Alan P. Mintz, M.D. – Chief Executive Officer, Chief Medical Officer
My interest in anti-aging medicine began in the late 1980s when my mother, the late Ida Mintz, was amazing the global running community by becoming the world’s oldest female marathoner. The fact that she ran and completed 10 marathons was admirable in itself, but what was more noteworthy was the fact that she literally did not even know how to run until she was 70 years old.
Ida was born in 1905 in Poland, a time and place that were not hospitable to Jews. Much of her early childhood was spent hiding in her grandfather’s attic, where she and her mother were out of harms’ way during the frequent pogroms. Her father had taken a few of her siblings and made his way to the United States. He kept his promise that he would send for the rest of the family, but by the time he did, my mother had witnessed her own mother’s death of pneumonia from the dampness in the attic. Ida had never had the opportunity to run and play like most children. You can’t run in an attic. Furthermore, coming to the United States in the early part of this century meant hard work, even for a child, and although she tried to go to school, my mother wasn’t even able to complete kindergarten.
Despite her lack of formal education, Ida taught herself to read and write. Eventually she married Lee Sol Mintz, my father, with whom she raised three children. She was a giving, loving, and beautiful woman. Always active, she would do 50 or more sit-ups, stretches, and other exercises daily. Quietly, without fanfare, she was a closet exerciser long before it became the thing to do.
At the age of 70, however, my mother became severely depressed. Many of her friends were ill or had passed away. She believed that she had not fully contributed to the world and felt frustrated by her lack of education. I thought it might do her good to begin jogging and to set herself a goal of running a marathon. However, we soon realized that she had never learned how to run. My wife, Gloria, spent the time to teach Mom how to lift herself off the ground. The rest, as they say, became history.
Starting out slowly, Mother began to feel better. The running, of course, was oxygenating her blood, but even more important, she began drawing admiring crowds wherever she ran. Ida became somewhat of a legend in the Chicago area. In fact, when she ran her first marathon, we made the record books as the first family to run three generations in a marathon-Mom, Gloria, our eldest son, Ari, and I. Whenever Mom ran a marathon, she was supported and followed by “Team Mintz” (our sons Ari, Steve, Jeff, and Jon) and a constantly growing number of relatives and friends. She ran surrounded by runners considerably younger than she. Her steady perseverance inspired all who witnessed her running. Ida became known as the “Galloping Grandmother.” When she and my dad did their constitutionals in Lincoln Park, people dubbed them the “Recycled Teenagers.” My dad didn’t run, but walked at a fast pace. He was my mother’s greatest fan, telling anyone who would listen why he was so very proud of her.
My mother was thriving with her newfound skill and all the positive press it engendered, including coverage in newspapers, television, Readers Digest, and Runners’ World. However, even though she was in great shape, we could see that she was beginning to show the signs of osteoporosis. Hoping to help her maintain her health so she could enjoy the rest of her life, I began researching the emerging field of anti-aging medicine. In 1990, I read of the Milwaukee study, conducted by Daniel Rudman, M.D., in which a group of men in their 80s had been phenomenally rejuvenated through human growth hormone (hGH) therapy. Hoping to get some hGH for my mother, I soon learned that it had not been approved by the FDA except for use in the treatment of pituitary dwarfism or in specialized research programs. Unfortunately there were no research programs in which she was eligible to participate.
One morning in January 1991, after running her usual daily six miles, Mother was felled by severe abdominal pain. Exploratory surgery revealed a bowel obstruction caused by advanced pancreatic cancer. It was decided to forgo heroic measures and simply make her as comfortable as possible for whatever time she had left. We brought her home to our house and turned all our efforts to savoring our remaining time together. My wife Gloria suspended her career responsibilities to spend time with my mom. They had an unusually close and loving relationship. They walked daily until walking was no longer possible for Mom. Winter turned to spring, and although mother knew she would never run again, she gathered the strength to rise from her wheelchair on May 25 to dance with our son Jeffery at his wedding. We were blessed with having the extraordinary joy of having her with us for the last six months of her life. There was time to talk, to let her know how much she was loved, and how she had become an inspiration to thousands all over the world.
Mother passed away on October 14, 1991, on the eve of her 86th birthday, surrounded by family. It would be five more years before hGH would be approved for the use of adults with hormone deficiencies. Too late for my mom.
My interest in the use of hormone therapy continued. My career as a radiologist was flourishing. In fact, I was embarking on a new phase, opening what was to become the world’s largest HMO radiology management practice. However, despite my full-time commitment to MEDICON, Inc. (now UtiliMED), I still found time to do additional research, and became even more convinced that the body could retain or regain its youthful vigor far longer if it were given the right hormonal signals. I already knew that exercise was absolutely essential for keeping cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems on keel. Having been an avid runner throughout the 1970s, during the mid-1980s, I turned my exercise focus to weight training and began to see greater proof of its benefits. I was in my mid-40s when I put weight training into high gear, frequently getting up at 3:30 a.m., to work out before going to the office. I liked the changes that were taking place. Though I had been a fat youngster and a chunky teenager, my body was no longer like those of most of my middle-aged friends. My workouts were paying off and my body image improved.
