In 2003 I first attended a seminar on “Anti-Aging Medicine” by two American lecturers. This was as part of a GP conference. What was most striking was their view that the effects of aging were not a given. Indeed part of their contention was that a decline in our health caused us to age rather than age causing a decline in our health.
To be specific their chief contention was that declining hormone levels were a key part of aging and that if these were maintained then we would not suffer the effects of age. And that conditions like dementia, arthritis and even some cancers were not age related as much as health related.
Whilst never feeling that the answer was quite as simple as hormone supplementation, their ideas did get me thinking. In fact it was from this that I started down the path of DIY Health and the very blog you are reading now.
It struck me over many years that some people who were 70 could pass for 50 and vice versa. Why was this? Is it genetics or is it something they were doing right?
The reality is that it is a combination of both. The genes you have are your start point and like it or not some people have a better start in life. However what you do with what you have remains the biggest determinant.
The exact answer remains elusive but a dozen years after my interest was tweaked, the interest of the Like of Google and Larry Ellison of Oracle have been tweaked. An article in the weekend paper noted that billions are being invested in life extension research facilities in the US.
Google has plans for a US$1.5 billion centre in San Francisco and The Age reversal fund is a venture capital fund, which has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in research and facilities.
It is estimated that by 2025 there will be 1.2 billion people over the age of 60-which is double the number in 1995. So in reality life is already extending. As has been noted previously life expectancy has been steadily increasing by about one quarter of a year per year for over a century. And this is despite the doom and gloom predictions that emanate from public health zealots.
Whilst new attention to this area is welcome, let us not ignore what we already know. Regular exercise, sensible eating, adequate sleep, and stress management keeps us healthy and minimizes the chances of illness. It has been shown that alleviating stress can even enable the telomeres (the end of the DNA which usually shortens after each cell division) to lengthen. This is critical as once the telomeres shorten beyond a certain point, that cell cannot divide.
We know that exercise influences DNA repair and that being on a slightly alkaline type diet (more vegetables and less processed sugary food) does the same.
The key to future health will be in better understanding our DNA (genes). The central question is why do we not change much say between 20 and 30 but can change much between 40 and 50. The DNA is the same. The cells are dividing in the same way. What is changing?
If this riddle gets answered we will have “cracked the code”. In the meantime, there is much you can do to maintain your health as years go by.
The basics of health such as diet, exercise, sleep and stress management are the keys. And you don’t need to be a billionaire to apply them.