RECIPE FOR LONGEVITY
PART TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
With respect to Longevity, the traditional approach is not so different from the nutritional approach. This is most likely due to the fact that the Western world has been unable to identify the causes of aging and can therefore not reduce it to the category of a "disease" to be treated.
Traditionally there have been the searches for the magic bullets such as Ponce de Leonís quest for the fountain of youth or the late 19th century researchers in France and Russia who used animal glands to increase older peopleís hormone secretions (Longevity, 2/95). Other methods of life extension include the replacement of body parts such as organ transplantation (hearts, kidneys, lungs, livers, and the pancreas).
Actually, word from the "scientific" community aligns itself with nutritional and lifestyle interventions. According to Parachin (1994), doctors, psychologists and researchers have identified the following practical strategies for living both longer and better:
1) Eat healthfully: 6-11 servings of bread, pasta, cereals and rice; 3-5 servings of vegetables; 2-4 servings of fruit; in other words, the new food pyramid.
2) Reduce meat consumption to no more than 3 oz. a day.
3) Shed some tears because it makes one feel better and it rids the body of toxic chemicals.
4) Practice optimism since many studies have shown that cancer patients with upbeat attitudes fare better than those who are depressed.
5) Lend a helping hand because the latest research indicates that volunteering and assisting others has direct health benefits.
6) Tap into your faith since there is documentation that spiritual health is directly related to physical and mental health.
7) Live by your beliefs. When oneís actions contradict oneís convictions, it results in higher levels of anxiety, stress and illness.
8) Be knowledgeable about your familyís medical history.
9) Exercise 3-5 days a week for at least 30 minutes at a time.
10) Learn how to cook health consciously with an emphasis on low fat and high fiber.
11) Make time for play and leisure time in order to regenerate your mind and body.
12) Continue to learn new skills since this will hone your coping skills.
As Leonard Hayflick explains, the rules of the longevity game are well known, and the more you follow them the more you maximize your chances at extending your life expectancy. Exercise, keep fat at 30% or less of your diet, donít smoke or overdrink, donít live around environmental toxins, live in a community where you receive support and validation and avoid stress (Longevity, 2/95). This type of lifestyle is born out by the Mormons who live very healthily and whose average life expectancy at birth is 87 (compared to 75 for the typical American).
The nutritional approach can be divided into three main schools of thought: Calorie restriction, orthomolecular/antioxidants, and the Asian diet. These actually overlap in many ways, but supporters of each emphasize the principles of their approach as the foundation to the others.
THE CALORIE RESTRICTION APPROACH
In 1935 it was discovered that there is a definite link between diet and longevity. Professor Clyde McCay of Cornell University showed that moderate to severe dietary restriction initiated after weaning and continued throughout the remainder of life dramatically increased the longevity of laboratory rats (Rybash, et. al., 1991;Walford & Walford, 1994). McCay also discovered that calorie restriction inhibited a large variety of cancers and delayed age related deterioration of the vascular system and the kidneys. This finding, that animals on a low calorie, nutrient rich diet far outlived animals allowed to eat as much as they wanted, has been replicated a great number of times. One such study with mice and rats by Weindruch (1986) showed that fully fed mice lived on the average 28 months versus the calorie restricted group who lived 47 months. Rat survivals were shown to be approximately 720 days old for those eating ad lib and 1300 days of life if calories were restricted. In these and other studies, calorie restriction is defined as a reduction in calories of 25-60% from ad lib feeding levels while providing an adequate intake of essential vitamins and nutrients.
Weindruch (1992) also demonstrated a reduction in the incidence of spontaneous tumors in addition to the increase in maximum lifespan of both mice and rats. The possible reasons for this impedence of cancers is unknown but Weindruch speculates that it may be either less cellular oxidative damage, hormonal changes, delayed immunologic aging, less energy available for cancer cell proliferation, a reduction in the exposure to dietary carcinogens, or enhanced DNA repair.
