Dr. Halland Chen, “The Longevity Doctor,” Explains How We Can Live Longer, Healthier Lives

By Jess Novak
|
March 24, 2022
Dr. Halland Chen
Image credit: Dr. Halland Chen

This week, we had the good fortune to interview Halland Chen, M.D., aka “The Longevity Doctor,” a double board-certified physician and expert in the field of regenerative medicine. Dr. Halland’s practice is focused on proactive medicine for people of all ages and lifestyles, and he is renowned for helping people live longer, healthier lives. We asked him for his best advice on what we can do at home to increase our longevity, what technological treatments he most recommends, and where he thinks the future of this exciting field is headed.

Are there any daily practices or habits you recommend people adopt to extend their lifespan? 

Becoming superhuman can start with simple things like developing a consistent bedtime. Good sleep is literally the number one thing individuals can do for themselves. While our brains sleep, our bodies are able to clear out harmful toxins, a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, according to recent research studies. During our sleep cycles, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically, washing away harmful waste proteins that build up between brain cells during waking hours. The fluid that is present in the brain and spinal cord is called the cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid washes in and out, like waves, helping the brain get rid of accumulated metabolic “trash” through a process via the glymphatic system in the brain. Sleep hygiene is a key factor on why our quality of life can affect our quantity of life, so it’s a good idea to set a schedule.  

The average lifespan of U.S. citizens is currently about 79 years old — about three years less than Canada, and two less than the UK. Do you think that number is going to increase, and if so, how and when? 

Right now in the U.S., our soil health isn’t ideal, and soil health directly impacts gut health. When we think of the gut, we are talking about the microbiome which heavily influences how our body absorbs foods, produces peptides for the body, and many other critical cellular processes that are key for living healthily. Processed foods and environmental impacts have diminished how we excel in our health by affecting our nutrition and disrupting the good — as opposed to  bad — bacteria populations in our gut. These imbalances, known as “dysbiosis,” can significantly affect our mood, energy levels, and ability to recover or heal. As advanced as the U.S. is in Western medical practices, sometimes we should focus on traditional practices we can control at home, like building healthy habits that are consistent and achievable. 

We’ve published before on the concept of the “Blue Zone” diets. Are you a subscriber to the Blue Zone theory, and are there any dietary habits that you people should adopt in order to live longer, healthier lives?  

The best longevity foods are leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, beet and turnip tops, chard, and collards. In combination with seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans, this is the most sound diet for the digestive system. When we look at Blue Zone diets, people in these regions consume about the same amount of naturally-occurring sugars as North Americans do, but only about a fifth as much added sugar. The key: People in the Blue Zones consume sugar intentionally, not by habit or accident. Unfortunately, with “whole” foods being not as exciting and as fast processed food, it’s very hard for people to stay disciplined. I subscribe to what works for each individual’s lifestyle and physiological needs. 

What are the largest concerns your patients tend to have regarding aging, and what are the ways you address them? 

The largest concern of our patients is how healthy they really are. We perform a variety of functional diagnostic testing that gives a full-spectrum view of that data. We can test your microbiome health (gut health), see if you have heavy metals in your body, determine which mycotoxins and environmental toxins you’ve been exposed to… one of my favorite tests tells us actual cellular age as opposed to your biological age. By performing functional diagnostic testing, we get a foundation that helps us see where we can improve in each individual patient. There isn’t a fix-it-all that works for everyone; your wellness journey has to be based on your experiences, diets, and physiology. The key thing to know is that we can’t manage what we don’t measure: That’s why testing can provide a great way to track progress or changes someone may be experiencing. 

One of the greatest concerns people tend to have as they age is their inability to heal as quickly from injuries as they did in their youth. You specialize in helping patients heal faster — what are some of the methods you use for this? 

NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is one of the most powerful tools used in longevity. This chemical occurs naturally in the body and plays a role in the key processes that generate energy for every single cell in your body; it’s a naturally-occurring coenzyme found in all living cells. NAD has even been called an anti-aging molecule, and it has many benefits, such as the ability to improve mental clarity, boost memory, benefit mood, facilitate brain regeneration, improve concentration, increase one’s ability to focus, boost neurological function, and reduce symptoms of depression. This is a favorite of mine for many reasons, as it both promotes health and prolongs lifespans.

Your work involves adjunctive therapies like cryotherapy, shockwave therapy, and infrared. For readers who want to engage with more advanced anti-aging tech, could you explain a little about how these technologies work? 

These are incredible therapies that I am beginning to see more and more people use. Cryotherapy is a cold therapy that’s used to reduce blood flow to a particular area, which can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or a tendon. Likewise, when combined with breathwork techniques and even done as an ice bath, this can promote the immune system to be more robust. 

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is a noninvasive treatment that delivers several shock waves of energy to injured soft tissue, which can reduce pain and promote healing. For soft tissue injuries, this helps recovery happen exponentially faster and more effectively. Infrared therapy has many roles in the human body; it’s absolutely incredible. The benefits include detoxification, pain relief, reduction of muscle tension, relaxation, improved circulation, weight loss, skin purification, lowered side effects of diabetes, an immune system boost, and lowered blood pressure. But for each of these modalities, do you research — there are so many brands to be aware of that promise benefits and don’t deliver. I give a ton of tips on Instagram (@DrHalland) to help people determine the best of the best. 

Anti-aging technologies are developing quickly. What do you think are some of the most exciting new treatment methods on the horizon? What do we have to look forward to in the near future, and also in the next 20-50 years? 

There are some new technologies, as well as older technologies we’re approaching in a new way, that are very exciting for anti-aging. For example, hyperbaric medicine therapy has been around for a long time. However, new theories on how to vary the oxygen concentration during pressurized treatment sessions have led to novel outcomes, such as increasing telomere length. Additionally, photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) has become increasingly popular due to its ability to stimulate regenerative capabilities and reduce inflammation. Likewise, therapeutics that can improve the body‘s ability to remove senescent cells (which can lead to premature aging and inflammation) also improves the body’s overall health. In the next 20 to 50 years, it’s almost hard to imagine what could be possible. The idea of cloning, genetic engineering, and likely cellular engineering and advanced quantum physics could very well change how we practice medicine altogether.

Read next: 3 Healthy Habits That Might Be Sabotaging Your Sleep

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