While there is no magic pill to reverse the aging process, our longevity can be further ensured by improving our environment, diet, lfiestyles and attitudes.By Steve Yap
ACCELERATED ageing is treatable. In anti-ageing medicine, the ageing process itself is viewed by interventionists (therapists) as a health disorder.
The majority of the present ageing population finds it difficult to accept the fact that ageing can be slowed down, and even reversed.
Indeed, the strongest barrier to medical/health intervention in ageing is likely to be psychological rather than technical in nature.
While successful ageing intervention is well-supported by modern science, people generally view it with scepticism.
Back in 2000, Nature magazine had this to say: “The field of ageing research has been completely transformed in the past decade … and … is beginning to explode, because so many are so excited about the prospect of searching for – and finding – the causes of ageing, and maybe even the fountain of youth itself.”
In The Future of Aging (2010), the editors pointed out that “governmental projections of future human life expectancy have been consistently and significantly in error in failing to anticipate steady and even accelerating reductions in mortality rates”.
There is no magic bullet to stay young and healthy forever or until we reach our maximum genetic potential, which is widely estimated to be longer than 120 years.
Our longevity is influenced by our genes, diets, lifestyle habits, external environment, education level, strength of social networks, and even our attitudes.
We used to believe that our genes determined our destiny. While good genes do help, we now understand that our inherited genes can be significantly modified – for better or for worse – by our environment, diet/lifestyles, and attitudes.
This understanding on gene expression has given rise to new non-invasive methods of health/medical intervention loosely called anti-ageing medicine, nutritional medicine, metabolic medicine, or functional medicine.
These fields of medicine are now taught in public universities in countries such as the United Kingdom, United States and Australia.
From March 19 to 22, the First World Congress on Healthy Ageing, sponsored by the World Health Organisation, will be held in Kuala Lumpur. It is organised by the Society for Healthy Ageing (www.healthyageing.org).
While there are numerous theories on ageing, the principal ways in which we age take place within our cells and are known as oxidation, chronic inflammation, glycation and methylation.
Glycation (cross-linkage) happens when excessive sugar molecules attach themselves to proteins and alter their structure and functions.
“Age (liver) spots” on the face are the accumulation of oxidised dietary fats and other cellular toxins. Every cell in our body is estimated to be attacked by at least 10,000 free radicals (ageing chemicals) on a daily basis.
Methylation is concerned with gene expression (activation) and gene suppression (silencing). Issues on chronic inflammation were well-covered in my earlier articles.
Interventionists expect the issue of ageing to be dealt with in phases over the next four decades or so.
Phase 1 (also called “Bridge 1”), which is available now, consists of calorie restriction (CR), dietary/lifestyle modification, exercise, nutritional supplements, and bioidentical hormones.
Phase 11 will cover bio-technological interventions, including gene therapy, which are likely to be available by 2015. Some aspects of gene therapy are currently available in the form of nutraceuticals, which either suppress ‘bad’ gene expression or activate the expression of good genes, or both.
Phase 111 is expected to come into force between 2035 and 2045 or earlier, and will likely cover nanotechnology and enhanced artificial intelligence.
More than 2,000 animal studies showed that optimal level of CR increased both their average life expectancy and their maximum lifespan. However, the benefits of CR apply only to your remaining life expectancy.
If you are 35 now and you have, say, another 40 years to live, then the benefits of CR only apply to those 40 years if you incorporate CR today. CR is about about eating foods and drinking beverages that are low in calories.
If the prospect of cutting back on rich food sounds unattractive to you, then check out this study by Baur et al (2006) which showed that resveratrol (an oil-based nutrient found in peanut, cocoa, dark graph skin, Hujang) mimics some of the effects of CR.
Another study concluded in 2003 at Harvard Medical School confirmed that resveratrol expresses the longevity gene SIR2.
Exercising raises the number of mitochondria in our cells. The negative health effects of major chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes type II are dramatically reduced by exercising regularly.
Research by the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that more than 50 genetic diseases are linked to defective vitamin-cofactor binding sites, which can be corrected by consuming correct nutritional supplements prescribed by licensed nutritional therapists.
But use only bioidentical hormones prescribed by physicians or those board-certified in anti-ageing medicine.
Many types of DNA damage, which later lead to cell mutation (tumour or pre-cancer growth), can be prevented by evidence-based nutraceuticals.
Recent research suggests that our lifespan is directly linked to the rate at which our DNA damage is speedily addressed. Hence, taking a positive and proactive step to regain your optimum health and vitality is a personal responsibility.
Research within the Klang Valley has shown that our senior citizens spend their last 14 years struggling with serious health problems.
Empowering yourself with knowledge of cutting-edge research on healthy ageing will pay rich dividends, especially during your retirement years.
Views expressed are those of the author, who’s president of the Federation of Complementary & Natural Medical Associations, and not necessarily those of the professional bodies and government committees of which he’s a member