Much of aging can be seen as deficiencies in many substances our body once produced in abundance. Improper nutrition can exacerbate problems consistent with aging. Two key factors make it extremely difficult for anyone to obtain all the micro and macronutrients, vitamins and minerals essential for good health—despite American awareness about the need to improve nutrition: (A) the soil where our food grows and animals graze is depleted severely, lacking essential nutrients; (B) the foods we actually eat are generally highly processed. Finally, increased risk of injury and day-to-day aches and pains are more prevalent in the many middle-aged and senior individuals who don’t participate in effective, regular physical activity.
Until relatively recently, the best offered for living a healthy life were good nutrition and exercise—both well-accepted measures for good health. For over 60 years mothers have supplemented their children’s diets with vitamins and minerals…whatever the doctor ordered. The plethora of health food stores, nutraceutical houses, fitness studios and gyms is evidence the public is aware that nutrition and exercise are beneficial. But it hasn’t been enough.
Most medical researchers agree there is a 2% to 3% decline in many hormones, beginning at age 30. These deficiencies contribute to a decline in energy levels as well as muscle and bone strength. Additional age markers include diminution of sensory, cognitive, motor and pulmonary functions; loss of skin elasticity; increased fat-to-muscle ratio; onset of osteoporosis; diminished libido; and erratic male erectile function. The entire endocrine system participates in the aging process. The master hormone (pituitary growth hormone) plays a pivotal role—but diminishes with age. (There are criteria for adult onset growth hormone deficiency, which must be met before therapy is instituted.) Thyroid hormone plays a powerful role in metabolic regulation; low levels contribute to weight gain, depression and fatigue. Testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, etc. also play significant roles. Less than optimal levels of important nutrients play a large role as well. While genetic programming does many wonderful things, nature’s plan brings us to the age of reproduction and nurturing . . . and then seems to have little use for us. At that point, we begin to fail.
We really don’t die of old age: We die of degenerative diseases. Of these, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes all have to do with obesity and lifestyle. In age management medicine, the goals are to enhance vitality, vigor and health through nutrition, supplementation, exercise and hormone optimization. Note that a study depicts a curve of the average American with age on the X-axis; quality of life and health are on the Y-axis. At about age 40-45, our quality of life and health peak out. From that point out, they slowly decline until we die. Age management medicine is all about “squaring” that curve, so our quality of life and health remain optimal—until just before we die.
There are obvious benefits to this, but there also is a hidden one. Medical breakthroughs will continue, potentially resulting in increased longevity. The question is, will we able to take advantage of them? That depends on where we are on the curve. If we’re on the extreme, declining line of the curve prior to entering a nursing home, we won’t be physically able to take advantage of these breakthroughs, nor would we want to. However, if we remain on the stable part of the curve, enjoying great health and better quality of life, then we would be physically able to take advantage of the medical breakthroughs . . . and would welcome the opportunity to add another 10 or 15 years to our life.
Traditional medicine continues to be excellent at serving the needs of the very sick, injured and dying—what is generally referred to as “acute” illness. Far too often, a large percentage of a patient’s medical costs are spent during the last few years of life. The money is spent with the frequent recognition that it is futile, since extraordinary measures may not increase the life span with any significant quality. It would make more sense to invest in preventing illness early on, so middle and older years can be vigorous and productive. That is the mindset of those investing in the programs, products and protocols of age management medicine.
Using the narrowest of meanings, health has traditionally been defined as “the absence of disease.” Yet, historically, Western medicine has conditioned people to wait until the onset of “symptoms” before taking concrete steps to correct what may have been wearing down silently for years. Age management practitioners—pioneers in 21st-century medicine—view health as a lot more than simply “not being sick.” Health is a positive state . . . an optimal state . . . a state where all faculties and senses are fully alive, functioning at their peak in top running order. By this new and better definition, health means much more than just the absence of symptoms. It means the mind is sharp and focused; energy and enthusiasm is boundless; the body is in peak condition. Individuals can experience life fully and gloriously with passion and enthusiasm.