However, I knew that my body needed proper nutrition. I studied food supplements and began to take what I believed would give me the nutrients needed to build the body I knew I could have. The more I worked out, the more efficient my metabolism became. I also found that I was able to consume copious amounts of food, much to my wife’s chagrin, and not gain weight. Persuaded by workout buddies, I decided to enter a body building contest. The focus involved in preparing for the contest was intense. I put myself in the hands of Dan Vasic, a superb bodybuilding coach, and enlisted my wife to help me practice mandatory poses and to choreograph a posing routine. Hours of practice nearly every day, workouts focused on building and defining my muscles, and special diets and supplements resulted in improvements daily.
The day of the contest arrived and I already felt like a winner. When I began my posing routine, set to Barbra Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” the audience went wild. What a kick it was for me to hear their cheers and to realize that they had given me a standing ovation! At the age of 58, I had won the title of “1996 AAU Mr. Illinois, Grand Master Division.” I was fit and I felt great!
However, as I had been getting more fit, my wife was experiencing weight gain and what seemed to be a chronic cough and asthma-like breathing. Her self-image was going downhill as mine was doing just the opposite. Like thousands of other middle-aged women, she dieted to no avail, gaining back what she lost and then some. Furthermore, she was dragging through her busy schedule sounding and feeling as if she had chronic bronchitis.
Relief didn’t come until mid-1997, when she discovered, through Bonnie Minsky, an extremely knowledgeable nutritionist, that her symptoms were actually food sensitivities. In addition to carefully monitoring what she ate and totally avoiding the foods to which she had developed allergies, Gloria was given food supplements to make sure she was getting proper nutrition. Within a few weeks, the coughing disappeared, her breathing returned to normal, and she was able to begin to exercise. She also found a wonderful personal trainer, Karen Brownlee, and committed to meeting with her three times a week at the Deerfield Multiplex Fitness Center. Changes began to happen.
Both Gloria and I became increasingly convinced that proper nutrition and regular physical exercise were important components of a healthy lifestyle. Between 1982 and 1995, I gained 35 lb. of lean muscle weight. In 1995, at the age of 57, I started hormone replacement therapy, including hGH. Although Gloria had been put on female hormone replacement therapy 10 years earlier after a hysterectomy and did not have to suffer the effects of menopause, she continued to observe effects of aging. It was tough for her to see how my skin was getting taut, my body getting more muscular and vascular, while her skin was losing elasticity, and our grandchildren were teasing her about her jiggly triceps.
Seeing that hGH and other hormone supplements along with proper nutrients had made a noticeable difference in my life, Gloria added hGH to her hormone replacement therapy early in 1997. The combination of proper nutrition and the moderate workout schedule she maintained resulted in visible changes in her, as well.
My research over the past decade had brought me into contact with many pioneers and trailblazers in the field of anti-aging medicine. In 1996, I sold my business and went into retirement. Six months later, Gloria retired from her dual careers of teaching and interior design. We had a growing brood of wonderful grandchildren and were ready to take a breather. I could afford to do nothing or to follow new dreams as they took shape. I vowed that whatever I did, I would come out of retirement only to do something that was needed, wanted, and challenging.
It didn’t take long before that dream became eminently clear. The research was irrefutable: the synergy of hormone replacement therapy, proper nutrition, and exercise physiology could help people live vigorously and actively throughout their middle years and well into old age. Individuals with hormone deficiencies definitely benefited from hormone replacement therapy. Furthermore, it had become evident that agricultural soil had become so depleted of vital nutrients that food supplements had become absolutely necessary to proper nutrition. It was also clear that people needed to avoid processed foods and artificial additives, and also needed to learn to keep their bodies moving and working to prevent wasting of the muscles and loss of bone strength.
As a result, together with my long-time friend, workout buddy, and business partner, John Adams, I set out to develop a unique place where people could get the help they needed to reverse symptoms of aging, where the synergy could be taught and administered, and where progress would be closely monitored and results would be progressive and positive. Gathering a staff of some of the finest people in medicine, we fashioned a unique center for the practice of healthy aging medicine, that place about which I had dreamed.
My oldest son, Ari Mintz, M.D., came up with the perfect name, Cenegenics (Cene, Greek for new; genics, referring to origins). Bonnie Minsky, M.A., M.P.H., L.N.C., enthusiastically joined us as our nutritional therapeutics consultant. George Lesmes, Ph.D., director of the Center for Cardiovascular Research at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, became our consultant for exercise physiology. A staff of dedicated physicians, knowledgeable fitness experts, and devoted care coordinators were assembled after an intense and careful search.
Inspired by a little lady who became the world’s oldest female marathoner, I accepted a challenge that would benefit thousands. What would be the most unique center of its kind was about to become a reality. On December 9, 1997, the Cenegenics Medical Institute officially opened in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mother would have been proud.