Are you truly healthy in every sense of the word? In this episode, Brian Dixon, PhD, SVP of Research and Development, goes over what it really means to be healthy, what the aging process is, life-span versus health-span, and how genetics can affect your health.

There are three major things that contribute to our healthspan. Lifestyle, environment, and your genetics, and we usually call this the rule of three. So if you think about it, 33% related to your lifestyle, 33% your environment, and then 33% is your genetics. Okay? But let me ask you a question. Can you control your lifestyle?

Flip the Health Switch: Strategies for Optimal Health Audio Transcript

Colton:

Hello and welcome to the Flip the Switch podcast. Today we have a special episode with LifeVantage’s Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Brian Dixon. Today’s episode is from a presentation Brian gave called Strategies for Optimal Health. In the presentation, he talks about what it means exactly to be healthy, the aging process, lifespan versus health span, and a lot of very interesting discoveries about genetics.

Colton:

If you like the episode or any other topic we discuss on this show, go ahead and share with your friends. With that being said, we’ll go ahead and kick it over to Brian. Enjoy.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Hey, thanks so much Colton, and good morning good afternoon everybody. I’m going to jump right in, into my presentation, and we’re just going to talk about some aspects of health. And hopefully, it’s a few things that can help empower everybody that’s out on the call.

Colton:

Sorry, a little bit of technical difficulties on my end. Let me try to fix something here.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Well, I’ll just, I’ll jump right in. So what I want to talk about today specifically are just strategies for optimal health. But I’m going to start the call by just asking the question, “Are you truly healthy and are you truly healthy in every sense of the word?”

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So what do I mean by that? If I was giving this presentation in front of a live audience, I’d ask you to raise your hand. And what’s so interesting is when I do that, the majority of the audience raises their hands. Okay? But I want to kick the tires on that just a little bit and ask, “Are you really healthy in every single way?”

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So, my background is in the aging process. I’m a molecular biologist. My graduate mentor was a biochemist. So really, we were trying to understand what was changing on a biochemical and molecular level as we got older.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But it turns out there’s another practice of aging where you’re actually looking after the elderly. So maybe as we get, especially into our advanced age, maybe we need to be institutionalized and we need these medical professionals to be looking after us.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So there’s this notion in the aging community or the gerontology community that’s known as the aging continuum. And this is especially important for those healthcare practitioners when they’re looking after our loved ones, that they need to decide and determine exactly when somebody first becomes frail or a little bit fragile, right?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Their goal is to keep everybody in optimal health. But this becomes so important in clinical practice because if somebody initially becomes frail, their goal is to drive them back to optimal health. So they want to drive them back to the left side of this continuum.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But what can happen is as the elderly slip further and further down the continuum, deeper into that fraility curve, what can happen is the medical interventions that these professionals are doing can actually do more harm than good. Okay. So they need to determine when they first need to intervene and it also becomes easier for them to drive them back to optimal health.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So let me, well, I started thinking about this in every aspect of the word and I started thinking, “This doesn’t just apply to the elderly. This can actually apply to everybody no matter what their age is.” Okay?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

And it can apply, also, no matter what health circumstance we’re talking about. So are you truly healthy in every sense of the word? And let me ask you a few questions. But what are those numbers that you’re getting back from the doctor? What are your triglycerides? What’s your cholesterol? What’s your blood pressure, right? Importantly, what’s that number that’s staring back at you on the scale, right? What’s your weight? Are you maintaining a healthy weight? And I’m going to say something that a lot of people hate to hear, but if you haven’t calculated your BMI, I would encourage you to do that. And there’s some great calculators online. I would just Google the NIH, or the National Institute of Health, NIH BMI calculator, and calculate what is your BMI.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Now, most people scoff when I say that because they hate it. But what a lot of people don’t recognize and realize is that the BMI is actually based on scientific and medical data. So they’ve looked at people’s BMIs and then they’ve calculated what is their health trajectory. And it just turns out the BMI and especially being in the healthy range will set you up for the best health circumstance especially later in life. So it’s based on science. Calculate your BMI and figure out exactly where you are.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But what can we do to set ourselves up for optimal health? And it really comes down to leading a healthy lifestyle. Okay. We have these six pillars of health at LifeVantage. So movement. I’m sorry. I wish I had better news but we still have to exercise. But this can be just simple things like stretching, walking, but then of course going to the gym, runs, etcetera, are all great for our health.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

