Articles

Aging

Introduction

Aging is a process, not a disease. We cannot stop the aging process, but an impressive body of scientific research is teaching us that individuals have a great deal of control over their immune system and their own aging process. How long you live really depends on how you live. (1) , (2)

To date, we have not developed the scientific breakthroughs that will enable us to extend the potential, maximum human life span, which is estimated to be approximately 120 years. (3) However, there are many things that people can do to improve their immune system and their aging process, which will enable them to live in relatively good health significantly longer than the current average life span for humans.

Average life expectancy at birth is a rough measure of the span of healthy, productive life--the functional life span. In the developed countries average life expectancies at birth now range from 76-79 years, which is far less than the estimated 120-year maximum potential human life span.

Aging is the accumulation of changes that increase the risk of illness and death. Aging changes can be attributed to development, genetic defects, the environment, disease, and the inborn aging process. (4) Inborn aging processes become the major risk factors for disease and death after age 28 in the developed countries.

Free radicals: The free radical theory of aging, which was first presented by Denham Harman, M.D., in 1956, (5) postulated that aging changes were caused by free radical reactions. In a recently published paper, Dr. Harman acknowledged that there is a growing scientific consensus, largely based on the results of measures to minimize more-or-less random endogenous free radical reactions, that such reactions are a major cause of aging, possibly the only one. (6)

Normally electrons exist in pairs. Throughout nature, things are held together by chemical bonds, which are pairs of electrons. Free radicals are molecules that have lost an electron. Thus, a free radical is defined as a molecule that has a free, or unpaired electron, which is one of the most unstable, highly reactive conditions known. At the cellular level, a free radical will violently tear an electron away from whatever is close by to regain its own electron pair status. However, in stealing an electron from somewhere else in the body, something else gets damaged. It may be a cell wall, an enzyme, or part of the DNA. Thus, gradual, ongoing free radical activity is what damages tissues, organs, and all other parts of the body including the immune system. (7) , (8)

One of the most important things to understand about free radicals is that they are self-generating, self-perpetuating chain reactions. (9) This means that one unchecked free radical may actually generate many thousands of damaging events at the cellular level. (10)

Slowing down the aging process: There are some significant things people can do to enhance their immune systems and slow down the rate of free radical aging damage. In addition to learning about and understanding the concept of free radicals, it is important to take steps to minimize one’s exposure to free radicals. There is a wide range of substances in the environment that can generate free radicals if or when we are exposed to them. A partial listing includes ionizing radiation (x-rays), ultraviolet light (a sunburn), (11) traces of pesticides and insecticides that occur in our water and food supplies, heavy metal toxins such as lead and mercury, and many more.

In addition to external exposure from the environment, free radicals are also generated internally in our bodies. Oxygen reacting with unsaturated fatty acids in cell walls and cellular membranes creates a free radical process known as lipid peroxidation. (12) , (13) Studies indicate that psychological and physical forms of stress also cause an increase in internally-generated free radicals. (14) , (15) , (16) , (17)

In addition to trying to avoid or minimize exposure to free radicals, it is important to understand the role that antioxidant nutrients play in neutralizing free radicals. Appropriate use of antioxidant nutrients can definitely enhance the immune system and reduce free radical damage, which helps to improve health and slow down the biological aging process. An enormous number of studies have been published documenting the fact that individuals with higher intakes of various antioxidant nutrients have increased protection from many of the common diseases of aging. (18) , (19)

In 1980, James Freis, M.D. authored a paper that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, titled "Aging, Natural Death, and the Compression of Morbidity." (20) Dr. Freis stated that if engaged in healthy lifestyles, morbidity could be compressed. Compressing morbidity means living more years in a healthy state of being and compressing sickness and infirmity into a much shorter time period at the very end of life. This is also referred to as rectangularizing the aging curve. More people would be living to the outer limits of their biological potential with far less disability throughout their lives. They would be more likely to undergo a natural death at the end of a long, healthy life, rather than endure years or decades of medications, surgeries, and declining health and vitality before passing away, which is how life ends for millions of people.

Dr. Freis’ paper was heavily criticized at the time of its publication because members of the medical community said there was no evidence that individuals who changed their lifestyles with improved exercise, nutrition and healthy environments would retain organ reserve, compress morbidity, and alter their biologically determined life expectancy.

Eighteen years after the publication of his original hypothesis, Dr. Freis and his colleagues at Stanford Medical School authored a follow-up paper titled "Aging, Health Risks, and Cumulative Disability," which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (21) They studied 1741 university alumni, who were first surveyed in 1962 at an average age of 43 years, and then annually starting in 1986. Categories of high, moderate, and low risk were defined on the basis of smoking, body-mass index, and exercise patterns. Cumulative disability was determined by a health-assessment questionnaire and scored on a scale of 0 to 3. The researchers then looked, prospectively, at how these individuals aged in terms of their health profiles, and correlated that information with certain functional habit patterns and preventive health patterns. The results revealed that individuals with high health risks in 1962 or 1986 had twice the cumulative disability of those with low health risks, and the onset of disability was postponed by more than five years in the low-risk group as compared with the high-risk group. In their conclusion, the authors stated, "Smoking, body-mass index, and exercise patterns in midlife and late adulthood are predictors of subsequent disability. Not only do persons with better health habits survive longer, but in such persons, disability is postponed and compressed into fewer years at the end of life." These results confirm the hypothesis that Dr. Freis presented in his original paper and indicate that things like diet, nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices really do influence the aging process.

