Can you grow old without growing "older?" – LIVING WELL Dallas, LIVING WELL Magazine

Can you grow old without growing “older”?

By Guy A. Francis, D.O., North Dallas LIVING WELL Magazine

How would you like to be playing tennis in your 60s, dancing up a storm every Friday night in your 70s, or having a libido and active sex life in your 80s?

What we generally regard as the inevitable changes that come with aging is really more myth than reality. Getting “old” is a disease. Coronary artery plaque, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes are just some of the ways it manifests itself. It may come as a surprise to you to know that they––for the most part––are preventable and often somewhat reversible.

The problems of degenerative diseases don’t just come out of the blue and attack us.  They are present and smoldering for many years before they present themselves. By the time most of these problems become apparent, and can be diagnosed by your doctor, they are 80% established.

“Well,” you say, “my grandfather had arthritis as did my father, so I’ll probably get it too.”  Genetics play a role; however, pathological aging has more to do with the environmental and behavioral choices we make in life than do our genes. What you “wash” your genes in makes the difference! Through unenlightened, unhealthy choices we can effectively age more rapidly.

Even though we may be aging more rapidly than necessary, it is not always apparent. Since we are capable of continuing our activities of daily living, medical testing might continue to fall in the “normal” range for our age. As you will learn, the variance in the rate of decline of our body’s reserve capacity has more to do with the choices we make in life than fate, genetics, or natural aging. Modern conventional medicine uses drugs and technology to help us carry on, albeit at a much lower level of capacity. This is the much dreaded disability span of life.

Our present health care system is in reality a disease management system and has not been successful in disease prevention. What is possible, however, is the goal of maintaining a high degree of functional capacity throughout life. We all like to do and are interested in the things we did in our 20s and 30s and look forward to new adventures.  We can still enjoy these pursuits if we have the physical and mental capacity to do so.

In natural aging, you don’t or seldom get the degenerative diseases previously mentioned. It is not to say we don’t slow down and lose some functionality in the normal aging process, rather functionality declines slowly.

When we die a natural death it is usually because everything gives out about the same time. In other words, while you are alive, you are healthy and vibrant, and then die quickly, not after living in a nursing home for 10 or 20 years.

The process of pathological aging is to a great degree controllable through lifestyle choices and existing technologies. Fortunately, that implies they are also amenable to personal intervention. Here are some of the underlying manageable culprits involved in pathological aging:

  • OXIDATIVE STRESS – This is caused by oxygen molecules becoming free radicals in our cells doing damage. This occurs in a number of ways, some of which are: smoking, high prolonged stress, toxins, food types and additives, etc.  We can address excess free radicals by reducing their formation. Also, we can mop them up by ingesting adequate amounts of antioxidants in our diet and with antioxidant nutritional supplementation.
  • CHRONIC INFLAMMATION – Inflammation is helpful in helping you heal that fracture or fight off a cold, but continual inflammation throughout your body is a major cause of degenerative disease of all kinds. Excess inflammation causes or contributes to arthritis, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, cancer, and others. Contributing factors are obesity – especially mid-section, stress, inactivity, excess insulin, and declining hormone levels-especially thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones.

Preventative aging medicine is the new paradigm in the medical field. Under the guidance of a practitioner of anti-aging or functional medicine, you can experience the process of personal transformation and improvement in health, to whatever degree is possible for you. You just might discover considerable years filled with vitality added to your life as well. Longevity could be thought of as the icing on the cake of a longer “health span.”

Guy A. Francis, D.O., The Health Physician for Men, practices wellness medicine at Living Well Dallas (14330 Midway Road, suite 121, Dallas, TX 75244) and can be contacted at 972-930-0260 or drfrancis@livingwelldallas.com.