By Dr. Jim Coppin, MD
IN THIS ISSUE: An aging Baby Boomer population has already impacted the way we invest, but how is that changing the way we live? Life expectancy has doubled over the past century and people are living healthy and productive lives well beyond the so-called “retirement age”. In the second part of our examination on Aging and Society, Dr. Jim Coppin shares his research and insights into what we can do to prevent aging, and introduces us to the concept of whealth – invest wisely and who knows how much you could accumulate?
For nearly 30 years John Nicola and I have discussed the similarities of health and wealth with respect to principles and correct action for a successful outcome. In this newsletter I will focus on the health component of this intriguing concept.
In the wealth game there is a clear understanding for the need to create personal circumstance that allows resources for essential needs, material well-being, and philanthropy. Transform resources into personal energy. Now you have a paradigm that applies to your health and an opportunity to make the most of this gift of consciousness. Unfortunately, as John points out, with wealth only 10% of us ever get it right! With health, the vast majority of individuals progress to a low state of energy and function with accompanying impairments in the second half of their life. Does this need to happen?
When you are wealthy you draw upon your resources when needed, often later in life. When you are healthy you are able to draw upon an internal energy to provide an optimum state of function. This allows body maintenance and repair, protection by your immune system, and high energy for physical and mental challenges.
By the age of 50 your mitochondria, the cellular engines, have significantly dropped energy output. Your body’s energy molecule, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), has dropped in production to 55% of the level you produced at age 26 – yes, after 26 it is downhill all the way!
Millions of years of evolution have focused on creating a state of optimal function up until your have reproduced your DNA. Once the survival of your DNA has occurred, the species is safe and nature has no further interest in you as an individual. You are no longer relevant and neither is your cellular repair and rejuvenation. The stage is set for the onset of age related degenerative disease.
At age 26, you make ATP molecules equal to two thirds of your body weight each and every day.
Or could it be possible that nature might remain interested? What if investments were wisely chosen in all aspects of the physical, mental, sexual, and spiritual – could nature still believe you are a player? In this scenario, the body’s metabolism would perform optimum maintenance and repair minimizing decay and degenerative disease as it did at age 26. It may surprise you to know that beyond the genetics you have inherited, wisely chosen investments in your health can have a substantial effect on your healthspan.
With correct principles and action you can stay a player – no passive participation allowed. By knowledge of the correct principles of an anti-aging diet, exercise, lifestyle, nutrients and supplements you can create an environment where growth and development are still the order of the day in the second half of your life. As with your financial planning, there can be no absolute guarantee of the outcome, just a significantly improved probability of success and a prolonged healthspan with enhanced personal energy.
Many believe the litany of ambivalence toward real Anti-Aging medicine will disappear overnight once a major breakthrough occurs in the type of animal work Dr. de Grey outlines (see sidebar: Radical Life Extension?), much like the impact cloning has already had on the scientific world. At this point, massive resources will be directed towards aging research and the goal of immortality.
Desirable? Again controversial. However, it is difficult to argue against the possible benefits of a compressed morbidity and an extended healthspan. Futurist Ray Kurzweil in his recent book “Fantastic Voyage” (Rodale Books, 2004) is directing you to stay healthy in order to live long enough to live forever. He and Terry Grossman MD outline a typical Anti-Aging medicine program designed to forestall the aging process and minimize the chance of developing organ and tissue effects of degenerative diseases. They also review the active application of scientific advances in genomics, bio-technology, and nanotechnology that they believe will have major impact on our healthspan and give us an unprecedented opportunity at practical immortality.
The question then arises: what is natural for the human lifespan?
WHEALTH: THE DREAM
RADICAL LIFE EXTENSION?
So what does becoming the Bill Gates of health mean? The dream of that much whealth would be the complete stopping of aging with enhanced function and practical immortality. Spectacular science fiction? Not according to leading edge researchers in Aging. Aubrey de Grey (PhD Genetics, University of Cambridge) is a Biogerontologist and longevity expert who believes our current DNA has the ability to function for a 1000 years.
Controversial? Of course. But the developments and thinking in this arena could lead to strategies to delay the onset of age related diseases. The requirement is that we undertake cellular repair as the effects of aging cause degenerative changes.
Basically, repair the roof on the house and the structure will continue to stand. For the past 20 years, the research community has known of seven deadly causes for biological aging – and in principle we know how to fix all of them in mice. The time frame is believed to be about a decade to practically institute them all in the mouse. Translation into the human may be another decade or two. (Interesting note: mice share 99 per-cent of the human genetic code!)
You can follow this innovative work by monitoring the “Nobel prize of mouse aging” The Methuselah Mouse Prize (www.methuselahmouse.org).
The naysayers of the Anti-Aging movement, of course, say it is unattainable to stop aging and that it is unnatural or spiritually incorrect. They refer to the recent gains in life expectancy as modest – in 1775 life expectancy was 25; 1900 it was 40 years; now in Canada it averages just over 79. They state we have reached the limit with the rare person reaching 122 (Jean Calment of France). However, one’s perspective on the issue can change.
As Ken Dychwaldt points out, looking back at only 100,000 years of human history shows you something big is going on in the evolution of man’s lifespan. Over the past 100,000 years, it has only been in the last 200 that we’ve seen this incredible lengthening of the the human lifespan. Life expectancy was once 18 years; suddenly we have a massive upward trend. Where is it meant to go?
Your opinion on the potential up-side also changes when you realize things will not progress at the rate of the old time horizon. Currently, medical knowledge doubles every 3.5 years. That means by the year 2020 we will have increased a minimum of 64 times our current knowledge. Informational technology, however, is doubling every year.