In a book titled BioMarkers: The 10 Keys to Prolonging Vitality, William Evans, Ph.D., and coauthor Irwin Rosenberg, M.D. present ten measurable biological markers of the aging process. These biomarkers of aging include the following: muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate, percent body fat, aerobic capacity, the body’s blood sugar tolerance, cholesterol/HDL ratio, blood pressure, bone density, and the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. (22) The main premise of this book is that weight lifting, or similar strength building exercises build muscle mass, which improve each of the previously listed biomarkers of aging.

Studies by Dr. Evans and his colleges at the US Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston have produced some remarkable results regarding the aging process. In one of these studies, the authors note that muscle dysfunction and associated mobility impairment, which are common among the frail elderly, increase the risk of falls, fractures, and functional dependency. Their study sought to characterize the muscle weakness of the very old and its reversibility through strength training. Ten frail, institutionalized volunteers aged 90 +/- 1 year undertook 8 weeks of high-intensity resistance training. Strength gains averaged 174% in the 9 subjects who completed training. Mid-thigh muscle area increased 9.0% and mean tandem gait speed improved 48% after training. The authors concluded that high-resistance weight training leads to significant gains in muscle strength, size, and functional mobility among frail residents of nursing homes up to 96 years of age. (23)

The results of a study by Dr. Meydani and his colleges at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University reported some interesting results regarding antioxidant nutrients and the immune system. In this study, the authors evaluated a total of 88 free-living, healthy subjects at least 65 years of age. These were healthy subjects who were suffering from major illnesses or known nutritional deficiencies. These subjects were randomly divided into 4 groups and received either a placebo, or 60, 200, or 800 mg/day of vitamin E for 235 days. At the conclusion, those individuals consuming 200 or 800 mg/day of vitamin E had substantial increases in several measurements of their immune system activity. This report indicates that healthy people can take daily doses of vitamin E that are substantially greater than the RDA levels and obtain substantial improvements to their immune systems. (24) This is definitely influencing the aging process.

Dr. Marian Diamond was one of the first scientists to publish studies revealing that lifestyle choices affect the size of our brains and our intelligence. Many of her studies are reviewed in her book, Enriching Heredity: The Impact of the Environment on the Anatomy of the Brain. (25) Her studies reported that mice who live in an enriched environment with more litter mates, changing location of cage toys, and other types of stimulation showed increased size of cerebral cortexes and facilitated better learning, memory, and problem solving in maze tests.

There are good scientific studies reporting that individuals can make lifestyle choices that will substantially influence their health, longevity, and aging process.

Statistic

Administration on Aging, 2004.

    The older population (65+) numbered 36.3 million in 2004 (the most recent year for which data are available). The number of Americans aged 45-64 – the "babyboomers" who will reach 65 over the next two decades – increased by 34% during this decade. About one in every eight, or 12.4 percent, of the population is an older American. Over 2.0 million persons celebrated their 65th birthday in 2000 (5,574 per day). Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 17.89 years (19.2 years for females and 16.30 years for males). Older women outnumber older men at 20.6 million older women to 14.4 million older men. By the year 2030, the older population will more than double to about 70 million. The 85+ population is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2000 to 8.9 million in 2030.

World Health Organization, 1998.

    390 million people worldwide are over 65 yrs. of age. WHO estimates the elderly will make up 10% of total world population by the year 2025. That is approximately 800,000 million people.

Signs and Symptoms

[span class=alert]The following list does not insure the presence of this health condition. Please see the text and your healthcare professional for more information.[/span]

The signs and symptoms of aging are expressed in the numerous chronic degenerative diseases that are so common in today’s culture. Problems such as elevated blood sugar, elevated cholesterol, clogged arteries, overweight, cataracts, low energy, and on and on. The presence of various health problems and the deterioration of any organ system or body part is usually a sign of the aging process.

General

    Hyperglycemia Hypertension Hypercholesterolemia Atherosclerosis Weight gain or loss Cataracts and other visual disturbances Fatigue Organ system deterioration Collagen and other connective tissue degradation Alterations in typical bowel habits

Treatment Options

Conventional

Traditional health care has played an important role in improving people’s health and extending average life span. Surgery and prescription drugs play a valuable role when they are needed. It is felt that integrating natural therapeutics with the best of traditional medical care will provide a quantum leap in better health and better aging for millions of people worldwide.

