Published: June 8, 2017 By

Senior woman exercising in group classA CU Boulder project is ramping up efforts to provide the public with the latest information about research related to healthy aging, including scientific evidence on what to do and eat for better health.

The effort, known as the Healthy Aging Project, provides scientific, evidence-based information to the public on how to best preserve physical and cognitive function, maintain good health and lower risk of chronic disease with aging. Topics include the brain, the heart, muscle and bone, the immune system, metabolism, nutrition, fitness, sleep, supplements and drugs, and well-being.

The Heathy Aging Project is unique in that it offers the latest information from well controlled scientific studies on healthy aging, as well as summaries that discuss the findings, said Professor Douglas Seals, who pioneered the effort. Seals, a professor in the integrative physiology department’s Integrative Physiology of Aging Laboratory, said there is a lot of misinformation on healthy aging floating around in the popular press and on the web.

“What makes our site different is we regularly comb the literature for high-quality, evidence-based aging research studies, summarizing them for people interested in healthy aging,” Seals said. “Right now, there are no other websites out there that we know of posting such information on a regular basis and describing them in understandable fashion for the general public.”

CU Boulder Instructor Tom LaRocca of integrative physiology, an active scientist who also is responsible for the design and much of the content on the Healthy Aging Project website, said one goal is to make the information easily accessible to the public, both on the web and via social media.

“I envision a one-stop repository for information on healthy aging,” said LaRocca, who is working with undergraduate interns Isaac Everitt and Tara Grieshaber, both in the integrative physiology department, to select significant healthy aging studies by scientists from around the world and summarize them for the public.

“Just as many people now go the Mayo Clinic website for medical information, we envision people seeking the latest reliable information on healthy aging to come to our CU Boulder Healthy Aging Project site first,” LaRocca said.

In addition to the website, Seals and LaRocca have been traveling around Colorado in recent years, giving healthy aging talks at places like Rotary clubs and public libraries. The timing is crucial, since the number of adults in the United States over 65 will more than double by 2050, so age-related diseases and disabilities will become much more common.

“We are building a roadmap to guide readers by analyzing the science of key heathy aging studies and presenting it in language that everyone can understand,” said LaRocca, who studies gerontology, cardiovascular health and neurodegenerative diseases. “Our aim is to provide new guidelines and tips on how to live healthier.”

The Healthy Aging Project is targeting a broad audience, including younger adults, LaRocca said. “Aging is not just about older people,” he said. “It starts in your 30s, and there is growing evidence there are things you can do at younger ages that will protect your health later in life.”

Last December, Seals received a four-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to deep-dive into the role gut microbes play in determining the health of aging arteries in humans and mice. Their initial experiments show treatment with a broad-spectrum antibiotic “cocktail” that eliminates many existing gut microbiota reverses arterial dysfunction in old mice.

“This is a good example of current biomedical research being performed on healthy aging at CU Boulder,” said Seals, who has conducted healthy aging research, funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health, for more than 30 years.

“What we study is not a medical disorder that affects a limited number of individuals, but rather a broad public health crisis occurring in both developed and developing countries throughout the world,” Seals said. “If we can help people better understand how to age in a healthy way, then we are making an impact. That’s really what is driving all of this.”