We still have to eat our fruits and vegetables so we have to consider nutrition and no, it’s not white bread sandwiches. We need to be striving for as many fruits and vegetables as we can eat within a day.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Community. Community’s a really interesting one. There’s these pockets of longevity around the world. They call them blue zones or longevity zones. But what’s so interesting and the one thing they have in common is they all get together with friends, family and loved ones and socialize literally every day.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

One of these longevity zones is located in Italy. I don’t know if anybody’s been to Italy, but you’re hard pressed to have a dinner in under maybe four hours. So they’re getting together, laughing, joking, just being together, socializing. And it turns out that is incredibly important for health, especially as we get older.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Sleep is really this kind of new frontier. The brain is so complex. We don’t know a lot about what’s going on inside of our brains. But what is indisputable, are the links between getting enough sleep and our health trajectory. Again, especially later in life.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Mindfulness, but just think about what you’re doing every second of every day, right? If you are sitting down with your family, maybe for dinner, whatever it might be, turn the phone off, be present, be there with your family. I mean, how many of us are guilty, for example, of just driving through a fast food restaurant and just stuffing that food in our faces. We’re rushing around to our next appointment. Sit down, enjoy, appreciate the food that we’re eating. And that will also set you up for better health down the road.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

And then environment. You know, our environment that we live in is so important. So not just the outside environment. We don’t maybe have a lot of control over that, but you can control the environment inside of your homes, your apartments, your houses. There’s been studies that have been done that have shown that actually air quality inside of our homes can actually be far worse than it is outside, even on the most polluted days. Think about the products you’re using, putting on your skin. What are the dishes you’re eating out of? You know, personal philosophy of myself. I hate plastic. So we literally have zero plastic inside of our homes. We eat off of glass plates and glass cups.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So think about all of these things and these six pillars of health and when you’re doing them, that is how you’re going to set yourself up for optimal health.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So if we come back to the slide, are you truly healthy? And if you’re really honest with yourself, and truly introspective, is every single aspect of your health in optimal condition in every sense of the word? Where is every aspect of your health at on this health continuum?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So let’s put this in a little bigger context and the context of aging and probably for no other good reason then that’s just kind of what I know best. But if we look at modern societies around the world, on average right now, we’re living to be about 80 years of age. Unfortunately, for us Americans, it’s a little bit lower than 80 but just for the sake of this conversation, we’ll keep it at 80 years of age.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Look, at the start of the 1900s, so just about a hundred years ago, our average lifespan was only about 55 years of age. So think, in about a hundred years, we’ve got a 35 year, excuse me, 25 year. No, I’m terrible at math. 25 year increase in our lifespan. This is no doubt due to increases in sanitation, medicine, but also nutrition, right?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So a hundred years, we’ve gained this, and it took us about that same 25 years to get that similar increase in about a thousand years. So most experts agree that the average lifespan was about 30 at the start of our modern calendar, the year zero. So it took a thousand years to get a 25 year increase. And in just the last hundred or so years, we’ve got that additional 25 year increase in lifespan.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But I’m sure there’s some young people on this webinar right now and you might think, who’s this guy, he’s not talking to me, but you might be surprised to see how early in our lives the aging process actually begins. On that biochemical and molecular level, we can start to measure things changing as we get older, as early as our 20s and especially into our 30s.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But then look at the slide on the screen. We can even start to measure physiological consequences occurring in our 20s, 30s and especially into our 40s. So look, our ears, heart and lungs, their function starts to decline in our early 20s.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Have you ever wondered why most elite athletes around the world are in their 20s? I mean, there’s some exceptions to the rules, but it’s so rare that there’s a professional or elite, an Olympic athlete, in their 30s and especially their 40s and that’s because in your 20s you are in peak physical performance.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

We can look at our bones and muscles from the age of about 35 to 40. We start to lose bone mass and lean muscle from our skeletons. So there’s really nothing you can do. What we want to do is, especially early on in life, we want to get as much lean muscle added up. We want to build strong bones, especially when we’re young. And then when we hit our 30 or 35 or 40 year range, we want to do everything we can to minimize that loss that occurs.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