Nutritional Supplementation


Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important water-soluble antioxidant. It is capable of saturating cells in the body, providing antioxidant, anti-aging protection. In addition to its role as an antioxidant, vitamin C also plays a role in the synthesis and maintenance of the structural components of the body such as cartilage, ligaments, tendons, arteries, and veins.

In a placebo controlled study, 72 subjects ranging in age from 60-89 years were administered a vitamin supplementation for 10 weeks. The subjects’ had low serum values of vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, pyridoxin iron and zinc. The immune system measure was delayed cutaneous hypersensitivity. Whereas no statistically significant changes were noted in the placebo group, vitamin supplementation not only improved the parameters noting vitamin status but also improved the age related decline in the delayed cutaneous hypersensitivity so that it was no longer statistically significant. (26)

An extensive survey of vitamin C intake reveals that a 35-year old man with a high intake of vitamin C (above 300 mg/day) has a remaining life expectancy of 41.5 years, living to 76.5 years old. This is 5.5 years longer than the remaining life expectancy for a 35-year old male with a low intake of vitamin C, which is 36 years, only living to 71 years old. The study also reported that the increased life expectancy for a 35-year old woman consuming higher doses of vitamin C could be 2.3 years. (27) Researchers in Briton, followed over 1200 geriatric patients and determined that there was an inverse correlation between plasma ascorbate concentrations and all-cause disease mortality. (28)

Some of vitamin C’s beneficial effects are thought to be due to its ability to regenerate the reduced form of vitamin E. Thus, adequate vitamin C may also increase the anti-oxidant effectiveness of vitamin E. (29)


Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a primary fat-soluble antioxidant. It resides in the fatty membranes of every cell in the body, protecting all of those cells from free radical aging damage. Vitamin E helps protect cells from aging by helping prevent lipid peroxidation (30) and the ensuing free radical damage to cellular membranes, enzymes, tissues, organ systems, and the brain.

Many studies document vitamin E’s ability to reduce the risks to major chronic degenerative diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, etc. (31) , (32) , (33) Vitamin E deficiency causes most immune system parameters to decline, resulting in a greater incidence of infectious diseases and tumors. In contrast, vitamin E supplementation provides numerous benefits to the host immune system. Whereas vitamin E deficiency has been shown to reduce the differentiation of immature T cells, vitamin E supplementation increases differentiation of immature T cells in the thymus resulting in improved cellular immunity. Also, vitamin E supplementation enhances the recovery of thymus atrophy after X-ray treatments. Research suggests that vitamin E may be an important nutrient for maintaining the immune system, especially in the aged. (34) Research has found that vitamin e may reduce the occurance of the common cold in the elderly. (35)


Vitamin A, Beta-Carotene

Vitamin A and beta-carotene are fat-soluble antioxidants that also perform many other vital functions in the body. Vitamin A helps regulate reproduction, growth, visual processes, and the integrity of the skin and mucous membranes, which serve as our barrier and protection against the outside world. (36) Vitamin A plays a critical role in the health and maintenance of epithelial cells, which are the cells that line all of the glands, ducts, and organs of our bodies. Thus, vitamin A is one of the most important anti-cancer nutrients, an antioxidant, and a key immune system nutrient. Beta-carotene serves as a metabolic source of retinal and also functions as an antioxidant which could prevent carcinogenesis. (37) , (38)


Selenium

Selenium is highly regarded as an anti-aging nutrient. It is part of the glutathione peroxidase antioxidant enzyme molecule, which is an important part of our detoxification and immune systems. (39)

The following study suggests that selenium supplementation may provide significant protection against prostate cancer. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, men with a history of either basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma were randomized to receive either 200 micrograms of selenium daily or a placebo. Patients were treated for an average of 4.5 years and then followed for an additional 6.5 years. The results revealed that selenium treatment resulted in a significant (63%) reduction in the incidence of prostate cancer from 1983-93. Furthermore, in an analysis of 843 men who initially had normal levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), only four cases of prostate cancer developed in the selenium-treated group compared to 16 cases in the placebo group after a 2-year treatment lag. Compared to placebo controls, the individuals taking selenium also had 58% less colorectal cancer, and 45% less lung cancer. (40)


Coenzyme Q10 (CO-Q10)

CoQ10 has two critical functions. It is a fat-soluble antioxidant, and it is also a required nutrient for the production of energy in the mitochondria, which occur in nearly every cell throughout the body. The majority of free radicals produced in the body are generated in the mitochondria during the process of energy production. CoQ10 helps in the production of energy and it also helps neutralize the free radicals that are produced during the process of energy production. (41)

One of CoQ10’s primary anti-aging functions is protecting DNA within the mitochondria from free radical damage. CoQ10 is an important antioxidant nutrient to prevent free radical damage to mitochondrial DNA. As part of the aging process cumulative damage to mitochondrial DNA means gradual loss in the ability to effectively generate energy. So that one of the potential causes of loss of energy or feeling fatigued could well be inadequate CoQ10 status. In one sense, cumulative damage to mDNA means starting to lose the ability to generate energy. (42)

