Longevity Medicine

The quest for the fountain of youth has become a hot topic over the last decade, and a medical specialty has arisen to explore it. This field has been called “Anti-Aging Medicine,” a term, that, in-and-of-itself, belies the general motivation for this field. I attended a conference of A4M, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine , several years ago. One of the keynote speakers began his presentation by stating, “Death is the enemy.”

I am not “anti-aging.” To be against anything is not a powerful centering point, not a rallying point for motivation. But the title “anti-aging” is in line with the comment, “Death is the enemy.” “Fighting against” aging is motivated by force (ego/mind) and not by power (soul/spirit).

The principles and treatments of this relatively new field are important and have helped tens of thousands of people. I prefer the term “Longevity Medicine,” as it states what we want, what we are “for,” rather than what we don't want (death).

Regardless of the name of this field, our goal is to help people live longer and to be as healthy as possible, minimizing the months or years spent in pain and suffering prior to death.

Why we age is a subject of considerable controversy. I'll try to assist you in understanding some of the main theories about aging, while discussing a number of practical things you can do, as well as nutrients and hormones you can take to enhance longevity. Here are the main theories about aging:

1. Genetic

Deterioration of mitochondrial DNA is part of the process of “senescence” or aging. Nuclear DNA within the cell's nucleus) defects are also included in this category.

2. Oxidative Stress

3. Terminal Illness

4. Life Style and Environment

5. Deterioration of Key Metabolic Pathways

6. Disturbance in our Bioelectrical Fields

There are dozens of well-researched methods of slowing down or reversing the aging process. These do not necessarily neatly fall into one of the six categories listed above, and I will not try too hard to squeeze all of these useful techniques and strategies into these six categories.

Before exploring why we age and die, there are some fundamental questions to ask and thoughts to ponder:

1. Is death a natural part of life? This is for you to answer, not me.

2. What are the outer limits of longevity? Given the best of current and future science, how long can human beings expect to live?£ Elizabeth Isreal, also known as Ma Pampo, from the Dominican Republic is believed to have been the world's oldest living human being on record. Ma Pampo, the daughter of a freed slave, was born on January 27th, 1875 and died in 2003, living to 128! She was born the year Ulysses S. Grant was President of the U.S.

3. Why do some animals maintain their level of vitality, strength, and reproductive capacity until they are very old? One example is a sea turtle that lives well beyond 100 years, and as long as 150 years. It does not slow down and does not “age.” It simply reaches the point where it dies, but is healthy.

4. Can we die and be totally healthy?

5. How is it possible for some people, namely highly evolved saints, sages, and rishis, to “leave their bodies” when they want to? They tell their disciples the exact day and time they will depart…and then do so.

6. From the standpoint of quantum mechanics, human beings (and all living creatures) are electron clouds that are “trying to hold it together.” Life” is the process by which electron clouds manage to remain cohesive for a certain period of time (our life-span). At a certain point, that we call “aging,” it becomes more and more difficult for the human electron cloud to remain cohesive, and it gradually begins to fall apart.

DNA and Aging

Genetics is involved with aging in a variety of ways. Damage to mitochondrial DNA plays a key role. Mitochondria are the energy factories within our cells. DNA is present in mitochondria as well as in the nucleus of every cell. Genetic mutations in mouse mitochondria DNA determine the lifespan of the mouse. Oxidative stress within mitochondria is the main way that mitochondrial DNA is damaged. CoQ 10 is an anti-oxidant that is particularly helpful in decreasing mitochondrial DNA damage.

Mitochondrial DNA is so critical to life and aging because ATP, the molecule of energy, is produced in the mitochondria. Eighty percent of the oxygen we breathe is burned in the creation of ATP. Whether our body is building proteins or hormones or breaking down toxic compounds, ATP is what we use as the energy to “get the work done.” As ATP chemistry becomes impaired with age, every chemical process slows down or breaks down.

There is much argument in the field of evolution about the nature of human beings. Are we programmed to die? Is DNA a biological clock? If so, does that programming serve some evolutionary purpose? It does seem that many cells undergo programmed cell death.

One of the proven ways that DNA impacts longevity has to do with telomeres, which are special sequences of DNA at both ends of each chromosome. Telomeres are like leader tape at the beginning of an audiocassette. They carry no information. Every time DNA replicates itself, the telomere grows shorter. The length of a telomere at birth is twice as long as it is at age 100. Cells stop dividing when telomeres shorten sufficiently. It has been hypothesized that when telomeres have reached a critically short length, due to numerous replications of DNA over the years, a signal is sent out into the cell to stop growing. This is, in effect, aging or senescence.