And then just one more maybe sad fact, but our brain, right, our reaction time, literally slows every year from the age of 18 on. So aging starts actually very, very early and the sooner we can intervene in this, the better we can set ourselves up, especially later in life.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

And the fact the matter is, it gets increasingly more difficult to maintain our health as we get older. In fact, this gets especially challenging in the last 10 years of our lives. If we are looking at modern societies around the world and healthcare costs, it’s these last 10 years of our lives where we are accruing the majority of healthcare costs around the world. And quite frankly, if we do not do something about this, it will bankrupt even the richest countries in the world. Healthcare costs right now are just running away.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

The point I want to make by telling you all of this is that lifespan, quite frankly, is outpacing health span. So if we take that 10 year data that I just gave you, right, that we’re accruing the majority of healthcare costs in our last 10 years and I were to put that on this graph, it’s literally setting us back 50 years in all the advances that we made. So our health span, right, that period of time in our lives when we’re living as healthy as possible is significantly shorter than our lifespans. And what we need to be thinking about specifically is how we can shorten that gap between health span and lifespan.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Quite frankly, we are living too much of our lives living in the wrong portions of this health continuum. And so this is why it’s so important to be introspective, be honest with yourselves and where are you at in every aspect of your health?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So maybe that’s some of the bad news in the setup, but let me ask everybody on this webinar, do you control your health span? Do you have any control or is it just like you’ve sat down at a poker table and you have to play the cards that you were dealt or is there something you can do?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So generally speaking, there are three major things that contribute to our health span. Lifestyle, environment, and your genetics, and we usually call this the rule of three. So if you think about it, 33% related to your lifestyle, 33% your environment, and then 33% is your genetics. Okay? But let me ask you a question. Can you control your lifestyle?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Every single person should be nodding their head yes. Absolutely, you can control your lifestyle. How about your environment? Can you control your environment? You know, maybe it gets a little bit harder. Maybe we have family ties, job ties that might make it hard to move geographically someplace else. But again, you can control your very local environment. What’s going on of your house? What are the products you’re using to clean your home? To clean yourselves? What about genetics? Can you control your genetics? Now again, my experience is most people say no, but I’m going to show you some interesting data to talk about this.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But let’s first take a step back. Let’s talk about lifestyle and I want to show you some data that shows you can absolutely control your lifestyle. So this was a study that was done, gosh, just about 20 years ago by professor Walt Willett, who’s at the Harvard School of Public Health. He’s an epidemiologist. So he’s very good at looking at populations of people. Looking at their lifestyles and initially determining are these things that these people are doing actually shortening their lifespans?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So what Dr. Willett did in this study was actually turned his models on their heads and ask the question, if people were living a healthy lifestyle, could they actually improve their health span? Okay.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So on the bottom it’s obviously very generic. It just says condition one, two, three, four. It doesn’t matter what these conditions are. I mean, and legally I can’t tell you what they are, but you can probably guess. These are the most important conditions that are affecting, especially our health span.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But Dr. Willett did these interventions and looked at people that were living a healthy lifestyle that included diet, exercise, lifestyle modifications and nutritional modifications including some nutritional supplementation. And he found that in these first two conditions they were over 70% avoidable, meaning they were able to maintain their health in these cases. Condition three, over 80% preventable. And then that last condition, condition number four, was almost 100% avoidable, meaning they were able to maintain health if they were willing to lead this healthy lifestyle. And that last one, just so you know, is one that’s related to carrying around too much weight and why it’s so important that we’re maintaining that healthy BMI.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Let me do a little thought experiment with you. It’s literally never too late to intervene in your health. So I love to garden. We’ve got plants around our house. Here’s a nice healthy plant. But if I stopped taking care of this plant, maybe stop watering it, stop fertilizing it, stop playing Beethoven for it, whatever it might be. If I just start neglecting this plant, what’s that plant going to look like? The flowers are going to start to wilt, maybe the leaves will start to sag a little bit, but if I turned my full attention back to that plant and I start pouring water, fertilizer, love back onto that, can I nurse it back to health? Absolutely, I can. I can bring that plant back to optimal health.