Coenzyme Q10 is transported throughout the body by being packaged onto molecules of LDL and VLDL-cholesterol. It is oxidized LDL-cholesterol that can damage arteries and initiate atherosclerosis, which is the most frequent form of cardiovascular disease. Since CoQ10 is carried by LDL-cholesterol, it is one of the key nutrients to prevent the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol and the development of cardiovascular disease. (43)

Cardiovascular disease is one of the primary diseases of aging. Since the heart is the most energy demanding muscle in our bodies, a deficiency of CoQ10 first affects the heart and cardiovascular system. The authors of one study recognized CoQ10 as a "scientific breakthrough" in the treatment of chronic heart failure. (44)

Research with laboratory animals suggests that coenzyme Q10 may be one of the most important anti-aging nutrients known. The researchers began with 100 mice that were 16 to 18 months old, which is the human equivalent to being in one’s 60's or 70's. The mice were divided into two groups of 50. One group served as controls while the second group received regular weekly doses of coenzyme Q10. All of the mice were fed optimally nutritious diets and housed in good living conditions.

As these "old" mice continued to age, it soon became apparent that the control mice developed the normal problems of aging (sparse patchy fur, mobility problems, and lack of energy) and began dying at the expected rate. However, the CoQ10-treated mice maintained lustrous, healthy fur and remained bright and active. By week 28, nearly 70% of the control mice had died, compared to only 40% of the CoQ10-treated mice. At the 36th week, all of the control mice were dead, yet nearly 40% of the CoQ10-treated mice were still alive and active. At week 56, which is nearly double the amount of time they would have been expected to survive beyond the beginning of the experiment, 10% of the CoQ10-treated mice were still thriving. At the 80th week (recall that the last control mouse died at week 36), several of the CoQ10 mice were still alive. The last CoQ10-treated mouse finally died of "old age" during the 82nd week, which is approximately equal to 150 human years. (45) Also, the mice treated with coenzyme Q10 remained much more active, had fewer diseases, and a much better quality of life throughout their entire life span. Although this is only animal research, it suggests that coenzyme Q10 is an important anti-aging nutrient.


Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)

ALA provides antioxidant activity in both the fat-soluble and water-soluble compartments. Thus, lipoic acid is able to provide antioxidant protection in a wider range of physiological environments throughout the body, and therefore may be considered a "universal" antioxidant. (46) Once entering the body ALA will be converted to dihydrdolipoic acid, which has additional activity against the destructive peroxyl nitrite free radicals. Lipoic acid plays a role in the production of energy in the Krebs cycle by being part of two enzyme systems, PDH (pyruvate dehydrogenase) and alpha keto glutarate dehydrogenase. (47) It is reported to increase nerve blood flow, reduce oxidative stress, and improve distal nerve conduction. (48) It apparently enhances insulin receptor sensitivity, which has implications for reducing cardiovascular risk as well as risks associated with diabetes. (49) It also blocks NF Kappa B (50) and may well protect against cataract formation. (51) In addition to its own antioxidant functions, ALA regenerates other antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. (52) Doses range from 10mg to 300 mg twice daily.


Omega-3, Omega-6

Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential nutrients for cellular function. Correct quantities and ratios of the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in our diets should be assessed in each individual. Omega-3 fatty acids have been largely removed from commercially available foods. Therefore, most people need to obtain their omega-3 fatty acids from nutritional supplements such as flaxseed oil, which contains the oil known as omega-3, and fish oils, which contain the longer-chain omega-3 oils known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Most people consume far too much of the omega-6 fats and oils from sources such as corn, safflower and sunflower oil. Adequate Omega 3 status helps with regulation of inflammation and pain, (53) blood pressure, (54) blood thinning and has certain cardiovascular benefits, (55) hormone production benefits, (56) as well as immune and nervous system activity by influence of Series 3 prostaglandins. (57) DHA is the most abundant long chain fatty acid in the brain and there is evidence that decreased consumption of fatty acids may contribute to depression. (58) , (59) Obtaining omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet is critical to almost all biochemistry as well as maintaining a healthy immune system. With dietary sources of quality essential fatty acids difficult to achieve it becomes reasonable to assume that supplementation may be warranted for optimal cellular function.


N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

NAC can provide value in an anti-aging program in a few significant areas. It is a precursor to glutathione, which acts as an antioxidant in reducing free radical activity. (60) By improving glutathione production, there is an up-regulation of phase II detoxification mechanisms in the liver. This would provide for more efficient packing of metabolic end products. NAC is capable of chelating heavy metals, which are some of the principle toxins and disrupters that alter cellular metabolism. (61) , (62)


Multivitamin

Healthy aging requires optimal nutrition. Most individuals who embark on an anti-aging, life extension lifestyle regularly take a high potency multivitamin/mineral supplement in addition to consuming a diet rich in whole, unrefined foods. (63) Obtaining and maintaining optimal health, high level wellness and "healthy" aging may require amounts of nutrients that are greater than the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs).