At today’s current progress rate, estimates are that biological knowledge will increase in the 21st century to the equivalent of 20,000 years worth! It is estimated that in 20 years, all medical research could be done on computers in a theoretical basis – no biological tissue required.
Does a true Anti-Aging pill exist? No. However, it is true that strategies exist to disconnect one’s biological age from chronological age. Preventive approaches can significantly delay the onset of age related degenerative diseases. Is this commonly being achieved? Again, the answer is no.
The current medical system in North America is based on the treatment of disease – it is about having something negative happen, then trying to fix it after the fact. As a result, we struggle today in the grip of a vast sickness industry. The approach arose out of old strategies to deal with the malaise of the past.
Now, however, the same paradigm is a failure for the management of degenerative human conditions. The cost will not only be the ongoing disability, deformity, pain, disease, suffering, and sorrow of old age – it will also be a financial crisis of un-precedented proportions beginning with the retirement of the baby boomer in 2011. The population defined as elderly will more than double between now and 2050.
Treating their degenerative diseases with the current approach for 20 to 50 years of retirement will place unmatched demands on a nation’s economic resources. With the clear change in demographics and birth rates dropping, the question becomes: who will finance the social and health costs of an aged population? Who will deal with this “Apocalypse of Aging”? The reality of our “fixing what is broken” approach leads to endless additional disability, suffering, and future cost.
Just as in financial planning, the successful approach to health care will be achieved with long-term proactive involvement of the individual. It is a preventive course leading to longer, healthier lives, free of diseases now synonymous with advanced age. Also, like your finances, it will only be successful when the individual takes full responsibility for the outcome. Government and other health care providers remain in the old paradigm. Prevention and related research receives minimal funding, usually around 1% of budgets.
If you are reading this article, you are likely at a point where the concerns of age related diseases is all too clear. Or perhaps you are a younger boomer just beginning to notice some change in personal function. Interestingly, from the boomers came the fitness movement and likely a change in the health paradigm will come from this group. Boomers tend to have an innate desire to stay healthy, fit and mentally engaged. They do not like the “Apocalypse of Aging” scenario.
Do we have the scientific knowledge to allow us to live forever? No. But as you can see, things are going to change dramatically. Nevertheless, we do have the means to slow the effects of aging and the degenerative disease processes far more than people realize. Change the way you look at things, and real whealth may be yours.
In the two pictures, the individuals are the same chronological age. The woman in the nursing home is aging – in fact she is diseased. So what approaches provide the best opportunity for enhanced human performance and an extended healthspan?
Who or what is the enemy? At the top of the list, not surprisingly, is ourselves. Health issues only tend to get our attention when diseases strike. Now the dysfunction is severe and reversal or cure is very difficult. Early in the process, lifestyle, nutrient supplementation, and hormonal replacement are powerful preventive metabolic strategies against age related diseases. Still, most people fail to focus on prevention and health enhancement in a timely manner. The following are a few areas worthy of your attention.
This is a diet that is best described as anti-inflammatory. Reduction of silent inflammation in the body is key, as this state is being recognized as a mediator to most age related degenerative diseases. This life-long style of eating can be achieved by following a Mediterranean diet with extra consideration to glycemic load (maintaining a stable blood sugar without spikes of glucose and the accompanying hormone insulin).
Popular diet books that can introduce you to some of these principles are Barry Sears’ “Anti- Inflammation Zone” (Regan Books, 2004), or Fred Pescatore’s “The Hamptons Diet” (John Wiley & Sons, 2004). Dr. N.V. Perricone’s books also cover this diet and its connection with the aging skin and brain.
The balance of the essential fatty acids in the body is of prime importance for health maintenance. The correct intake of Omega 3 to 6 fats results in correct eicosanoid hormone function – these prime signalers to every cell in the body can help maintain optimum health in all areas: heart, brain, immune, etc.
To practically achieve the balance required, it is necessary to follow the diet regimen above and take additional pharmaceutical grade fish oil, usually in the range of 2 to 3 grams per day. This approach will counter many of the negative effects found in the North American diet.
What has real power to extend your healthspan? The synergy that results when you give attention to all components.
- Mediterranean diet with glycemic control
- Omega 3 supplementation
- Exercise 35 mins daily
- Hydration 8-10 glasses per day
- Sleep – Employ strategies to obtain restorative sleep
- Multivitamin – Use multi-mineral to support your diet. The Vit E should be natural and mixed; Vit D at least 400 IU; carotenoids, a mixture containing lutein and lycopenes. The mineral selenium is a must.
- Micronutrient support with anti-oxidants such as Co-Q-10, grape seed extract, and Alpha lipoic acid.
- Phytonutrients to achieve optimum cell function and protection. They contain multiple compounds such as anthocyanins, polyphenolsflavanoids, carotenoids and others such as Indole 3 carbinol that are highly beneficial. Extracts obtained from any colored vegetables or fruits (such as blueberries) are also useful.
- Smart drugs – Consider agents that enhance and maintain cognitive function such as gingko, phosphatidyl serine, and certain pharmaceuticals such as selegiline.
- Bio-identical hormone replacement to restore hormone balance as it decays with age – this can help to stay in an optimum zone of metabolic function.
- Integrative medical treatments such as acupuncture and stress reducers such as Yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation.
The medical world is changing rapidly and so is the view on how to maintain your health and well-being for an extended period. There is no need to accept the relentless mental and physical declines associated with aging. Throw away old concepts and look at the effects of aging as a disease that can be prevented – change the way you look at aging and join what may be the biggest paradigm shift in human history.