Masoro (1984), another antiaging scientist, showed that dietary restriction can extend the longevity of animals even when started in middle adulthood. He argued that life is prolonged in these animals because calorie limitation slows the aging process. This was evidenced by experiments that showed that calorie restriction delayed and in some cases prevented age-related pathologies in the renal, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems of animals (Masoro, 1984; Levine, et. al., 1981;Yu et. al., 1982; in Rybash, et. al., 1991).
In the 1970ís, Roy Walford, professor of pathology at UCLA, showed that virtually every age-related function and resistance to heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, mental deterioration and general fragility are positively influenced by caloric limitations (Walford & Walford, 1994). Beneficial psychological outcomes were also demonstrated by Ingram and his associates (Ingram, et. al., 1987 in Rybash et. al., 1991). They revealed that rats whose calories were restricted performed significantly better than the standard diet group on a complex maze-learning task and a task of motor coordination (balancing on a rotating rod).
The current research is directed at discovering the mechanism for the above benefits of the calorie restricted, nutrient rich diet. Walford & Walford (1994) believe that the answer is not clear because calorie restriction appears to fit every major theory of aging. It keeps the immune system younger (immunologic theory), it increases the bodyís ability to repair injury to DNA (DNA repair theory), and it heightens the bodyís own production of antioxidants (free radical theory). Masoro (1993) believes that food restriction affects aging through its effects on the endocrine and/or neural regulatory systems. His studies have shown that reducing the metabolic rate is not involved. He believes that dietary restriction alters nervous and/or endocrine functions that influence the characteristics (not the rate) of fuel use. Somehow the changes in fuel use retards the aging process. In addition, his studies have shown (like Walfordís) that dietary restriction protects against oxidative damage. Meites (1993) who has experimented with calorie restriction and the use of hormones, thymic peptides and other immune factors, thinks that the neuroendocrine and immune approaches offer the best prospects for delaying and reversing body function deterioration due to aging. Weindruch (1993) supports the concept that calorie restricted diets modulate free radical detoxification capacity.
But do calorie restriction animal experiments mean that humans would have similar antiaging results? There is some evidence that this indeed may be the case.
A major study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that women who weighed at least 22 pounds more than they did at age 18 were more likely to die early, especially from cancer or cardiovascular diseases. The lowest mortality rates were among women who weighed 15% less than the U.S. average (Self, 11/95).
Velthuis-te Wierik E.J. et. al. (1994) attempted to explore the potential application of calorie restriction in man. Over a 10 week period, they divided 24 middle-aged non-obese men into two groups and fed 16 of them an 80% energy restricted diet versus 8 controls (ad lib diet). At the end of the 10 weeks, the conclusions were that moderate calorie restriction had beneficial effects on blood pressure and lipid profile (increased HDL cholesterol) without adverse effects on physical or mental performance and feelings of mood, hunger and satiety.
Probably the best known human experiment was made famous by Walford (1994) in the Biosphere 2. Eight people inhabited the enclosed ecological space known as Biosphere 2 for two years. They consumed a low calorie (1800), nutrient-dense diet and underwent the following changes:
-Men lost an average of 33 lbs. and women an average of 17 pounds.
-Body fat content dropped 5-10% for men and 10-15% for women.
-Cholesterol levels dropped by 68 points, from average levels of 191 to 123.
-Blood pressure levels dropped from 110/75 to 90/58 after only 3 months.
-Fasting blood sugar values dropped from 94 to 65 for men and from 90 to 68 for women.
(Walford & Walford, 1994)
All of these changes parallel those demonstrated in the many animal experiments whose health and longevity have responded well to low calorie, nutrient-rich dietary programs.