Antioxidant Nutrients

Taking additional antioxidant nutrients is considered an important step in slowing down the aging process by minimizing free radical damage at the cellular level. (64) , (65) All antioxidant nutrients are important, and should be consumed in combination rather than taking elevated levels of one while excluding others.

Herbal Supplementation


Ginkgo

Some of the benefits of this herb are reported in improving circulation in the elderly. (66) , (67) This can lead to enhanced memory, delaying the onset of Alzheimer's, (68) and reducing senile dementia, (69) tinnitus, (70) and vertigo. (71) Ginkgo’s memory-enhancing effects are reported in younger populations as well. The main active components of ginkgo are the flavoglycosides. These compounds act as strong free radical scavengers or antioxidants. (72) Ginkgo is also reported to inhibit platelet activating factor (PAF) which could reduce the adhesive nature of platelets possibly through competitive binding. Ginkgo may foster vasodilation by stimulating endothelium releasing factor and prostacyclin. (73) It may also stimulate venous tone and improves the clearance of homotoxins during ischemic episodes. (74) Gingko reportedly acts as a tonic for the circulatory system. It may increase cerebral brain flow and, therefore, improve delivery of nutrients to the brain, enhancing elimination of the byproducts of cell metabolism and oxygenating the tissues. (75) Ginkgo may normalize acetylcholine receptors and, therefore, improve cholinergic function. (76)


Hawthorn

Hawthorn is used as a vasodilator and circulatory stimulant. (77) It has been used extensively by doctors in Europe in its standardized form in various cardiovascular and peripheral circulatory conditions. Its combination of effects on the heart leads to its use as a tonic, especially for the elderly where mitral stenosis and minor heart failure may be present. Studies have reported a reduction in blood pressure due to arteriosclerosis and chronic nephritis with the use of hawthorn. (78) It is also used for peripheral vascular diseases, such as Raynaud’s disease. Hawthorn is used in Europe by physicians to help maintain digoxin levels while decreasing the need for the pharmaceutical medication. Hawthorn is reported to have the ability to regulate both low and high blood pressure. Its bioflavonoids reportedly dilate both peripheral and coronary blood vessels. (79) This leads to its use in decreasing angina attacks. The proanthocyanidin (PCO) content is claimed to support the spasmolytic effects. (80) The PCO content also is thought to be responsible for the coronary circulatory effects, increasing the amplitude of the heartbeat. (81) , (82) Hawthorn’s glycoside component reportedly increases the vagal tone of the heartbeat. (83) It is also thought that hawthorn inhibits angiotensin-converting enzyme. (84) It has a slight diuretic effect which may help lower high blood pressure. Laboratory studies have reported that proanthocyanidins may actually aid in reversing atherosclerotic plaque. (85)


Eleuthero, Siberian Ginseng

Eleuthero is a different genus than other popular ginsengs such as the American and Panax or Asian varieties. The use of eleuthero root dates back 2,000 years in the records of Chinese medicine. It was used for respiratory tract infections, as well as colds and influenza. (86) The Chinese also believed that eleuthero provided energy and vitality. In Russia, it was originally used by the Siberian people to increase physical performance and to increase the quality of life and decrease infections. Eleuthero has been studied extensively since the 1940s. The root has been found to have many adaptogenic benefits. (87) , (88) Eleuthero has been reported to increase stamina and endurance and protect the body systems against stress-induced illness. (89) , (90) It is rumored that Soviet Olympic athletes have used eleuthero successfully to enhance sports performance and concentration.

Eleuthero root is frequently prescribed in Europe and Russia as an herbal "tonic," improving immune function and general well-being. It has been classified as an "adaptogen," meaning a substance that increases nonspecific resistance of the body to a wide range of chemical, physical, psychological, and biological factors (stressors). Adaptogens have the unique ability to switch from stimulating to sedating effects based on the body's needs. According to tradition and the literature, eleuthero possesses this kind of balancing, tonic, and anti-stress action on the body. The chief component in eleuthero that has the adaptogenic ability has been found to be the eleutheroside content, and high quality preparations are standardized or guaranteed to have a certain amount of this compound. (91) Also, polysaccharides in eleuthero play a role in its support of immune function. (92)

The adaptogenic properties of eleuthero have been extensively investigated in Russia. Both animal and human studies have reported the benefits of eleuthero in different conditions. Eleuthero extract has been administered in Russia to more than 4300 human subjects in studies involving either healthy or unhealthy individuals. Some of the benefits claimed for eleuthero are listed below:

