Since the beginning of mortal times (marked historically by Eve’s biting into the apple), mankind has sought to capture eternal youth and to drink happily from the “Fountain of Youth”. Mystically, there does exist a fountain of youth, known only to a handful of mystics. This quest, although intensified in the modern era, has wandered through the ancient fields of magic, superstition and folk medicines.
Recently, due to tremendous media explosion of the ageless and timeless “beautiful people”, societal expectations have revved up the search for the fountain to dizzying proportions. A quick search on the internet will lead you through a maze of websites promising lasting youth and in some cases, reversing the aging process via a litany of techniques. Some are frightfully expensive and some are amazingly economical. Due to the number of people now engaging in anti-aging therapies, it has become imperative for the medical practitioners to get involved in their patients efforts to “lose years” to assure their well being.
The best definition of aging was by Richard A. Miller of the University of Michigan: "Aging is the process that converts fit adults into frailer adults with a progressively increased risk of illness, injury, and death." As humans age, many physiologic changes take place, including such well known examples as decline in renal function and decreased accommodation of the lens of the eye. These changes make humans more susceptible to insults, and eventually may contribute to death.
At present there are many approaches to reverse aging. Most fall in one of the following categories.
1) Caloric Restriction: this has been studies to some extents in humans observationally. Some benefits of this approach are:
a. Lengthened average and
maximal life span
b. Improvements in markers of
aging (e.g., glucose and insulin
c. Reduced mortality for low-
calorie diet or low body
2) Cell based therapies: involves injection of gonadal extracts. Also known as modern cell transplantation. Proponents of this approach have observed “Invigoration” but no conclusive evidence was found during my search.
3) Hormonal therapies: this involves injections of estrogen (female defining hormone) testosterone (male defining hormone) or the human growth hormone (hormone found in young children to help them grow). There has been no conclusive anti-aging benefits documented except for anecdotal results implying enhanced body lean mass, reduction of the fat tissue and increase in energy. However, this also comes with potential increase in blood pressure, blood sugar, heart disease possibly breast and prostrate cancer. That certainly contradicts its initial claims.
4) Genetic manipulation: This is science in evolution, probably holds the most promise. No definitive evidence yet. This also has the potential of being fairly controversial.
5) Supplements: a very nebulous and poorly researched area in comparison to traditional medicines. Some supplements can have worse side effects than medications prescribed by your doctor. No evidence yet.
6) Holistic Medicine: This area encompasses the likes of yoga, meditation spiritual existence. Practitioners of this form have described anecdotally significant reduction in the aging process and have documented some case studies of spontaneous healing and longevity well beyond the accepted lifespan. This area is being studied very scientifically and in the future will have more objective data. At present, its mostly on faith and anecdotes, however, it is well accepted by the medical society that it is potentially helpful but clearly no risk associated with it.
Needless, to say, entrepreneurs have cashed in on many of the above approaches. Growth hormone clinics have sprouted by the dozens. At present these approaches are no more than “Trial and Error”. Injections and cell based therapies are clearly closer to the error margin than the rest. Clearly, no easy solutions are to be found in a pill or injection. Any proposed easy solution can have many hidden risks which may not have been discovered as yet. Prior to initiating any program, it is imperative that you consult with your personal physician, who can counsel you in a unbiased manner.
Based on today’s knowledge, best anti-aging therapy involves meticulously healthy life habits with focus on maintaining adequate weight, eating only high fiber foods, exercising regularly and keeping stress levels low or engaging in stress busting activities. Regular preventive visits with your doctor are of utmost importance. Pretty soon to be included in this list are a regular dose of yoga and meditation.
Reference: Hospital Practice: Anti-aging therapy: Dr Vojta, Dr. Fraga, Dr. Forciea, Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey.
The contents are meant for informative, educational purposes only. Formal recommendations can only be made by physicians involved in your care. Please check with your physician before acting on any part of this article.