In addition to the above, two populations exist today who demonstrate anti-aging potential. These are the people living on the island of Okinawa and the oldest segment of the population living in the United States. On the island of Okinawa, there are 15-37 centenarians per 100,000 persons over 65 years of age, whereas in most of Japan there are only 1-9. Of interest is that the daily caloric intake of school children in Okinawa is only 62% of Japanís recommended intake. The average sugar and salt intake is lower and the consumption of vegetables and meat is higher. The frequencies of cancer, heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes and senile brain disease are 30-40% lower in Okinawa than in the rest of Japan. Professor Yasuo Kagawa of Jichi Medical School attributes the longevity and healthier lives of the Okinawans to calorie restriction (Walford, 1986).
The second population study was conducted by Drs. Ed Schreider and Jacob Brody of the National Institute on Aging in the United States. They found (from census data) that the oldest segment of the population in the United States is enjoying the greatest increase in life expectancy. The authors attribute this to the increasing emphasis on health and nutrition aimed at this elderly subpopulation.
How would the calorie restriction diet look if operationalized? Dr. Roy Walford (1994) has actually experimented with the calorie restriction concept himself for several years. He states that the major secret of health and longevity is to be always below your set point, maintaining oneself on a high quality diet such that you are not deficient in any essential nutrients and that you operate at maximum metabolic efficiency. His "Anti-Aging" plan is as follows:
Step One: Determine your "set point" and select a 10-20% loss of weight as your target weight. The set point is your average weight since you have been an adult; most typically between the ages of 20-30 when you were neither under or over weight. You should weigh yourself once a week at the same time in the morning before breakfast. Weight loss should be very slow and steady, over 4-6 years.
Step Two: Consult a physician who will support you in the plan. You need to get baseline data: blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol, HDL, fasting blood sugar, autoantibody levels, and a white blood cell count. These tests should be run again after 6 months and thereafter on an annual basis.
Step Three: Choose between 2 techniques of starting the plan: 1) Rapid Reorientation in which you reduce your daily caloric intake to 1800 for 4 weeks, then regulate your calories to reduce weight slowly, based on your target weight. 2) Gradual Reorientation provides that you eat the Anti-Aging plan for one day the first week, two days the second week and so on until you are eating nutrient-dense, low calories on a daily basis. Most people will end up on 1500-2000 calories a day to achieve 10-20% below their set points.
Step Four: Devise your own nutrient- dense meals with good nutrient tables or a nutrition software package (both available from Walford). The diet is largely vegetarian, 16-24% protein, no more than 20% fat, approximately 60-80% carbohydrate, 40-60 grams of fiber and no more than 300 mg of cholesterol. Walford provides meal plans as well as recipes in his books, The 120 Year Diet and The Anti-Aging Plan.
Step Five: Start an exercise program (physician approved) that is moderate, such as the equivalent of jogging 15 miles a week.
Step Six: Daily supplement recommendations include: a multivitamin/mineral tablet that provides about 50% of the RDAís safe and adequate amounts of the essential vitamin and mineral nutrients; 500 mg vitamin C; 300-400 units of vitamin E; 100 mcg of selenium; 25,000 units of beta-carotene; 500-1000 mg of magnesium; 0.1 mg of chromium; and 20 mg of COQ10.
It is important to note that in order to maximize the nutritional value in this limited calorie diet, Dr. Walford analyzed the chemical qualities of his food, the caloric limits, nutritional needs and percentages of fat, protein and cholesterol using a computer. The best combination of foods was largely vegetarian.
THE ORTHOMOLECULAR/ANTIOXIDANT APPROACH
The orthomolecular approach was first popularized by Dr. Linus Pauling. Translated, orthomolecular nutrition is "the right nutritional molecules in the right concentration at the right place and at the right time" (Langer, 9/95). The "nutritional molecules" consist of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, nucleic acids, herbs and enzymes. Although orthomolecular is more global and includes nutrients that are not necessarily antioxidants, antioxidant nutrients are the largest proportion of orthomolecular nutrition and they neutralize damaging free radicals. As discussed in the free radical theory of aging, toxic free radicals can be generated by toxic pollutants in air, water and foods as well as in cigarette smoke, alcohol and ionizing radiation. Jeffrey Blumberg (1993) states that vitamin status plays a vital role in separating chronology from biology, in other words, recognizing the actual proportion of the changes in physiologic function and body composition associated with aging from that which is due to environmental factors. Supplementation via improving vitamin status has proven safe and inexpensive.