    Increases physical endurance under stress (93) Increases mental alertness (94) Increases work output and quality of work; decreases sick days (95) Increases athletic performance (96) Protects against reduced cellular oxygen (97) Cardioprotective (98) Protects against excessive heat and cold conditions (99) Protects against radiation exposure and other toxins such as chemotherapeutic agents and alcohol (100) , (101) Protects against viral and microbial infections; enhances immunity (102) , (103) Aids general health of patients with chronic illnesses such as atherosclerosis, (104) acute pyelonephritis, (105) diabetes mellitus, (106) hypertension and hypotension, (107) acute craniocerebral trauma, neuroses, (108) and rheumatic heart disease (109) Promotes normal endocrine function (110) , (111) Improves visual acuity, color perception, and hearing acuity (112)


Cordyceps

Cordyceps is a unique black mushroom that extracts nutrients from and grows only on a caterpillar found in the high altitudes of Tibet and China. Cordyceps is one of the most valued medicinal agents in the Chinese Materia Medica. Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as the herb of choice in lung and kidney problems, and as a general tonic for promoting longevity, vitality and endurance. (113) Cordyceps is beneficial in helping individuals with decreased energy restore their capacity to function at a greater level of activity. Cordyceps has been used in humans for centuries as a tonic for improving performance and vitality, with the proposed mechanism of action being improved oxygen consumption by the cardiopulmonary system under stress and increased tissue "steady state" energy levels. Cordyceps may modulate immune function and optimize endocrine systems, increasing physical strength and endurance. (114) , (115)

Cordyceps has traditionally been used for its improvement in respiration and in individuals with decreased lung function, such as asthma and bronchitis, by increasing oxygenation (improving VO2 max by 9-15%). (116) Cordyceps has been reported to have anti-cancer effects by decreasing proliferation and differentiation of cancerous cells and has immunomodulatory effects. (117) , (118) , (119) Cordyceps has been used for decreasing the renal toxicity of aminoglycosides and cyclosporine, (120) , (121) and in individuals with chronic renal failure. (122) Kidney protection is claimed to be due to: protecting tubular cell sodium pump activity; attenuating tubular cell lysosome over function stimulated by phagocytosis of aminoglycoside; and decreasing tubular cell lipoperoxidation in response to toxic injury. (123) Cordyceps was also reported to protect stem cells and red blood cells during chemotherapy and radiation. (124)

Cordyceps has been reported to increase sexual vitality in both men and women and decrease male impotence. This may be due to an increase in sex hormones, or by directly acting on the sexual center of the brain and sex organs in parallel with the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. (125) It may also reverse drug-induced impotence. (126)


Bilberry

Bilberry is an excellent antioxidant. (127) Bilberry is claimed to exert a collagen stabilizing activity (128) which is responsible for the integrity of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. In conditions such as arthritis, where the connective tissue is attacked and vascularized, anthocyanosides may be helpful. Bilberry reportedly strengthens the cross-linking of the collagen matrix and stimulates the production of collagen and mucopolysaccharides. (129) Bilberry compounds reportedly inhibit mediators of inflammation such as histamine, protease, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins. (130) Anthocyanosides may also decrease capillary permeability. (131) This is of particular importance because of the heightened integrity which occurs at the blood/brain barrier. By strengthening collagen, brain capillary integrity can be improved, as well as a reduction in infiltration by potential toxins. Anthocyanosides reportedly inhibit platelet aggregation. (132) Platelet aggregation tendencies relate to atherosclerotic and blood clotting tendencies. Bilberry has the ability to stimulate gastric mucus production which may be of value for those on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (133) Although all of the above effects are exciting, the most exciting is its potential effect on the eyes. With age, oxidative stress due to free radicals increases in some people more than in others. This damage to ocular tissues may lead to various eye pathologies. If it improves the oxygenation of tissue, bilberry may show promise in the areas of prevention for diabetic retinopathy, minimizing the advance of macular degeneration, and arresting cataract progression. (134) , (135)


Green Tea

An early Chinese Materia Medica lists green tea as an agent to promote digestion, improve mental faculties, decrease flatulence, and regulate body temperature. Green tea is an antioxidant that is used in promoting cardiovascular health, (136) , (137) reducing serum cholesterol levels in laboratory animals and humans. (138) , (139) Studies suggest that green tea contains dietary factors that help decrease the development of some infectious diseases and dental caries. (140) , (141) , (142) Green tea also has diuretic, stimulant, astringent, and antifungal properties. (143) Green tea has also been reported to enhance immunity. (144)

Green tea reportedly has antioxidant properties (145) and the ability to protect against oxidative damage of red blood cells. (146) Antioxidants protect cells and tissues against oxidative damage and injury. (147) Green tea’s antioxidant effects seem to be dependent upon the polyphenol (catechin) fraction. (148) , (149) It is important to note that the addition of milk to any tea may significantly lower the antioxidant potential. (150)

