Anti-aging medicine is an evolving branch of medical science and applied medicine. It treats the underlying causes of aging and aims at alleviating any age related ailment. Its goal is to extend the healthy lifespan of humans having youthful characteristics.
Conventional and alternative medical disciplines are used in an integrated approach to achieve the best possible result for the patient. It is a holistic discipline, seeing the patient as a whole and not as someone having an isolated disease.
Aging is a progressive failure of metabolic processes. Our organs age at different rates. To a certain extent this is based on hormones. There are three main biochemical processes involved in aging. These are oxidation, glycation and methylation. Other relevant processes are chronic inflammation and hormonal deregulation.
Free radicals are a group of simple compounds with an electron missing from their chemical structure. This makes them unstable. They seek out other chemical structures from which they can acquire an electron and in the process make them unstable.
Free radicals in small and controlled quantities are useful in everyday metabolism. They take part in several normal reactions within the body including breathing. These free radicals are mainly produced during oxygen metabolism within the cells. The problem starts when the production of these free radicals increases and goes out of control.
Free radical reactions can be divided into three stages: Initiation, Propagation and Termination. The defense mechanisms against these are inactivating them within the cells soon after production, removing them by scavenging antioxidants and increasing the elimination of material already damaged by free radicals.
To put it in practice means to prevent exposure to free radicals from sources such as pollution, bad diet, and smoking and take antioxidants. The term antioxidant refers to chain-breaking compound. Broadly antioxidant is any substance, that when present at low concentrations compared with those of an oxidizable substrate significantly delays or inhibits oxidation of that substrate.
Free radicals damage the cell membrane which is composed of lipids and proteins. Their interaction results in the production of the chemical Melondialdehyde which is very harmful, contributing to another important aging process called glycation.
When glucose molecules and other sugars such as fructose attach themselves to proteins, it is called glycation. This results in brownish discoloration of tissues. The binding of sugar to protein causes cross linking of proteins. Cross linked proteins cause more damage by reacting with free radicals and other toxins to create Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). These AGEs bind to cells at special attachment sites called RAGEs (Receptor for AGEs). These result in the production of several harmful chemicals damaging tissues.
AGEs are found in most tissues in the body and their concentration increases from the age of twenty onward.
However nutrient such as carnosine and other Anti-Aging supplements/drugs can help in breaking this process.
Unfortunately the process of glycation not only affects proteins, but also interferes with DNA. A cross linked DNA molecule is of no use at all. There are drugs being investigated which can actually break this bond between cross linked proteins which are glycated.
When ‘methyl groups’ are being added to different constituents of the proteins, DNA and other molecules to keep them in good, active condition, it is called methylation. This is necessary for the normal maintenance of tissues and is usually kept at a healthy levels naturally by the body. Methylation of certain parts of the DNA causes permanent switching off of unnecessary genes and saves the body from abnormal DNA division. This means that methylation of those particular sections of DNA blocks any abnormal DNA from being passed onto the future generations of cells.
Any chronic inflammation process affects methylation because the immune system, which is heavily involved in fighting inflammation, gorges itself on methyl groups, leaving nothing for other tissues of the body.
Low methylation is reflected in the increasing levels of homocysteine, which is found in chronic inflammatory processes such as lupus, heart disease and diabetes. Increased intake of methylators reduces the risk of these diseases.
There are scientists who believe that most age related changes in the body are due to chronic inflammation. When there is chronic inflammation, the body tissues are eaten away by toxic chemicals, resulting in dementia, thickening of the arteries, arthritis, diabetes, hormonal imbalance and so on. Taking low dose of anti-inflammatory chemicals such as Aspirin keeps age related inflammation at bay. However, this is not a widely shared opinion. A diet containing nutrients i.e. fish (contains anti-inflammatory oils), fruit and vegetables, particularly berries (which are packed full of antioxidants and inflammation-fighting flavonoids) along with supplements like alpha lipoic acid and co-enzyme Q10 are helpful.
There is little doubt about the important role hormones play in our lives and in aging. The pacemakers of youth, these precious little chemicals keep us young, healthy and vibrant. In general, aging results in imbalance of hormones in the body or one can also ask “Does hormonal imbalance cause aging?” Hormones such as growth hormone, melatonin and DHEA need to be replaced or reactivated during aging to prevent the body from falling apart. It is also important to make sure that the binding sites of the hormones need to be in good working order. Every organ in the body may age at a different rate. The classical example of this is the menopause in females and the literature is replete with Hormone Replacement Therapy for the same. It seems prudent to replace the other hormones in physiological limits. Hormone replacement therapy is likely to play a very important role in maintaining health. It is very important here to make the distinction between the Synthetic hormones and the Bioidentical hormones.
The importance of food we eat can be summarized by what Dr. Barry Sears said and I quote: “The food you eat is probably the most powerful drug you will encounter. But to use this drug correctly, you have to apply the hormonal rules about the food that haven't changed in the past 40 million years and are unlikely to change anytime soon.”
Balancing Insulin and glucagon activity is at the core of eating a hormonally correct diet. The hormonally correct diet contains 30% protein, 50% carbohydrates and 20% fat along with vitamins, minerals and drinking plenty of water which is filtered, mineralized and magnetized. Eating small meals every 4-5 hours and eating the proper ratio of proteins, carbohydrates and fat at each meal or snack can mean a difference between illness and good health.
Eating proper food for one's height, weight and body type and activity level is the foundation for a better quality of life and greater longevity.
Dr. Alex Lief, MD Harvard Medical School has said and I quote: “Exercise is the closest thing we have to an anti-aging pill.” Regular physical activity has been a way of life for virtually every person who has reached the age of 100 years in sound condition. Exercise is medicine. If you think that smoking is not good, the following statement will enlighten. “Not exercising has the equivalent impact on your health as smoking one and one half pack of cigarettes a day.”
These include various antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. These include but are not limited to Vitamin A, C, E, mineral selenium, glutathione, superoxide dismutase, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid and Carnosine.
First we have to distinguish the synthetic hormones and bioidentical hormones. The former differ in chemical structure from the later which exactly have the same structure as the hormones we have in our body. Hence they can not be patented. These are available as injection, tablets, and creams. They are derived from Yam or Soy. The goal of hormone replacement therapy is to bring them to the level of youth. Again it has to be done after complete evaluation and under the guidance of an Anti-Aging physician.
The future will involve manipulating genes, increasing utilization of stem cells (embryonic and adult) and targeted delivery of nutrients and drugs using nanotechnology.
It is our hope that this will help you begin your journey in Anti-Aging Medicine.
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