A landmark study that supports the benefits of antioxidants with respect to life extension was conducted on fruit flies by Dr. R. S. Sohal and Dr. W. C. Orr in 1994 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. They gave fruit flies extra copies of genes that normally rid the cells of free radicals. The concept of the study was to strengthen the cellsí natural defenses against free radicals by genetically altering the flies so they produced excess amounts of SOD and catalase. The fruit flies who were altered lived longer, had a longer maximum lifespan and were much more vigorous, using rates of oxygen consumption 40% higher than the control group (Kolata, 2/25/94). Dr. Sohal and Dr. Orr suggested that this experiment demonstrated that preventing free radical formation in the first place was more effective than mopping them up with vitamins C or E. This allowed a more pronounced effect and showed that it was the lack of free radicals and not some other effect of vitamins that made the difference. Although flies are a far cry from people, the biochemistry involved may be quite similar.
In another study, this one involving 96 independently living, healthy older adults, involved a one year intervention with a multivitamin/multimineral supplement. Dr. R. Chandra of Memorial University of Newfoundland showed that the supplement treated group had significantly fewer days of illness due to infection and a significantly improved immune function (Lancet, 11/7/92). Such results show strong data that micronutrient supplementation in the elderly is supportive of a healthier quality of life.
Dr. Meir Stampfer (1992 in Blumberg, 1993) of Harvard University reported that taking vitamin E supplements was associated with a 46% lower risk of heart disease in the 87,000 subjects of the Nurseís Health Study. In a similar study of
45,000 men, Dr. Eric Rimm of Harvard reported that there was a 26% reduction in risk of heat disease for those who supplemented their diets with vitamin E.
Blumberg (1993) states that studies have consistently demonstrated that micronutrients such as vitamins E, C, and beta-carotene exert a protective effect against cancer, and enhance the immune system. In addition, high dietary intakes and supplementation of antioxidant vitamins decrease the formation of cataracts, whereas vitamin D prevents bone loss and osteoporosis. Blumberg (1993) also states that we "are a skin full of biochemical reactions" and that as we age, the biochemistry slows down. He submits that the secret to good health is both what we do and donít do to our biochemistries (such as smoke). His recommendation is to eliminate junk foods, foods one is allergic to and take supplements, including vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and perhaps amino acids.
Antioxidant supplementation was first made popular by Pearson and Shaw (1982) in their book Life Extension which was a national bestseller (of course Linus Pauling initiated the Vitamin craze). Although a lot of research went into the book, it is not popular with established antiaging gurus as they view it as a pill popping formula (Walford, 1994). They use vitamins, minerals, amino acids, food additive antioxidants and prescription drugs. In addition, they recommend 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week for the best benefits, and Shaw goes so far as to say that she exercises 3 minutes a week but is in the best shape ever (increased muscle mass and reduced body fat) because she supplements with several grams of growth hormone releasers. This is obviously not a program that the majority should follow!
Never-the-less, antioxidant supplementation continues to be in the limelight, most recently popularized by Jean Carperís (1995) book, Stop Aging Now!. Her entire program is based on the free radical theory of aging. She says that, according to Dr. Bruce Ames of UC Berkeley, oxidative damage to the cellsí genetic DNA accumulates with age and is a major contributor to aging as well as to the degenerative diseases (heart disease, cancer, etc.) of aging. Ames conjectures that these DNAí mutations can be partially blocked by eating the right antioxidants found in foods.