Inhibitory effects of green tea on carcinogenesis have been investigated in laboratory studies using (-)epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) or crude green tea extract. (151) Further, EGCG has been reported to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, lung metastasis in an animal model and urokinase activity. (152) , (153) Claims have been made that increased consumption of green tea prior to clinical cancer onset may be associated with improved prognosis of stage I and II breast cancer. This association may be related to a modifying effect of green tea on the clinical characteristics of the cancer. (154)

Positive benefits on the cardiovascular system, particularly blood lipid levels, have been reported with the use of green tea. (155) An increased consumption of green tea was associated with decreased serum concentrations of total lipids and triglycerides and an increased proportion of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, together with a decreased proportion of low and very low lipoprotein cholesterols. (156) Green tea was reported to lower cholesterol levels by blocking the lipid peroxidation of LDL. (157) In two studies, green tea did not show any benefit in reducing serum cholesterol, but the positive effects are reported from other studies. (158) , (159) Green tea has also been reported to be an inhibitor of thromboxane formation and platelet aggregation. (160) , (161)


Grape Seed Extract

Proanthocyanidins (PCO's), the active constituent in grape seed, is a flavonoid-rich compound which is being heavily touted as one of the most potent free radical scavengers. It has been reported to enhance the absorption of and work synergistically with vitamin C. (162) PCO's have been reported to inhibit the release of mediators of inflammation, such as histamine and prostaglandins. (163) , (164) Proanthocyanidins are reported to neutralize many free radicals, including hydroxyl, lipid peroxides, and iron-induced lipid peroxidation. (165) , (166) , (167) They may inhibit the enzyme xanthine oxidase. (168) PCO's have been used in allergies because of their reported ability to inhibit degradation of mast cells and the subsequent release of histamine and other mediators of inflammation.

Acupuncture & Acupressure

Treatment with Acupuncture
Wei, et al. studied the effect of acupuncture on regulating sexual hormones. Shenshu (B23) and Taixi (K3) were selected as the main acupoints for treatment, while other points were included when appropriate in accordance with TCM's differentiation theory. In manipulating the needles, the lifting-thrusting-twirling method was used. One unit of treatment consisted of 20 daily sessions. Results: the treatment was effective in increasing the testosterone level in the male patients, and the estrogen-2 level in females patients, with the effect being more pronounced on patients of kidney-yang deficiency (as compared to on patients of kidney-yin deficiency). (169)

Treatment with Moxibustion
Xiong, et al. studied the effect of moxibustion on red blood cell immune adherence activity in patients with kidney deficiency. They used the moxa-cone method at the following points: Feishu (B13), Pishu (B20), Shenshu (B23), Zusanli (S36), Dazhui (D14), Guangyuan (Ren4). One unit of treatment called for five moxa-cones on each point every other day for a total of 15 cones. The results showed that the treatment made a significant difference (P

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy for Aging

Essential oils may be useful in relieving some of the symptoms associated with aging such as fatigue and insomnia and provide a sense of well-being. In addition, certain oils may be useful for addressing the effects that aging has on the skin.

Fatigue
Extreme fatigue requires a program of aromatherapy that involves the use of baths, direct application in carrier oils and inhalation. The following oils may be beneficial in one or more of these therapies:

  • Vertiver (Vetivera zizanoides)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia thurifera)
  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
  • Clary sage (Salvia sclerea)
  • Basil (Osimum basilicum)
For more immediate stimulation, inhaling the following oils may prove useful:

  • Peppermint (Mentha piperta)
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules)

Insomnia
The use of bath therapy and massage with the following essential oils may prove useful in insomnia. These oils may be used as individual oils or in combination based on the response of the individual. If used in direct application, these oils should be mixed with a carrier oil and applied before bed time.

  • Chamomile (Both German and Roman) ( Matricaria chamomilla, Chamaemelum nobile)
  • Neroli (Citrus Aurantium)
  • Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia)
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Marjoram (Origanum Marjorana)

Skin care
Aging skin can benefit from the application of essential oils that have been diluted in a base oil such as almond, apricot or avocado oil. Essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin without diluting in a base oil.

  • Neroli (Citrus Aurantium)
  • Myrrh (Commiphora Myrrha) Geranium (pelargonium graveolen)

Caution: Essential Oil therapies should not be used during pregnancy or lactation and should always be used under the direction of an experienced aromatherapist.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Aging

Extensive information regarding the treatment of this health condition using Traditional Chinese Medicine is available through the link above.

Diet & Lifestyle

Diet: Consuming a diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, seeds, nuts, and legumes along with lean sources of protein and quality fats are important. Fast foods and processed foods should be limited. Studies report that organically grown foods have nearly twice the nutritional content as the same foods that are grown with commercial farming methods. (170) In addition to greater nutrient density, organically grown foods (produce as well as animals) are not exposed to pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and growth hormones. Also, by reducing processed food intake limited exposure to additives and preservatives can be accomplished.

