You may have read earlier this summer about the public health statisticians who announced that Chicagoans could get a reasonable estimate about how long they’ll live based on their neighborhood, sort of a Death by Zip Code. If you live in Streeterville, you’ve got a good chance to reach 90. If you’re struggling in Englewood, you’re lucky to hit 60. That gap, by the way, is the largest of its kind in the entire US.
If you ponder it for a few minutes, you’ll come to the same conclusions as the researchers about the causes of this disparity. The population in Streeterville is mainly well educated, lives in a low-crime area, has access to healthful food and an income that supports nutritious food choices, and has better access to health care. They can mostly jog along the lake without being gunned down and, in bad weather, there’s likely a health club nearby.
All but (perhaps) one of these factors applies to Englewood residents, and the price for these deprivations is an early grave. Because while a Whole Foods grocery did open in Englewood in 2016, one year later this Chicago Tribune story describes the continuing access challenges for the community.
The new buzzword for physician intervention in longevity is anti-aging medicine. The founders of the specialty–high-energy Chicago physicians Robert Goldman, MD, DO, and Robert Klatz, MD, DO–have literally created the concept of anti-aging medicine from scratch. And while it remains unrecognized by the AMA as an official specialty, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) draws thousands of doctors to its twice-yearly conventions.
Whether you live in Streeterville or Englewood or somewhere in between, we’re all aging–tragically, as noted above, at hugely disparate rates. But aside from moving to a neighborhood with a better longevity prediction, there are steps you can take right now to slow the aging process.
You have your finger on the fast-forward aging button every time you light a cigarette, chow down on fast food, eat sugar, or sit in front of your TV or computer for hours on end. On the other hand, the person with a regular and vigorous tennis game or other challenging workout will be on the way to slowing aging to a crawl.
Putting the brakes on aging
So that’s what we want to do: decelerate aging. You actually do want to age (after all, you want as many years as you can get), but you want those years to be as healthy as possible with minimal (or ideally no) chronic illnesses, no prescription drugs, and the fewest (or zero) appointments with specialists.
In fact, if our Streeterville resident has any health risks, it’s having access too much health care. She lives just a few blocks from Northwestern, one of the biggest players in Chicago medicine. Like everything in healthcare, they make money from providing more rather than less.
Most readers of these Health Tips are already fairly healthy when compared to the rest of the US. I know this based on the relatively few prescriptions I write, the limited specialty referrals I make, and the number of WHC patients hospitalized every year, usually in the low single digits.
Plus, the vast majority of you can tick off the cornerstone efforts required to stay healthy, efforts that rely on you alone and your propensity to exercise, walk regularly, eat real foods and avoid junk, and get sound sleep every night.
Thrive, not simply survive
But many of us want more than a basic “fairly healthy” status. You and I both read with unfeigned interest articles about clinically proven steps we can take in order to thrive instead of simply survive. We both want to learn about the latest advances in diagnostic testing to assess how efficiently (or not) our bodies function, about the newest nutritional supplements, and also about intravenous (IV) therapies that might increase our chances even further for a super-healthy long life.
The IV therapies are especially intriguing to me and I’ll be writing more Health Tips about them. By combining any number of supplements into a single IV, there are now formulations that boost immune function, reduce heart risks, enhance weight loss, improve detoxification, and treat chronic neurological diseases. One ingredient, called NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), seems to jumpstart mitochondria, your cellular energy centers, and help repair aging cells. Is intravenous NAD going to be the anti-aging treatment of the future? If you go online and look around, it’s one of the best candidates to date.
Let’s call these functional tests, supplements, and IV therapies what they are: sophisticated steps to longevity.
Obvious steps to vigorous long life
But before we go into more detail, I want to list the screamingly obvious longevity steps I referred to earlier. You will want to be doing these regularly before you schedule anything anti-aging or longevity-enhancing, not after.
If you respond to any of the items on this list with “Wait, I didn’t know that!” then welcome to Earth. Everyone on the planet except you has known for years that fundamental good health is achieved by:
–Eating a healthful diet of whole foods.
–Not eating processed foods.
–Keeping your weight under control (easier to accomplish by eating well than by exercising).
–Exercising regularly and not sitting for more than an hour at a time. Do something physically active every day throughout the day (walking, stairs, lifting weights).
–Limiting or eliminating alcohol and not using tobacco or vaping devices.
–Getting regular check-ups (every two years is fine), including cancer screenings: mammograms (or thermograms) and colonoscopies (or the new Cologuard).
–Getting immunized against flu and pneumonia.
–If you’re found to have a treatable condition that might shorten your life if ignored, such as high blood pressure, take your medicine and monitor your blood pressure on your own.
–Have an expert keep any eye on your teeth, vision, and hearing.
–Despite the medical flip-flopping, the overall evidence leans in favor of taking a selection of nutritional supplements: a good multiple vitamin, an antioxidant mix, calcium for women, and vitamin D for men and women.
Reread this list and you’ll truly grasp why the Streeterville citizen will reach 90 while the Englewood citizen is fearful of her neighborhood itself. Of course the most addled among us recognize it’s all about money and the lack thereof. Even basic health care is expensive.
Money also confers access to nutritious food, a decent education, safe housing, and health care for the rare times you’ll need it. If you’re so-blessed and you’d like a competitive edge on aging, there’s a lot of new stuff available.
Next week I’ll talk about some new and very interesting diagnostic tests that look at how you’re functioning (or maybe how you’re not efficiently functioning) as a unique individual. These tests can help you fine-tune your eating and supplement regimen to your specific needs.
To give you a teaser: you can get relatively low-priced genetic testing to determine how efficiently your body can both clear environmental toxins and create its own antioxidants. Cancer researchers believe people who are super-detoxifiers have fewer cancer risks. If you’re a sluggish detoxifier, there are supplement blends that address this specifically.
Other tests now measure your individual metabolic and nutritional needs, your digestive processes, the status of your heart, and your future risk of diabetes. In other words, with a little tweaking of your already good work, you can do even better.
It’s a beautiful day in Chicago. How about a fast-walk along the lake?
David Edelberg, MD