Carperís (1995) program is based on the concept that one must raise levels of many antioxidants to best deter aging, since they all work together to protect the cells against free radical damage. These antioxidants are obtained from both food and supplement sources. Her plan involves 10 points for dietary strategy and ten basic supplements:
1. Eat fruits and vegetables, at least 5 servings a day and get a good variety.
2. Eat fish at least 2-3 times a week, especially salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and herring because they are the highest in omega 3 fatty acids.
3. Drink tea because it is loaded with antioxidants.
4. Consume soybean foods daily if possible or minimally 2-3 times a week.
5. Restrict calories by eating enough for growth and optimum nutrition and at the same time maintaining a lower than normal weight.
6. Restrict the "wrong" kinds of fat, particularly meat and dairy fat and polyunsaturated and partially hydrogenated fats. Monounsaturated fats (olive, canola oils) are OK.
7. Reduce or avoid meat, and if you do consume it, mind the way it is cooked (how-to advice given in her book).
8. Consider the pros and cons of alcohol. If you drink it should be red wine since it contains a variety of antioxidants but should be limited to 1-2 glasses a day.
9. Avoid eating excessive amounts of sugars and carbohydrates which raise blood insulin levels and damage arteries.
10. Eat garlic daily, one clove a day since it is a powerhouse of antioxidants (since ancient times).
1. Take a standard multivitamin/mineral pill that includes 100% of the RDA for vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Take one that has less or no more than 100% of the RDA for iron.
2. Vitamin E, since you would need to consume 6000 calories to get the optimal amount. Daily dose should be 100-400 units.
3. Vitamin C, at least 500-1000 mg daily.
4. Beta carotene, 10-15 mg daily, which works synergistically with vitamins E and C to maintain high cellular antioxidant activity.
5. Chromium, 200 mg daily since it is difficult to obtain optimal amounts from food.
6. Selenium, 50-200 mcg a day since it is regarded as an anticancer, antiviral agent and cardiac protector.
7. Calcium 1000-1500 mg daily, along with 200-600 IU of vitamin D.
8. Zinc, 15-30 mg daily to support the immune system.
9. Magnesium 200-300 mg a day to help prevent cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure and prevent cellular free radical damage.
10. COQ10, 30 mg daily, as a general antioxidant, and it is especially useful in the treatment of heart failure.
Carper (1995) recommends the following additional supplements if you are 40-50 years old or older:
1. B-vitamins to counteract heart disease, cancer and mental deterioration. B12 500-1000 mcg; folic acid 1000 mcg and 50 mg of Vitamin B-6.
2. Ginkgo, 40 mg three times a day for increased cardiovascular and brain circulations.
3. Glutathione, 100 mg daily with meals, to protect against oxidized fats.
4. Glutamine, 2000-8000 mg a day.
5. Fish oil concentrate in capsules, 1000 mg of a combination of DHA and EPA fatty acids, if you do not eat fish.
6. Garlic supplements, if you do not eat garlic daily.
7. L-carnitine, 1000-2000 mg daily to protect against angina, cardiac arrhythmias or mild congestive heart failure.
THE ASIAN DIET
Georgakas (1995) states that all available studies indicate that exclusively or predominantly vegetarian diets result in lengthening the average lifespan by 5-10 years. Certainly some of these studies were based on the Seventh Day Adventists and macrobiotic advocates who have social support for many prolongevous habits. But even cautious interpretation of the broad spectrum of studies on vegetarianism indicates that it supports a long life and a lower incidence of degenerative diseases. Nathan Pritikin, Dean Ornish and John McDougall have all shown remarkable improvement in the aging markers using primarily vegetarian diets.
A recent study reported in Epidemiology (9/92) examined 1,904 vegetarians in the Federal Republic of Germany. These people were followed for 11 years (from 1978) and it was found that mortality from all causes was reduced by 50% compared to the general population. Deaths from diseases of the respiratory and digestive systems were reduced by one-half. Cancer mortality was reduced by 50% in men and 25% in women. Heart disease was one-third of that expected.