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But let’s say I continue to neglect this plant. I don’t intervene soon. What’s that plant going to look like? Maybe I neglect it for another week, another two weeks, another month. Eventually the plant is going to die. No amount of love, water, fertilizer is going to bring that plant back to life and optimal health.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So the point being, the sooner we can identify when things are falling out of maybe optimal health and we can intervene, the easier it is to bring ourselves back to optimal health.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So I don’t know why what’s so intuitive for plants isn’t exactly as intuitive as it is for humans. Okay. Our cells, our bodies are in this constant state of turnover. The cells in our digestive tract, for example, turnover every three to five days. Our skin cells are turning over about every 28 days. Our blood is turning over every three to six months. And even something that we think is incredibly static, right, being our skeleton, is even turning over between every two to about 10 or 12 years depending on how old we are. So we’re turning over and again, it’s literally never too late to intervene in your health. Okay.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So that’s why lifestyle is so important. How about your environment? Scientists love to do these studies called immigration studies. So they will look at places around the world that maybe have a low rate of some condition. And again, it doesn’t literally matter which condition we’re talking about. These studies have been repeated over and over and over again with all different sorts of things.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So in this example, what they’ve done is they’ve looked at people who were born actually in China. They have an incredibly low rate for this condition. Now when they move just a little bit south down into Singapore, their rate for this condition goes up by about 10 fold, 10 fold. So as they’re adopting these mostly lifestyle and diet from the country that they’re in, it is negatively impacting their health. And then if they move even just a little bit further to Australia, or the data’s very similar for the United States and Europe, but if they move a little bit more south to Australia, their rate goes up by about another four times. Oh, it’s unbelievable. Right? And then if you happen to look like me, born in the United States, my rate for this condition is astronomical. Now, that’s very clear evidence that the environment we’re living in is affecting your health.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Now what about your genetics? Most people are pretty skeptical that there’s anything that we can do to affect our genetics. But let’s talk about this for a second.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Does everybody recognize who this is? It’s Dolly the sheep. And why Dolly the sheep was so important is that she was the first ever cloned animal. So most of us know Dolly. But how about this kitty cat? This little kitten on the screen. Anybody know her name? She’s far less famous, but it’s probably had a bigger impact on genetics than even Dolly the sheep has, and her name is CC, which stands for copy cat. I mean, scientists aren’t very creative when they’re coming up with these names.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So CC was actually the product of a company located in California. And I’ll just warn you, there’s a couple bad science jokes coming. The name of this company was called Genetic Savings and Clone. Now, the business model for this company was that we love our animals, our cats, and our dogs so much that we’ll do anything to keep them around literally forever.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So what this company would do, would go take a DNA sample when fluffy was still alive. They would put her DNA in the freezer and then when fluffy passed away, they would pull that DNA out of the freezer, clone fluffy, and then you’d have her right back.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But do you see a problem if CC, the kitten on the screen, is supposed to be a clone of her mother that’s behind her? They don’t look the same. If you paid thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars to have fluffy cloned, would you be a little pissed if they gave you that cat? And you say, this isn’t mine, this isn’t Fluffy.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So these scientists wanted to figure out what was going on in this case. So they looked at the DNA and sure enough they found that these two cats had the exact primary DNA sequence. So CC literally single handedly started this field of genetics that’s known as epigenetics.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So it turns out that there’s a chemical code that lives on top of your DNA code that is more important to determine which genes are turned on and which genes are turned off. So CC’s epigenetic code was much different than her mother’s and is exactly why she looks different.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

