotiable thing. The quality and exact length of that life, however, is something we very much have the power to shape.

We do not have to look to a pill or a place like Sardinia to find a longer and more satisfying life. We have known the pathway for generations. Eating well and staying active, staying socially engaged, investing in and placing proper value on our relationships, staying curious and a lifelong learner, are all signposts along the way to a better longer and healthier life.

Living life with a sense of purpose is the essential ingredient. Having a sense of purpose is linked to positive health outcomes including better sleep, fewer strokes and heart attacks, and a lower risk of dementia, disability and premature death.

The challenge (and it is no small one) is in finding the discipline to do these things routinely and to ensure this pathway is available to everyone.

Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.

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