Another study (Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 1994) demonstrated that vegetarians had much more favorable lipid profiles. Fifty-nine healthy vegetarians aged 19-30 years were involved in selected parameters of lipid metabolism. When compared to a control group on non-vegetarians, the study group showed, 1) no obesity; 2) low cholesterol levels; 3) low LDL cholesterol; 4) low triglycerides; 5) higher HDL cholesterol; 6) a higher plasma content of polyunsaturated fatty acids; 7) higher levels of vitamins C & E; and 8) higher catalase (powerful antioxidant enzyme) activity.
Finally, the most famous, the most compelling and the largest prospective population study was the China Health Project. This study, conducted by Dr. T. Colin Campbell at Cornell and Dr. Chen Junshi of Beijing, examined the eating habits and health of 6,500 rural mainland Chinese between 1983 and 1990. They also conducted a subsequent survey of 10,500 Chinese from the mainland and Taiwan. The projectís findings show that a primarily vegan diet clearly lowers the rates of coronary heart disease, various cancers and other degenerative diseases (Jacobi, 1996). For Chinese men, the average blood cholesterol was 138 compared to American malesí cholesterol of 212. Death from heart disease among the Chinese was 6% of the U.S. rate of heart disease. Breast cancer occurred at 1/5 the U.S. rate and colon cancer among the Chinese was 1/3 the U.S. rate. Osteoporosis is rare among the Chinese, even though they consume half the calcium that Americans do (the animal foods that Americans eat create an acid environment that leaches calcium).
Another benefit of the vegetarian Asian diet is an improved balance of intestinal flora. Dr. Jeffrey Gates, a Cornell researcher, states that certain intestinal flora, bifidobacteria, contribute to the strength of the immune system (Jacobi, 1996). The Asian diet contains more oligosaccharides which feed these good bacteria and are found in plant foods. Meat and other animal foods supply the "bad" bacteria (clostridium family) with fuel. In fact, a recent study compared Japanese living in Tokyo with a rural area well known for its long living inhabitants. The researchers found the rural Japanese ate more fiber and less meat than the "downtown" Japanese, plus there were significant differences in gut bacteria between the two groups (Jacobi, 1996).
Although the Chinese consume 20% more calories than Americans, they weigh 25% less than Americans of similar heights (Walford, 1994). The Chinese diet derives 15% of its calories from fat compared to a U.S. average of 35-40%. They eat one-third less protein than Americans and only 1/10 as much protein from animal foods. Seventy seven percent of the Chineseís calories come from carbohydrates compared to Americansí 45%. Americans eat approximately 11 grams of fiber a day while the Chinese consume 33-77 grams daily.
Although there is no limitation of calories in the Chinese diet, the quality of their diet is very health-promoting (Walford, 1994). Marion Nestle, Ph.D., chairperson of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University calls the Asian diet a "nutritionistís dream" because of its infinite variety and tastiness (Jacobi, 1996). The diet essentially consists of lots of grains, fresh vegetables, legumes, soyfoods and fruit. Very little fat or animal based foods are eaten, and virtually no dairy products are present in the diet. Sea vegetables and nuts and seeds are also an everyday part of the diet. (Refer to the "Asian Pyramid" and the nutrient comparison table of Walfordís in the appendix).
PROLONGEVOUS DIETARY GUIDELINES
In his studies of the "oldest of the old", Georgakas (1995) found the following guidelines to be the common components of their dietary habits.
1. Set a caloric intake that will maintain body weight at the desired prolongevous level and move toward that weight at no less than 1/4 lb. and no more than 1 pound a week.
