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Vital Signs

The Clinic: How to live longer

By Mark Tutton, CNN
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Tips to add years to your life
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anti-aging experts discussed strategies for living longer on CNN Webcast
  • Regenerative medicine could dramatically increase the life span of humans
  • Cutting out red meat and taking steps to reduce stress can help extend your life
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London, England (CNN) -- CNN.com today featured a live Webcast of The Clinic, looking at how science is making progress in the quest for immortality.

CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta and world-renowned anti-aging experts discussed practical steps for living longer, and cutting-edge research that could dramatically extend human lives.

Best-selling author Dan Buettner has carried out extensive studies to identify longevity hotspots around the world, documented in his book "The Blue Zones."

He said his research had identified Costa Rica, Sardinia, in Italy, and Ikaria, in Greece, as places where people live longer. What the residents of these places had in common were diets low in meat, and lifestyles that nudged them towards exercise.

Geneticist Aubrey de Grey is the Chief Scientific Officer of SENS Foundation, which researches and promotes regenerative medicine. He said that techniques such as stem cell therapy, gene therapy and tissue engineering could one day be used in combination to let humans live for hundreds of years.

"The real advantage of applying regenerative medicine to the problem of ageing is that we can actually turn the biological clock backwards," he said.

"We can take people who are already middle aged, or perhaps older, and turn them back to having a lower biological age."

While we're waiting for breakthroughs in regenerative medicine, Buettner says there are a number of small lifestyle changes that could add another to decade to most people's lives.

Stress can have a huge negative impact on long-term health, but it doesn't only affect those living hectic lives. Buettner said that people living in "Blue Zones" also have to cope with stress, but they have better mechanisms for dealing with it.

Praying, meditating or even simply taking a nap can all act as effective stress busters, thereby protecting the body, said Buettner.

In the run up to the Webcast, CNN readers submitted questions for the panel. One asked if living for a 1,000 years would mean spending the last 200 years of your life in a nursing home. De Grey answered that regenerative medicine has the potential to stop the degeneration process, meaning people could stay in a youthful state indefinitely.

The panelists agreed that dramatically increasing human life expectancy would have huge consequences for society and the economy.

But they added that, rather than being a huge drain on healthcare systems, providing regenerative medicine on a widespread basis could actually benefit the economy, cutting down on medical costs by eliminating chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer.