Americans have an average life span never before seen. An average lifespan in the U.S. rose to 78.7 in 2012. However, are we living longer healthier?
When I ask my patients, “What is your definition of healthy aging?” there is sure to be a variety of answers. Almost all would agree it is the absence of chronic disease such as heart disease and cancer, the preservation of our mind, the freedom to move with little pain, and to be spiritually and emotionally fulfilled.
Chronic disease such as diabetes, obesity, and arthritis in today’s society is NOT associated with aging anymore. For example, type 2 diabetes was a condition normally only seen in adults not children. However, many children are now being diagnosed with this condition not because they were born with a lack of hormone called insulin, but because there is insulin resistance, a condition associated with excess body fat.
Some astounding facts- 1 in 3 adults is pre-diabetic. By 2030, 50% of the population will be diabetic. One of you or someone you know has an autoimmune disorder (hypothyroidism, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn’s just are some examples). 50 million people are living with some kind of autoimmune disorder, that’s more then cancer or heart disease.
So what is causing our society to live more sick? It’s not just genetics. Genes are estimated to contribute only 10% to most diseases. We need to look at our environment. There is an exciting field of science called Epigenetics that looks at how our genes are expressed or turned on or off. Literally meaning “above” genes, epigenetics shows us how interactions with the environment affect a cell’s expression or phenotype. There’s no clearer example of epigenetics in effect then when you look at photos of our aging president in office. The photos of President Obama’s black hair turned white and aging skin in a relatively short period of time reflects the expression of stress on a cellular level.
Stress is known to play havoc on our health and its connection to our cognitive decline is what makes it linked to chronic conditions such as dementia. Statistically women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia then breast cancer after the age of 60. Dementia and stroke are the leading causes of death in women.
The good news is that our cells have the ability to heal and regenerate themselves. Specifically, the body is designed to be self-regulating and healing. There are two types of nervous systems- the “Fight or Flight response” put out by the sympathetic nervous system and the “Rest and Digest response” promoted by the parasympathetic nervous system. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation, breathing from our diaphragm, recalling positive memories, prayer and spirituality are just a few of the well studied practices that lower stress and increase relaxation.
Like a fuel-efficient car, our mind and body are also going to depend on the quality of the fuel or diet we consume. However, it is not enough to eat a “healthy diet” anymore. Unfortunately, the soil and the processing of food have depleted many of the nutrients from our food supply. For example, it takes a dozen bowls of spinach to get the same amount of iron consumed in 1 cup of spinach in the 1930’s. For this reason, I recommend supplementation to our diet with pharmaceutical grade vitamins. Among the micronutrients I test for and recommend are: 1. VITAMIN D for the protective role in cancer prevention. 2.PROBIOTIC to promote healthy immune and gastrointestinal function. 3. Omega 3’s from a pharmaceutical grade FISH OIL for the anti-inflammatory protection of our cells- eyes, brain, joints, skin, and heart.
Our bodies must also be equipped to metabolize and excrete metabolic waste products that get introduced into our systems everyday. In a recent CDC analysis, an average American was found to excrete in the urine a total of 69 different chemicals! Despite the environmental exposures we breathe, consume, and absorb in our bodies everyday, the good news is the body is designed to rid itself of these toxins with the help of our key organs- the liver, gut, and kidneys.
We can support the liver’s efforts for metabolic detoxification by incorporating specific nutrients from foods like cruciferous vegetables- broccoli, cauliflower, dandelion root, green tea, spices, and even dark chocolate. The thinking has been done for you with science-based products offered to patients in the office. I challenge everyone to undergo a medically supervised detoxification once a year. The more “toxic” you feel, the more you will benefit.
Lastly, more Americans are living longer but with more disease. This points to compelling research correlating the loss of the PROTECTIVE role HORMONES play in our health. A man’s testosterone level can drop 1-3% per year. A woman’s testosterone may decline 50% by the time she’s 40! The implications for our health as we live longer means higher risk for memory loss and dementia, bone loss and osteoporosis, spikes in weight gain around the belly and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, the number killer of American men and women in the U.S.
Maintaining other healthy lifestyle habits such as not smoking and moderate alcohol cannot go unsaid when talking about disease prevention. Other important factors- the ability to cope with stress, to maintain muscle mass as we age, to promote heart rate variability, to get quality sleep, and to make time for social connections- these are all part of what make a positive impact on our biology and our quality of life. Here is to healthy aging!
Dr. Kim Loomis is passionate about teaching patients to use lifestyle as their first line of therapy. She offers nutrition and weight loss counseling and bioidentical hormones as part of her healthy aging program. At your consultation you may be tested for micronutrient deficiencies, a complete hormone analysis, food allergies and environmental toxin exposures.
Call the office for your next consult (562) 296-5528