2. Consume a diet consisting of 10-15% fat; 10-15% protein; and 70-80% carbohydrates.
3. Emphasize high quality foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
4. Minimize meat, fish and poultry consumption. These are best used as condiments.
5. Eat raw foods as much as possible; never fry.
6. Avoid all preservatives, artificial flavors and colors and food additives.
7. Eat the greatest number of calories early in the day, never eat just before sleeping and regularize mealtimes.
8. Reduce salt intake.
9. Reduce sugar consumption to a bare minimum.
10. Drink alcohol moderately only.
11. Eliminate caffeine.
12. Eat slowly.
LONGEVITY HERBSRector-Page (1992) states that herbal nutrients ensure glandular balance and help stimulate the immune system. Balch and Balch (1990) recommend taking ginkgo and ginseng to stimulate the circulation. Langer (1995) also suggests taking ginkgo biloba because it not only enhances circulation and oxygen delivery to the cells, but it is also a potent antioxidant. More than 30 human studies have been published since the 1970ís and they have shown that ginkgo also increases ATP, enhances the brainís ability to metabolize glucose, prevents platelet aggregation and stimulates nerve signal transmission (Langer, 1995).
Langer (1995) agrees with Balch and Balch about the longevity benefits of ginseng and adds garlic and echinacea to the longevity list of herbs. The green foods such as spirulina, chlorella and barley grass are all nutrient dense foods that have powerful antioxidant and immune stimulating properties. Pycnogenols derived from grape seed pips or pine bark have antioxidant potencies that are 20-50 times greater than those of vitamins C and E. They have been shown to block the production of excess cholesterol, improve skin circulation and texture, reduce cellular carcinogens and generally improve circulation. Shark liver oil is rich in alkylglycerols which enhance immune function, protect against the adverse effects of ionizing radiation and help the body fight chronic yeast and viral infections (Langer, 1995).
Brain nutrients besides ginkgo include gotu kola and Dr. Changís Long Life Tea (Rector-Page, 1992). In addition, Dong Quai is an excellent female tonic.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Primarily estrogen, this boosts the quality and quantity of healthy postmenopausal years for women. It prevents loss of libido, restores lubrication to the vagina, rehydrates the skin, reduces/eliminates hot flashes and lessens the risk of heart disease. It does raise the risk of breast cancer.
Melatonin: Made by the pineal gland, this hormone diminishes as we age because the pineal gland shrinks. It monitors the bodyís daily cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Proponents of melatonin claim it is a powerful antioxidant, it promotes life extension, it eliminates jet lag, it is a natural sleep agent and it enhances immune response (Alexander, 1995). Although currently very popular, skeptics state that life extension experiments done on mice have not been duplicated. In addition, it is difficult to know what dose is "life extending".
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): This hormone is produced in the adrenal gland and peaks by age 30. DHEA declines to about 5-15% of its peak by age 60. Claims for DHEA include prevention/slowing of the aging process, weight loss aid, prevention of heart disease, prevention of Alzheimerís and that it fights AIDS, Lupus and some cancers (Berkeley Wellness Letter, 1996). One researcher reported youthful immune systems in old mice given DHEA (Alexander, 1996). It may enhance vitality in older persons by making more growth hormone available. Critics state that the immunity studies have not been reproduced and DHEAís growth enhancing effects may promote cancers of the uterus and breast.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH): This hormone gradually declines after middle age. It is not available for general use in the U.S., but can be obtained in Mexico and Europe. HGH can dramatically shift body metabolism resulting in more muscle and less fat. It accelerates healing in surgical patients and promotes deep sleep (Carey, 1995). It can also strengthen bones, thicken skin, boost the immune system and reduce biological age of up to 20 years compared with normal aging changes of the musculature (Alexander, 1995). People who have taken HGH say they have more vigor, more sexual potency and increased strength. The downside of HGH is that it must be taken on a continuous basis or else all the benefits recede. It can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in men) and diabetes-like symptoms (Carey, 1995). Cost of HGH is $15,000-$30,000 annually.
