From stress-busting gadgets to eating 30 plants per week, award-winning cosmetic doctor Sophie Shotter's new podcast has some great advice on how to boost your longevity
There are cosmetic doctors who like to simply mask all traces of hard living with fillers and Botox, and then there are ones who believe no cosmetic procedure can be truly effective unless it’s in tandem with a holistic approach to health. Dr Sophie Shotter, 2023’s Aesthetic Awards Medical Aesthetic Practitioner of the Year, is one of the latter.
“I’ve become obsessed with longevity medicine,” she says. She's channelled that obsession into a fantastic new podcast series Age Well with Dr Sophie Shotter. “I am constantly seeking out new studies, methods, hacks and products that can help my patients and followers improve their day-to-day lives and stave off disease.” She believes ageing can, in fact, be considered an illness: “If we can slow the ageing process down, we will have a happier, healthier lifespan.”
In her cosmetic clinics, that means she encourages her many patients to consider a 360-degree approach rather than to rely on quick tweaks. So her patient programmes increasingly include things such hormone, vitamin level and DNA checks alongside advice regarding nutrition, supplements, sleep and other lifestyle factors.
Shotter’s growing expertise in biohacking methods means she might also recommend red light, cryo or hyperbaric oxygen therapy, all with a view to optimise the body’s longevity and self-repair mechanisms. This means not only faster recovery from procedures and longer-lasting results but an improvement in patients’ overall wellbeing.
As a taster for the podcast, here are Shotter’s 14 top tips for a longer and healthier life that everyone can try.
1. Make your VO2 Max your key workout metric
“Your VO2 Max refers to the maximum rate at which your heart, lungs and muscles can use oxygen during exercise, and increasing it is important for longevity. Oura Rings and Apple watches can estimate your VO2 max, but to get the most accurate picture, doctors and sports therapists will get you to use a stationary bike or treadmill hooked up to a mask and heart rate monitor.
Interval training is a great way to improve VO2 Max: for example, sprint three to five minutes, then jog two to four minutes to recover. Studies have shown increasing your fitness like this can reduce your mortality risk by up to 70 per cent.
Additionally, muscle mass, which affects posture, joint health and stability, is one of the most important factors for health span, with a decrease in muscle mass leading to a 60 per cent increase in the relative risk of death. Holding on to muscle mass as you age is crucial, which is why people are advised to focus on strength building in older age: try lifting weights or weight-bearing exercise such as dynamic yoga.”
2. Aim to eat 30 plants foods (fruit, veg, herbs, spices etc) per week
“Eating the rainbow in fruit and veg alongside plenty of protein and fibre is increasingly important as we age. Sources of the protein should ideally be a mix of animal and plant proteins, to guarantee sufficient micronutrients as well as microbiome diversity for cognition and systemic inflammation response.
I really recommend the Zoe app and system for anyone wanting to explore their personal response to food. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and longevity, and Zoe helps give a real understanding of this.”
3. Have dinner early at 6pm and breakfast late at 10am
“There is evidence that certain types of fasting can help to stimulate a process called autophagy, which is the clear-out of senescent cells. Also known as zombie cells, these cause harmful inflammation in the body. It’s likely that autophagy is stimulated when fasting between 24 and 48 hours, but this type of prolonged fasting may need medical supervision.
However, intermittent fasting (eg not eating for 16 hours over a 24-hour day: easier than it seems as it includes sleep time and just means sticking to a late breakfast and early dinner) is beneficial as well: there is a positive correlation between calorie restriction and longevity, and intermittent fasting can help us decrease our calorie intake. We we should all focus on this as we age because our calorie intake requirement drops.”
4. Invest in a stress-busting gadget
“There are great devices designed to help you relax, like Sensate, £299 (which emits vibrations comparable to a purring cat’s) or Apollo Neuro, £269.99 (a wearable band that does much the same to increase your heart rate variability, soothe your nervous system and help you recover from stress). Stress needs careful management: short periods of acute stress are not problematic for health and longevity, but chronic stress is. It impacts sleep, our microbiome is more likely to be dysfunctional and it makes you prone to disease.”
5. Think of skincare as healthcare (rather than vanity)
“Interestingly, there’s emerging evidence that ageing in the skin triggers damage in other organs by releasing inflammation-causing molecules into the bloodstream, which may then cause harm to other organs such as your brain and your heart. To date, aged or diseased skin has been linked to the onset of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. So keeping your skin healthy isn’t vain, it’s smart.
Furthermore, many people choose to have aesthetic treatments or invest in an effective daily skincare regime to marry up how they feel with how they look, and that is entirely relevant. Looking youthful can help you to feel youthful and feeling youthful can impact how you live your life.”
6. Turn off devices two hours before bedtime
“Apart from encouraging work-related stress and too much mental stimulation, digital devices emit blue light, which messes with the production of our sleep hormone melatonin. It’s just one way to help safeguard a good night’s sleep. We cannot live a long, healthy life if we don’t prioritise sleep, and the vast majority of us need between seven and eight hours for our bodies to properly body regenerate and heal. It’s important for resilience, stress management, a healthy microbiome, and certainly for longevity.
"My other tips for a good night’s sleep:
- Magnesium supplementation at bedtime can help aid sleep.
- Digestion affects your ability to sleep, so don’t eat too close to your bedtime.
- Balanced hormones are crucial for good sleep, so have them monitored throughout life with regular blood tests.
