I’ve recently been thinking more about what I consider to be normal aging. That is, what can we realistically expect to change in our bodies as each year goes on?
So I did a brief search of common medical websites (WebMD, MayoClinic, The Merck Manual Home Edition, etc.) to see what they had to say. According to some of the most visited medical information websites, a few of the symptoms listed as part of “healthy” aging are as follows:
- decreased energy
- decreased metabolism
- decreased skin elasticity
- decreased sleep
- decreased muscle mass
- decreased memory
- decreased libido
- decreased sexual function
- decreased cardiovascular function
I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a lot of decreases to me! I felt like they should at least have mentioned things such as ‘increased wisdom’ or ‘increased confidence.’ But alas, they weren’t listed. The list looked grim, at best.
So it got me thinking some more. Is this what we’re all in for? Do we just have to accept all this?
Well, yes…but then again, perhaps, no.
What Can Make Getting Older Look Different for You
The truth is, I see something different in my patients. Just because these are the common signs of aging doesn’t mean they have to be your path. You can choose something different. What if your aging process looked more like this:
- improved energy
- improved metabolism
- improved skin elasticity
- improved sleep
- improved muscle mass
- improved memory
- improved libido
- improved sexual function
- improved cardiovascular function
Is this possible? Can you actually go against the grain and have the “usual declines” associated with aging move in the opposite direction?
The answer is yes. But first, let’s consider a question a bit more philosophical in nature.
Should We Consider Aging a Medical Problem?
Is aging a disease? I think a lot about the answer to this question as well.
Firstly, we all age. Let’s face it. But is aging a problem to be solved? What exactly is it about getting older that we fear? Is it our inevitable death? Is it losing our mental capacity? Our physical function? Is it just looking old?
When I speak to most of the patients, it’s not so much death they fear. Its becoming infirm. They fear losing function and needing to depend on others. They fear becoming invalids. They also fear a life filled with doctor visits, hospitalizations, multiple medications. Where managing being alive actually takes more time than just enjoying life.
So When Do We Intervene? Should We?
Consider this: If your eyesight declines, you’d see an optometrist to prescribe glasses to correct your vision. But isn’t declining visual acuity just ‘normal aging?’ If you get a dental cavity, you’d see a dentist to get a filling. But isn’t dental decay just part of ‘normal’ aging as well? So if you see these signs of aging and degenerative decline as ones which deserve intervention, what about the others listed above? Why shouldn’t you intervene?
In my years of practicing medicine, I’ve observed something interesting about the patients who come to see me. I rarely have a patient who comes to me because they want to prevent osteoporosis or Alzheimer’s Disease or heart disease. Sure, none of us want them, but most of us don’t think that far ahead.
Patients come to me because they are feeling and/or looking old. They are experiencing fatigue, loss of libido or sexual function, fat gain and muscle loss, poor sleep, skin changes, loss of memory, etc. Many of them have gone to their primary care doctors, who have told them they’re just getting old. They’ll sometimes be offered weight loss pills for weight gain, meds for erectile dysfunction, sleeping pills for poor sleep, and other medications to manage their symptoms. So sometimes my patients will come to see me simply because they’re fed up with what the traditional medical system has to offer.
As traditional medicine advances, especially with the advent of new technologies, our life-spans have increased significantly. Today’s 60 year olds are the 40 year olds of yesteryear. So the question becomes: Can a 60 year old function like a 40 year old used to? This is where quality of life becomes an important thing to consider.
If you’re like me, you don’t want to lose function as you age. You want to be energetic, strong, and clear-minded. You want to preserve your libido and sexual function. You want your skin to remain smooth and supple for as long as possible. You want to have restful sleep, a strong heart, and a robust metabolism.
So what can make the difference for you? While you are bound to experience at least some of the symptoms of age-related decline, wouldn’t you like to slow the process as much as possible?
In order to do this, you first need to identify the problem.
The Problem with Medicine’s Approach to Aging
The main problem with our healthcare system’s approach to aging has to do with the reactive approach that most doctors take to treating patients. They wait until something goes wrong, then intervene. Usually with prescribing a medication for the symptom: Statins and high blood pressure medications for cardiovascular problems, sleeping pills for insomnia, Viagra for loss of sexual function, and so on. Each of these medications has side effects (for example, there are over 900 published studies demonstrating the negative effects of statin medications like Lipitor and Pravastatin) which all too often require additional medications to counter. You suddenly find yourself down a rabbit hole of managing symptoms and side effects with multiple medications, and you’re that person with a medicine chest full of medications…that person you hoped you’d never be when you got older.
A Solution for You to Consider
So here’s a solution to consider. What if our healthcare system was proactive rather than reactive? What if your doctors made substantial preventive medical recommendations? Real ones, not the “Oh and by the way, you should exercise more and eat better” ones that are almost afterthoughts rattled off as your doctor walks out of the exam room. But solid, detailed, up-to-date recommendations on how you can minimize or prevent age-related decline.
I’m not holding my breath for the health care system to make this happen, but what I do propose is that you approach your health that way. What would it look like if you took a proactive rather than a reactive approach to aging?
Basically, what I’m saying is don’t wait for a diagnosis. Prevent one from occurring!
9 Things You Can Do Now to Make This Happen
For starters, there are several things you can do today to start:
1. Sleep more
2. Drink more water
3. Laugh more and find leisure time
4. Eat food that is nutrient dense and minimally processed
5. Eliminate or reduce refined grains, refined sugar, and high omega-6 oils
6. Secure a good source of fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K)
7. Eat all edible parts of animals (don’t forget the skin, the organs, eggs, fat)
8. Question your doctors. You know more about your body than they do.
Now here’s the kicker: There’s an additional measure you can choose to take that can make the difference between seeing moderate results and seeing maximal results.
So what is it?
9. Optimize Your Hormone Levels
In my experience, the difference between seeing mild to moderate results and seeing maximal results occurs when you optimize your key hormone levels. And we’re not just talking testosterone and estrogen. There are over seventy hormones identified in the human body, and certain key ones have been found to play a tremendous role in preserving robust function in your body. Hormones typically fall into undesirable ranges as you age, and optimizing your hormones – through nutrition, exercise, lifestyle change, and prescribed hormone replacement by a physician who specializes in the field – makes the biggest difference.
So I encourage you to have a comprehensive Age Management/Hormonal Evaluation to identify the key areas we can individually target in you to keep you optimized. In my opinion, it’s the best way to maintain the highest quality of life as each year passes. So you are able to function at the highest level possible, doing the things you love, for as long as possible.
Don’t stand for what mainstream medicine has to offer. Take a proactive step and optimize your hormone levels. It’s much easier to age gracefully if you’re knowing you’re taking the right steps to do it.
Tell yourself you’re worth it. You are.
To schedule an Age Management/Hormonal Optimization evaluation with Dr. Mike Carragher, call 1-323-874-9355.