At least once a week, someone asks me about anti-aging therapies. People want to know if there are special supplements, hormones, or injections to keep them youthful. Is there something they’re missing? Will everyone be getting younger while, for them (and them alone) time will march inexorably on?
The concept of anti-aging medicine was invented by two Chicago osteopaths, Drs. Robert Goldman and Robert Klatz. Their organization, the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine, holds two meetings a year, and thousands of physicians attend, many of them dermatologists and plastic surgeons interested in the latest cosmetic surgery advances.
The primary care physicians who attend are curious to see if it’s worthwhile to add an anti-aging component (the buzzword is “module”) to their practices, like giving growth hormone injections. Since anti-aging therapies are never covered by health insurance, patients seeking such therapies are usually well-heeled and pay cash.
To say that the field of anti-aging medicine is controversial is an understatement. The December, 2006, issue of Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine dismisses every therapy with one broad stroke–antioxidants, vitamins, hormones, everything–in an article titled “High Hopes, Little Evidence.” Of course, Goldman and Klatz would counter (and I agree) that the authors chose to review only the negative studies as evidence.
The actual facts are a bit more complex. Here’s the current reality:
• Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you already know that you can speed up aging by neglecting yourself (no exercise, poor diet, smoking, etc.). The opposite holds true: you can definitely slow down aging by practicing a healthful lifestyle.
• The odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that you will live longer and look younger if you eat a healthful diet, reduce fats and sugars, don’t smoke, drink alcohol moderately, and exercise regularly.
• The overall evidence leans in favor of adding a selection of nutritional supplements, namely a good multiple vitamin, an antioxidant mix, and calcium and vitamin D for women.
• Using growth hormones for anti-aging was originally based on a poor study that spun out of control with unwarranted enthusiasm and physicians with dollar signs in their eyes. At present, growth hormone injections remain very expensive and are likely dangerous to use.
• Other hormones, like estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, and pregnenolone, are helpful to relieve certain symptoms when specific deficiencies exist. Long-term use, or taking high doses, can definitely be a health risk.
If you wish to refinance your condo for that longed-for bit of cosmetic surgery, that’s up to you. Needless to say, it’s not related to your internal aging process.