EXERCISE: "Strenuous physical activity throughout the course of life is the most common thread in the biographies of longevous people" (Georgakas, 1995). Exercises that enhance longevity are those which mimic the most natural movements of the body. In this respect, oxygen efficiency, skeletal durability, and muscular strength is promoted without placing undue stress and injury on body parts. Such exercise should be enjoyable, easy to incorporate on a daily basis and able to be done into oneís hundredth year and beyond. Georgakas (1995) states that walking meets the above criteria and it provides daily stimulation to the bodyís vital systems. On average, those who live to be 100 years old or more perform the equivalent of walking an hour a day.
How does exercise promote longevity? Of key importance is that it eliminates or prevents the accumulation of body weight and promotes leanness which extends life. According to Lamb (1992), athletes have higher than normal natural antioxidants, probably because they use more oxygen which requires natural antioxidants to decrease the threat of free radicals.
Exercise also lowers blood glucose levels which should help prevent cross linking. It prolongs the clotting time of blood which in turn decreases the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Aerobic capacity is increased by 20%.
Growth hormone production is stimulated by exercise and is actually released in spurts in response to physical activity (Lamb, 1992). Strength training exercises increase the muscle mass which in turn increases the BMR. Tendons and ligaments increase in strength with exercise and articular cartilage thickness increases.
In terms of the cardiovascular system, heart size and weight increases, cardiac output and blood volume increase and blood pressure drops due to a decrease in arterial resistance. Resting heart rate decreases and the heart cells themselves synthesize more protein and myosin (Rybash, et. al., 1991).
Exercise improves reaction time and balance. It mitigates depression and anxiety and produces a sense of well being. Transmission signals along nerves are quickened. HDL cholesterol is elevated and triglyceride levels are lowered with exercise. Overall, exercise increases your functional fitness no matter your age (Mayo Clinic Health Letter, 6/91).
According to a study conducted by W.J. Evans (1992), even 96 year olds can respond to resistance training with a 200% or more increase in strength and muscle size. As Drs. W. Evans and I. Rosenberg (1991) report in their famous Biomarkers book, inactivity may not shorten lifespan but it clearly shortens health
span. They recommend 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week and three half hour sessions of strength training to maintain a beneficial level of physical fitness.
STRESS REDUCTION: Stress stimulates the release of glucocorticoids which travel to the hippocampus in the brain. Overstimulation of the hippocampus ages it and this affects memory and learning (Newsweek, 3/90). Marriage and strong friendships extend the health span of life. In addition, having an adult daughter is comforting. Interestingly, a study of 73 residents in a nursing home (average age 81) were randomly assigned to groups who practiced transcendental meditation (TM), relaxation or nothing. The TM group demonstrated the most dramatic improvements in blood pressure, memory and survival (Newsweek, 3/90).
OTHER LIFESTYLE RECOMMENDATIONS: Rector-Page (1992), Balch and Balch (1990), Langer (1995), Lamb (1992), Georgakas (1995), and Moore (1993) make the following lifestyle suggestions for long and healthy years:
-Choose a way of life that jives with your heart
-Subscribe to a spiritual or higher belief
-Cultivate supportive friendships and partner relationships
-Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night and adequate rest
-Avoid alcohol, chemicals in foods, drugs, pesticides and contaminated drinking water
-Deep breath and stretch daily
-Avoid sun exposure
-Enjoy a reasonable sex life
-Obtain prompt medical attention is case of illness
-Select an occupation that you enjoy
-Maintain a high level of personal hygiene
-Live in a temperate climate
\ -Wear seat belts
-Stay mentally active
-Be flexible and adaptable in the face of change
-Eat breakfast and donít eat between meals
-Help others by volunteer work
An interesting descriptive study (Laferriere & Hamel-Bissell, 1994) of the health lifeways of 6 oldest old women who lived in Northeastern Vermont, revealed that successful aging involves the following: 1) being a woman with family and friends; 2) dealing with difficult times; 3) living off the land; 4) working hard and staying active; and 5) practicing healthy values.
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