- Read Why We Sleep by Mattew Walker."
7. Consider this medication, which is usually used for diabetes
Metformin (a prescription drug for diabetics), taken from your fifties onwards, could increase lifespan for those who are not diabetic. This stems from some evidence that it can decrease inflammation and protect against cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment. It’s certainly something I am going to consider taking after the age of 50.”
Please note, Metformin is not approved as a longevity medicine by the NHS, so you’d have to get it ‘off-label’ from a private doctor.
8. Ask a pro to help work out your supplement regime
“Supplementation should be bespoke [which requires a blood test by a registered nutritionist, private physician or service such as the Superdrug Health Clinics Nutrition and Gut Insights Blood Test, £399, or potentially, if you suspect you may be deficient in some nutrients, your GP] But when looking at longevity, there are some useful places to start.
- Vitamin D is important for every single process in the human body and most of us in the UK are deficient. It’s even more important with age, as the immune system deteriorates. Try Allergy Research Group Vitamin D3 Complex £33.71
- NAD+ levels decrease from the moment we are born - they halve for every twenty years of our life. From our forties, we notice its decline in terms of energy levels, so taking supplements is important. I recommend Nuchido Time+ NAD booster supplement, finding it useful for both physical and cognitive energy levels.
- Spermidine is another good one for longevity to support cell regeneration for a healthy body. It stimulates the process of autophagy and the clear-out of senescent cells. I rate Primeadine £75.
- Omega 3 oil is brilliant for cognitive function, according to some great data. It also decreases the risk of cardiac disease. This is a great one to take daily to ward off dementia. Try Omegagenics, £31.16
- Alpha-ketoglutarate is a supplement currently being studied on flies and mice, but showing promise for humans. It’s another substance which naturally decreases with age, and might extend our lifespan.” Try Time Health Ca-AKG, £24.99 for a 30-day supply.
9. Nip problems in the bud with diagnostic health tests
“Being proactive and preventative helps longevity and health management, and I believe knowledge is power. So I’m a fan of blood and other tests to monitor hormones and the like, either in-clinic or using the many home tests now available. Thriva offers home blood tests, while Omnos has a DNA testing kit that can help you understand more about your body and any genetic susceptibilities you may have. Trucheck Intelli is new and I’ve just launched it at my Kent clinic: it’s a blood test to check for over 70 different types of early-stage cancers.”
10. Understand that HRT is not just for hot flushes
“Hormone health is extremely important for protecting yourself from age-related degradation and diseases, and the single most effective way for balancing hormone levels in (peri)menopause is HRT. We know, for example, that within five years of menopause a woman’s cardiac risk catches up with a man’s, because oestrogen protects the cardiovascular system. Bone density also drops rapidly when oestrogen levels decline, putting you at risk of osteoporosis. All of that can be mitigated with hormone replacement therapy.”
11. Make a cold bath or shower part of your routine
“Cold or cryotherapy, either by immersion in freezing water or in a dedicated cryo chamber, decreases inflammation in the body, potentially lowering the risk of heart disease and strokes. It also helps to boost blood flow and immunity and manages pain, while there’s evidence that it may lower cortisol levels. Cold exposure also activates brown fat, making it burn more calories. It could also increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose regulation. As if those benefits aren’t enough, it helps to raise testosterone levels, helping you to keep more muscle mass in the body.”
These numerous benefits require a ten -minute stay in temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees Celcius. Doing it at home? You can fill the bath with cold water, add ice, measure the temperature with a thermometer, and submerge. But sports therapists say that for muscle recovery, stepping under a cold shower for as long as you can stand it or directing the shower head at sore muscles until the skin reddens (a sign that blood flow is sped up) is also very effective.
12. Use a sauna blanket to de-stress
“Exposure to the high temperatures of a sauna or infrared sauna helps the body produce something called heat shock proteins, in response to the physical stress. These help protect cells from damage as well as aid in their recovery from stress. This process is believed to help reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health and protect against certain diseases. And combining saunas with ice baths can boost the activation of brown fat further than cold therapy alone.”
A good way to get your infrared sauna fix at home is to invest in an infrared sauna blanket: we like the MiHigh Infrared Sauna Blanket V2, £399.
13. Try an oxygen infusion
“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves being inside a chamber where 100 per cent (or close to it) oxygen is delivered at a pressure higher than atmospheric pressure. This can increase the oxygen content in the blood, enabling more oxygen to reach the body’s tissues. Beneficial effects have been shown for cognitive function, skin rejuvenation, regulation of metabolism, and heart and lung function.
There are some exciting studies to show that this can stop the ageing of blood cells, increase telomere length (the caps that protect your DNA) and potentially reverse the ageing process.”
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions are available nationwide in biohacking clinics or dedicated clinics such as Numa; expect to pay between £120 and £175 per session.
14. Try collagen banking with supplements and treatments
“The more collagen you have, the better you will heal, which means fewer aches and pains and looking better. This can therefore actively affect your longevity and healthspan.
"Supplements are one way to 'collagen bank'. [encouraging the body to generate as much collagen as possible in order to have plenty ‘in the bank’ at times of stress and illness, which cause collagen burn]. For your face, in-clinic aesthetic treatments such as Sofwave and Profound RF (radiofrequency microneedling) are another.”
Age Well with Dr Sophie Shotter is available now