Stress shortens our lifespan and increases symptoms of unhealthy aging by shortening telomeres. So stress-management does more than help you feel more peaceful. It also helps you live longer.

Cancer relates to the topic of genetics. Cancer becomes a major challenge when: 1) DNA problems alter the cell's normal rate of replication, and 2) our immune system is no longer strong enough to destroy the small number of cancer cells that float through our bloodstream throughout our adult life.

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals, which are molecules that have an unpaired electron . . . or are missing an electron. Free radicals or “oxidants” attack cell membranes, body tissues, artery walls, and DNA—resulting in disease and aging. Some free radicals are the result of environmental pollution. Others are by-products of normal metabolism.

We've already looked at how free radicals can damage the mitochondrial DNA. The effects of oxidative stress are vast, since free radicals attack every cell in the body. Of great importance is the impact that free radicals have on the cardiovascular system. To illustrate the process of cardiovascular disease, consider that a free radical coursing through your arteries steals an electron from a cell of the endothelium (the inner lining of arteries). That arterial cell is now a free radical, since it is now missing an electron. It will steal an electron from a cell passing by (red blood cell, for example). That red blood cell is now a free radical.

Oxidative stress is an explosive chain reaction that starts by a single electron being “stolen” from a healthy cell. Over decades, after billions of electrons have been removed from a section of the artery endothelium, a tear appears in the artery wall. Lots of “junk” then begins to slip “under the endothelium”—junk like LDL (bad cholesterol), bacteria, fibrin, and cellular debris. This is not the model that you see on TV and it is not the model that most of medicine yet understands, but it is the model that leading nutritional cardiologists do understand.

These collections of debris accumulate under the artery wall (endothelium), and not on top of it. Some of these areas will become calcified, and will show up on x-rays. These areas of arterial damage are not dangerous, for the calcified plaque actually seals the arterial tear and its debris like a scar can seal a skin wound. However, many areas of subendothelial debris are not covered, or “protected,” by plaque, and these are the dangerous areas.

A myocardial infarction (heart attack) occurs when one of the non-calcified areas of subendothelial debris suddenly bursts, delivering all of its contents into the coronary arteries. Immediately, platelets, fibrin and other clotting factors rush to the scene to clot off the area. And very suddenly the coronary artery is shut down, and part of your heart has lost its blood flow. Heart attacks do not take place because your coronary arteries are slowly narrowing due to atherosclerosis.

This process of oxidative stress and artery endothelium damage can be reversed. In general, it takes thirty or forty years of oxidative stress before you have a heart attack.

You can reverse the process by eating well, avoiding junk food, removing heavy metals and other toxins from your body, eating foods rich in anti-oxidants (fruits and vegetables with lots of color), and supplementing with anti-oxidants. The best research on oxidative stress was done by Dr. Lester Packer who wrote “The Anti-Oxidant Miracle.” He showed that there are five essential anti-oxidants that work synergistically with each other, namely: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, CoQ 10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Reduced Glutathione. There are dozens of anti-oxidants, and they all work in conjunction, or play a supportive role, to these core five.

Terminal Illness

It is difficult to sort out where normal aging leaves off and disease sets in. Clearly, oxidative stress is one of the main mechanisms of aging. It is also one of the main causes of all chronic illness and is the central mechanism that leads to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Because CVD is the number-one killer in America, claiming the lives of 40% of the 2.5 million Americans who die each year, it needs to be looked at, not just as a major illness, but also as a major cause of aging. Is the line growing a little fuzzy? It's a fuzzy line. What is illness? What is normal aging? Anything that improves cardiovascular function improves longevity. The list of nutrients, attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyle factors that improve cardiovascular health is long.

Life Style and Environment

1. Caloric Restriction

More than 2,000 studies have been done since the 1930's on the positive effects of caloric restriction. Studies of mice that have been on a diet that has 50% of the normal amount of calories, but all of the essential nutrients, show that these mice live 30% longer than mice on normal diets. The average human life span in America is 75. If we apply the 30% figure to people, we might be able to add 20 years to our lives through caloric restriction.

2. Exercise

Exercise improves virtually every indicator of aging, including cardiovascular health, immune system health, energy, vitality, well-being, bone density, and hormonal status.

