Biohacking: Optimize your body and brain to live better
Engineer your ultimate life with high-and low-tech solutions.
In a quest for immortality, you may conjure images from the silver screen. Billionaires and rogue scientists in hidden labs, testing the bounds of human limitations with experimental concoctions, hoping to induce superhuman capabilities. And while Hollywood’s version is fanciful, it’s not that far from what’s happening in the real world.
We’re talking about biohacking. It’s a form of self-improvement that blends technology, wellness and antiaging science to potentially optimize how human bodies and brains function. There are those who take biohacking to extremes and those who tread cautiously as they attempt to gain control over their own biology. Some biohackers experiment outside of formal labs and institutions, in gray legal and ethical areas, treating their bodies more like hardware to be manipulated in new ways.
If some biohacks seem like science fiction, know that anyone can leverage more accessible biohacking to enhance their biology and quality of life through regenerative, well-researched techniques like better sleep, nutrition, exercise and mental health. Being well-informed and understanding what works best for your particular body will help get results.
Something old, something new
Some “hacks” stem from age-old practices from around the world. Deep meditation to reduce anxiety and pain as well as intermittent fasting come to mind. Questions surround the effectiveness of the latter, and some critics worry it could create eating disorders. However, nutrition generally lands among the safer ways to optimize our bodies, boost immune systems and slow or even reverse aging. Biohackers look for clues among their DNA, using something called nutrigenomics. At-home DNA tests from any number of providers can unveil genetic markers that are said to indicate a need for certain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids or other nutrients. For example, your 9b21 result could indicate a predisposition to cardiovascular disease, which may prompt you to add more omega-3 fatty acids or tocotrienols to your diet with the help of a qualified nutritionist or doctor.
Consider these life hacks
- Look for clues in your DNA
- Use tech to track sleep
- Play to your genetic strengths
As you may have guessed, biohackers seek empirical evidence of a hack’s efficacy. Wearable tech allows biohackers to track all kinds of data, like sleep patterns, for example. And studies show that quality sleep can extend lives, boost immune systems and deter many diseases. The deep meditative state resets the body and costs nothing but discipline and routine. And, yes, it means removing all screens, including your phone, from your line of sight at least an hour before bed. A dark room, optimal temperatures and white noise also can facilitate restorative slumber.
The study of epigenetics has shown that our environment and behaviors affect the way genes work, but these changes tend to be reversible. While genes play into our overall health, so do behaviors like how we handle stress, what we eat and how well we sleep and exercise. When it comes to movement, quality and intensity matter but so do posture, stretching and recovery afterward. Research also indicates that mindfulness, meditation and spending time outdoors to get some sun and get in touch with our true nature are vitally important.
Getting those factors under control may result in better cognition, higher energy and a more youthful appearance all while lowering your risk of major disease. Seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady reportedly follows many of these suggested practices, including meditation and yoga. The seemingly ageless pro quarterback also practices brain games to sharpen his mind. Perhaps that’s how he plans to remain on the gridiron for another five years, until at least age 50, well after many other players would permanently retire.
To find out your own bio age, take this quiz at biological-age.com.
Many forms of biohacking range from benign to beneficial – they’re easy to do at home and easy to undo if something doesn’t work as hoped. Some are backed by scientific evidence, refined over decades of experimentation or, like mindfulness, centuries of practice. Investing in your health is an admirable goal, one perhaps best pursued in conjunction with a doctor or nutritionist and a financial advisor who can help you plan for a long, healthy and prosperous life. However, there are forms of biohacking that can be harmful without proper precautions and experienced guidance. It can be difficult to understand the various hacks proliferating around the internet; what differentiates them from traditional medicine; and how safe, ethical or legal they are. And it will take significant time and effort for the research to catch up as we stretch the limits of imagination and what it means to be human.
Sources: vox.com; forbes.com; bbc.com
All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author and are subject to change. Raymond James is not affiliated with any organization mentioned above. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of capital. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts may be subject to income taxes, and prior to age 59½ a 10% federal penalty tax may also apply.