Okay. So now I want to show you a picture of two identical twin sisters. You ready? What? These are mice. Yes, they’re mice, but scientifically speaking, these are identical twin sisters. They were born from different mothers, but the scientists like to do, they try to standardize everything in their experimental models. So these mice are genetically exactly the same. The difference is that mouse that’s blonde and overweight was born from a mother when she was pregnant, was not allowed to exercise and ate an unhealthy mouse diet. The mouse on the right, the lean dark haired mouse, her mother was fed a healthy mouse diet and was allowed to exercise. And I don’t mean just forced to exercise. All they did was put a wheel inside of her cage and let her run just whenever she wanted. Voluntary exercise.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

The lifestyle that you’re living is affecting our offspring. And what else is so interesting about this is that they have come to figure out that this epigenetic code can also be passed on generation to generation to generation. So for me, how scary is it to think that how my grandmother and her mother were living their lives is affecting my health outcome?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So you might be thinking to yourself, okay Brian, I’m not a sheep, not a cat. Definitely not a mouse. Is something similar happening in the human condition? And the answer is absolutely yes. So here’s just one study that illustrates this point.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

This is from identical twins. And they looked at this epigenetic code in these twins when they were three years old and then again 47 years later when they were 50 years old. So the details here aren’t super important, but can you see with the chart on the left, how most of those lines are lining up? When they came back 47 years later and they measured that epigenetic code, can you see now how the lines are very different between these two twins? As these two individuals went off and led their separate lives, their lifestyle was affecting that epigenetic code.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

But this isn’t the only way that we can affect our genetics. What about Nutrogenomix? So I spoke about Nutrogenomix last week and I encourage you to go maybe listen to that call if you want to hear more about Nutrogenomix. We’re not going to talk a ton about it today, but it turns out there are ways we can affect how our genes are being expressed by simple nutritional interventions.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So literally we can use nutrition to flip these genetic switches of so-called health genes, survival genes, anti-stress genes, adapted genes, whatever you want to call them. We can target these genes by utilizing simple nutritional interventions. Okay.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So that was just a quick run through of the science that you actually do literally have full executive control over your health span if you’re willing to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

And so to break it down even more simply, I kind of, I love this slide. So you are what you eat. I think we’ve all heard that for a number of years, but you are also a product of your exposure. So whether it’s environmental or the things we’re doing inside of our home, but then also very importantly, not only, you’re not a product of your genes, you’re a product of the expression of those genes and which genes are turned off and on.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So again, you literally have full control of your health and your health span. And quite simply put, health is a function of how we are living our lives.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So I don’t care where you’re at, right? If I want to build a skyscraper or if I want to build a nice cozy home, it doesn’t matter. I need to get the foundation right. If I don’t get the foundation right, I can’t build a skyscraper and I can’t build a nice cozy home. I don’t care if you’re an elite athlete, a weekend warrior or somebody who just wants to get comfortable in their health, you have to get your foundation right.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

And again, that starts with these six pillars of health. So check in. What are you doing in every aspect of your lives? Are you leading a healthy lifestyle? It’s when you’re doing that, you’re setting yourself up for optimal health, it’s then and only then does it make sense to add a new nutritional supplement onto that regime. Quite frankly, supplements are meant to compliment the healthy lifestyle and can then help set you up for even better health down the road.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So again, I’ll ask you, are you truly healthy in every sense of the word or might there be some things that you can do to actually take charge, take ownership. Are you going to commit to doing some things?

Brian Dixon, PhD:

So I want you to do a little homework. You can mention it in the chat here. You can text your friend, email a friend, write it down, but I want each of you to commit to one thing that you’re going to do in your lives to help maintain your health for as long as possible. Are you going to commit to going for a walk every single day and it doesn’t have to be heroic. It can be 15 to 30 minutes. It will change your health trajectory. Build up to an hour. Are you going to commit to going for a run or to the gym the majority of the days of the week? Are you going to try to eat healthier? Are you going to eat healthy meats and protein sources? Are you going to eat more fruits and vegetables? Maybe you’ll take an entire meal if not an entire day to maybe eat plant based. What are you going to do? Are you going to commit to taking your supplements every single day? What is the one thing you can do to start improving your health and improve your health span? Okay.

Brian Dixon, PhD:

The reason this is so important is because they will become habits. And quite frankly, healthy habits increase health. And more than that, they snowball. When you start with one healthy habit, all of a sudden you’ll find yourself wanting to do another healthy habit and then another healthy habit and before long, day by day, these healthy habits become second nature and I promise you that they will improve your physical condition.

Colton:

Thanks for listening to Flip the Switch, a podcast by LifeVantage. The views expressed in this podcast are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LifeVantage or any other agency, organization, employer or company. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products were not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent any disease. The employee product experiences shared in this podcast are unique to the individual sharing his or her experiences and are not a guarantee that any consumer will experience the same product results or benefits. If you have any questions about whether or not any LifeVantage product is a product you can take, consult with your healthcare provider.