3. Attitude

One study examined the lives of centenarians (people at least 100 years old) and found three keys to their longevity:

a. Positive Attitude

b. Sense of Purpose

c. Strong Social Support and Active Social Interactions

4. Lack of Cigarette Smoking

5. Church Attendance

Regardless of whether or not a person believes in God or not, regular church attendance promotes longevity at the same level that being a nonsmoker protects us. The kind of church or particular religion is irrelevant to this protection.

6. Emotions and Aging

We don't tend to think of aging as a happy process, but a comprehensive British study is showing otherwise. The subjects in the study ranged from 17 years old to 75. The data showed that as we age, we become more positive, more cheerful, and let go of negative thoughts and emotions more easily than do younger people. The youngest in the study dwelled more on negative thoughts and had a more difficult time detaching or letting go of negative mental states than did people in their sixties and seventies. The effect was linear, which is to say that, from age 17 to 75, there is a steady progression in happiness, without any age range that deviated from this “happy progression.” One can make several conclusions from this, but what seems most obvious is that people gain wisdom through the years.

7. Nutrition

Clearly, the food we eat and the water we drink contribute enormously to our health and longevity. It is beyond the scope of this article to define “good nutrition,” but it's important to consider a few things:

a. In the 1930's, the U.S. government determined that our soil was depleted of minerals. Since then, nothing has been done to replenish the soil, so it is up to us to purchase or grow organic food and/or add mineral supplements to our diets.

b. Because of the processing of food, vitamins and amino acids are also depleted, so special attention needs to be given to replacing these key nutrients.

c. Huge quantities of pesticides are used to help “protect” our crops. Those pesticides, along with environmental toxins, end up in our bodies, much of it stored in fat cells. A long life involves not only a healthy diet, but also detoxification (chelation, supplementation with various nutrients like chlorella, and saunas) to remove toxins from our bodies. Heavy metal toxicity (lead, mercury, nickel, aluminum, cadmium, and arsenic) deposit throughout the body, including the brain. There is growing evidence that Alzheimer's Disease is associated with aluminum toxicity of the brain. Multiple Sclerosis is associated with mercury toxicity of the brain.

d. If one's fluid intake drops by 5%, you become dehydrated. You can live for decades with low levels of dehydration, but your health and longevity will suffer. Researchers have studied the water supply of villages in the world where people routinely live into their hundreds. It is not yet clear (to me) if there is something special about the water these people drink, or whether they just have great genes regarding longevity. There is some evidence linking long-lived societies with their water supply. However, several researchers have come to completely opposite conclusions about “what's in the water” in these societies. Mineral-rich water appears to be one area in which there is agreement about the positive effects.

Deterioration of Key Metabolic Pathways

While aging is associated with a gradual deterioration of countless metabolic processes, there are a few that are central to the aging process, namely: oxidation, glycation, and cross-linking.

Oxidation is not unlike rusting, and this is what oxidative stress is all about.

Glycation is a process in which glucose and other forms of sugar bind with proteins to form glycated protein, which are proteins that have lost their normal function.

One of the worst forms of glycation occurs within the collagen of our blood vessels. Glycation causes “cardiovascular cross-linking,” which means that our arteries lose their elasticity and become more like rigid pipes.

In addition to these processes associated with aging, depletion of glutathione is associated with almost all chronic illness as well as normal aging. There are multiple reasons for this, often discussed in this column. Glutathione is one of the key cofactors for the Kreb's Cycle, the reaction in our mitochondria that makes ATP.

Glutathione has another important function that relates to aging. Our cells are supposed to be packed with glutathione, which helps protect DNA from the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays. As glutathione wears out over the decades, our DNA is more easily damaged. The amino acid, N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), will help restore glutathione. Recently I came across evidence that one can supplement with glutathione directly. In the past, it was thought that the gastrointestinal tract breaks down any glutathione you ingest, making it worthless, but it now seems that you can supplement your diet with glutathione and it will get into your cells, without having to use the main precursor to glutathione, namely N-Acetyl Cysteine. Ideally, use both NAC and oral reduced glutathione to restore intracellular glutathione.

Nitric oxide is another compound that, when diminished, is associated with some chronic illness. In particular, every cardiac risk factor depletes nitric oxide. Ordinarily, the lining of our arteries, the endothelium, manufactures nitric oxide, but through decades of oxidative stress, nitric oxide production declines. The amino acid L-Arginine helps restore nitric oxide, which in turn helps keep our arteries healthy.

Disturbance in our Bioelectrical Fields

This article started out by describing the human being (and all living creatures) as “an electron field that is trying to hold it together, that is trying not to fall apart.” We have technologies that can measure electrical frequencies of brain, heart, muscle, nerves, and much more. We are a swirl of perfected frequencies, with both very large and very small electrical fields. Ideally, these fields have an optimal voltage and range (or size). The fields and their frequencies overlap each other.

We live, work, sleep, and drive within toxic electro-magnetic fields, causing an imbalance in healthy bioelectric fields. Fortunately, the computer I am using right now has a device that cancels out the toxic frequencies that radiate several feet in front of and in back of computers . . . as well as television screens. After extensive research, I concluded that the EMF-BioShield is the least expensive and most effective technology to protect yourself from the damage caused by non-flat screen computers. You can easily find the BioShield on the Internet. There are a variety of new technologies that help restore our body's normal electrical fields. There is exciting news on this front that will be discussed in future articles.

Hormones and More

Dr. Ronald Klatz helped bring public awareness to anti-aging medicine through his book, Grow Young with HGH . Most people think of Longevity Medicine, or Anti-Aging Medicine, as being “hormone replacement therapy.” Obviously, it is much more than that, but we need to touch on this area. HGH (human growth hormone) helps reverse aging, makes skin more youthful, and brings heart, lungs, immune system, and bones to more youthful levels.

The hormone DHEA has been shown to increase the life-span of laboratory animals by 50%. Most anti-aging researchers believe that the decline of DHEA is one of the main reasons that people age. To quote endocrinologist, John Nestler, M.D. of the Medical College of Virginia, “As humans grow older, we get fat, cancer, heart disease; our cholesterol goes up. All the things that happen to us are things that DHEA combats in animals.”

The fact is that most hormones decline with age, but it appears that HGH and DHEA are directly connected with longevity. One hormone, insulin, is inversely related to longevity. The higher our insulin levels, the greater our risk of heart disease. Most laboratories will tell you that insulin below 25 is normal. However, studies have shown that if your insulin level is 10 –12, your risk of heart disease (independent of diabetes) doubles, and if your level is 13 – 15, your cardiac risk quadruples. Insulin is an independent risk factor for heart disease, and hence for aging also. Elevated insulin levels also make cancers grow faster.

There are dozens of nutritional and hormonal products that will help you live longer and have more vitality in your later years. The Life Extension organization describes those products and nutrients at http://www.lef.org/anti-aging/.

Longevity is a combination of genetics and environment. There clearly are people who live into their hundreds who have not led what we would call a “healthy life.” They are the lucky ones. But it is important to know the difference between genotype and phenotype. Your genotype is “what is in your genes.” Your phenotype is how those genes are expressed. If you follow the principles of Longevity Medicine, you can suppress genes that cause illness and early aging, and can enhance genes that foster longevity and wellness.

False Promises

Wherever there is a need, there will be marketing! I believe that coral calcium falls into this category. Dr. Jeffrey Bland, one of the leading experts in Functional (Nutritional) Medicine has studied coral calcium and believes it is simply “very expensive calcium.” The people of Okinawa have the longest life span on the planet. Some researchers (or marketing directors?) concluded that the coral calcium in their diet was responsible for the health and longevity of the people of Okinawa. With some good marketing, coral calcium sales took off.

What the proponents of coral calcium failed to tell you is that they ignored numerous “real” research studies about Okinawa, that reviewed their lifestyle, very low caloric intake, low protein intake, high seafood diet, high physical activity level and more.

The lessons of coral calcium are:

1) Watch out for promises that seem too good to be true. They usually are too good to be true.

2) Beware of people who have found the “single,” one-and-only cause for illness, and the single cure for anything.

3.) Watch out for our tendencies to want things to be simple. Health and longevity are complex matters. Of everything you've read in this article, the one item that stands above the rest of all the research data is that caloric restriction prolongs life and improves health and well-being.

David Gersten, M.D. practices Nutritional Medicine, Interactive Guided Imagery, and Transpersonal Psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-line pages about holistic health, amino acids, and nutritional therapy at www.aminoacidpower.com.


Dear Louise

Dear Louise,

I have a twin sister whom I love very much. We're very close, and even though we're 26 years old and single, our lives are as similar as when we were children. We really enjoy our life together.

But can you tell me, what's the purpose of a twin sibling in someone's life? What is keeping us together? I don't think it's very “normal” for twins to stay together for such a long time. I don't know if you've mentioned something about this in any of your books, but if you ever decide to write a book about twins, I think that will be great!

A.M., South Carolina

Dear A.M.,

You've been with your twin since you were in the womb—of course you'll be closely bonded for your entire life. The twins I've known have always wanted to remain close. With a twin you love, you'll never feel the aloneness that others do, and you'll always have someone to negotiate with. Sondra Ray, who has done workshops with twins, believes that the firstborn comes out guilty and the second one comes out angry. I wonder if that's true for you. You could look this author up on the Internet and ask her for more information on twins.

Enjoy your unique situation, and continue to love each other and rejoice in life!

Dear Louise,

I've recently been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), but have been self-medicating for hyperthyroidism with herbs and vitamins, as my blood tests are negative. Could you possibly advise me of good affirmations for this problem? Thank you.

M.C., Australia


Dear M.C.,

CFS usually develops as a result of being disconnected from our emotions. Emotions are the energy that bridges the mind with the body. When we disconnect from this energy, we experience a lessening of life energy, which can eventually lead to chronic fatigue and/or depression.

This is a pattern that usually begins in childhood. At home and in society, many of us receive the message that it's not okay to express certain feelings, such as sadness or anger. Women are especially taught that it's not okay to express anger or sexual feelings,. We suppress or “depress” the so-called unacceptable feeling inside us. We become cut off from our emotional energy and are left with a general feeling of fatigue and disconnection from life. As a result, we very often feel we're “running on empty,” so to speak.

It's important to know that at least 80 percent of all autoimmune dis-ease occurs in women. Somewhere very deep within so many of our bodies, there's some kind of destructive message that needs to be revealed and transformed. To break free of this pattern, it's helpful to establish a safe environment to reconnect with our feeling processes and begin to safely release stored anger, sadness, and other suppressed emotions. It's highly recommended and important to be in contact with a qualified professional as you go through this process.

Affirm: It is safe to express all that is within me. I love, honor, and accept all aspects of who and what I am. As a result, I am energized, expressed, and filled with joy!


Dear Louise,

Since my 19-year old daughter died six and a half years ago in a car accident, I've been feeling very lethargic, have trouble feeling any positive energy, and am unable to enjoy living or planning for anything anymore. Basically I feel as though I'm just going through the motions, not caring what's going to happen today, next week, or next year.

I used to be very active, walking three to five miles every other day and working out at a gym four or five days a week. After not exercising for six years, I started working out at a different gym (the other reminded me too much of the years before), but the days after, I feel so debilitated that I can't even get out of bed. Sometimes I even feel the pain when I sleep. I'm trying very hard to get some of my strength back, especially now that I've become a grandmother of a one-year-old granddaughter, but I'd just rather give up. Please help.

D.M., Boston, MA

Dear D.M.,

You have my deepest condolences for the challenges you've gone through with your daughter. I know that experience was a tremendous blow to you. And it sounds like you've been punishing yourself ever since. When a loved one dies, we have a tendency to blame ourselves. “If I only had, or had not . . . ,”we say over and over again. We accept guilt for the event, even though we're not responsible in any way. And that's what you've done. But now you're reaching out for some help, and that's a good sign. I think your daughter has been asking you to do this for some time. Yes, your daughter is gone physically, but she's still near you and loves you very much. Ask her for help in healing your heart. She has never wanted you to suffer in any way, and it distresses her that you do. Another thought: How do you know that your granddaughter isn't your daughter returned to Earth?

There's a reason for every experience we have. For your daughter's peace of mind and your granddaughter's opportunity for a joyous life, begin to love and cherish yourself. I think that six and a half years of punishment is enough. Talk to your daughter constantly, and open your mind to hearing her voice telling you how much you're loved. All truly is well.

Louise L. Hay is a metaphysical teacher and the bestselling author of numerous books, including You Can Heal Your Life , Empowering Women, and I Can Do It! . Subscribe to the Louise Hay Newsletter! Call for a Free Issue: (800) 654-5126. Questions for Louise? Write to: Dear Louise Column, c/o Hay House, Inc., P.O. Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100 (letters may be edited for length and clarity). Visit Louise and Hay House at: www.LouiseHay.com or www.hayhouse.com.