Phytochemicals: "Phyto" is the Greek root word meaning "plant." Phytochemicals is a term that represents a vast group of plant-based compounds that are not essential nutrients for humans. However, humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary history eating primarily a plant-based diet consisting of fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Over the past several decades science has been learning that thousands of phytochemicals are capable of providing health benefits to humans. In many cases, phytochemicals are compounds that are part of the immune system of plants in Nature. More than ample evidence at this point suggests protective benefits from a variety of conditions and diseases through regular consumption of phyto based foods.

Water: Being hydrated is a critical issue for aging. For adults, this means drinking approximately eight 8-ounce glasses of quality water every day. The main detoxification process in the body is to make xenotoxins more water-soluble in order to be carried away out of the body. Therefore it is important to drink adequate water to perform this task. In general, the advice is to get a reverse osmosis water system, or rely on some other form of safe clean water for consumption. Many individuals rely on more sodas, tea and coffee to get their fluid intake than just water. Emphasis on water intake in its pure form should be encouraged.

Full spectrum light: Dr. John Ott informed the world about the importance of getting some daily exposure to full spectrum light, which means natural sunlight, or else being in artificial indoor lighting that approximates the full spectrum of wavelengths that is provided by the sun. People who wear glasses of contact lenses should remove them and get 20 to 30 minutes of natural, full spectrum light in their eyes each day. Dr. Ott’s experiments explain how the shorter blue-violet wavelengths of light enter the eyes and stimulate neurochemical pathways in the brain that influence and balance our entire endocrine system. (171)

Exercise: Regular exercise is one of the most necessary aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Without regular exercise, aging will not be a healthy, enjoyable process later in life. The target should be 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 to 4 times per week. Ideally, an individuals weekly exercise regimen should consist of a balance between aerobic exercise, bending and stretching exercises, and strength building exercises. Researchers at the Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tuft’s University have frail, infirm 80 and 90+/-year old elderly adults on 12-week strength training programs. In this short period of time, individuals are able to increase their strength by 180 to 200 percent and their muscle mass by 12 to 15 percent. Along with these results come improvements in metabolism, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, heart rate, bone density, and much more. This is truly reversing the aging process.

Sleep: Get adequate sleep and manage stress in life. More and more research is pointing to the fact that adequate sleep has important biochemical and physiologic functions. Rest allows for a healthy immune system.

Stress: Take steps to manage stress in life. Most individuals do not have coping tools leading to elevations in cortisol and eventual adrenal burn out. This syndrome can lead to hyperinsulinemia, hyperlipidemia as well as neurologic degeneration and metabolic changes leading to obesity.

Things to avoid:

Partially hydrogenated fats and oils. If a food label has the words "Contains partially hydrogenated fats and oils," the foods contain fats that have been chemically and structurally altered. These altered fats are known as trans fatty acids. The process known as partial hydrogenation allows food processors to extend the shelf life of processed foods. This is why partially hydrogenated fats and oils have become so pervasive and ubiquitous in commercially available foods. Try to avoid or reduce partially hydrogenated fats and oils. Trans fatty acids block delta 6 desaturase, an enzyme that is responsible for converting cholesterol to bile. Additionally recent studies are linking trans fatty acids with higher rates of breast cancer (172) and colon cancer. (173)

Additional considerations that the public is concerned with include:

Fluoridated water – associated with higher rates of cancer.

Chlorine in municipal water supplies –associated with higher rates of cancer.

Aspartame – mounting evidence of neurotoxic activity for a portion of the population along with influences on the Hypothalamic- Pituitary axis.

Clinical Lab Assessment

Some of the following laboratory testing can provide information necessary for diagnosis and treatment. In addition, the tests listed may also give insight to functional metabolism and functional nutrient status in the body.

Adrenal Function Profiles

Aging impacts the HPA axis through reduced responsiveness to glucocorticoid feedback inhibition. (174) Stress activates the HPA axis and has impact on the immune system, particularly through the adrenal hormones. In assessing the HPA axis, adrenal functional abnormalities are relatively simple to identify and address (e.g. when compared to hypothalamic dysregulation or pituitary imbalance).

Thyroid Profile

Aging is associated with the appearance of thyroid autoantibodies and subclinical hypothyroidism in elderly subjects with positive serum thyroid autoantibodies is prevalent. Thyroid autoantibodies are rare in healthy centenarians and in other highly selected aged populations, while they are frequently observed in unselected or hospitalized elderly. (175) Thyroid nodules do occur with increasing frequency in the elderly. (176) Early detection of subclinical hypothyroid function may enable a postponement of some symptoms of aging.

Organic Acids

Organic acids analysis is a useful method for measurement of biochemical intermediates in urine. Organic acids analysis provides information relevant to the energy production cycle – a critical aspect of aging processes. (177) Sensitive assessment of B12 status is particularly important in the elderly. (178) Methylmalonic acid, an organic acid metabolite, is a reasonable sensitive marker for assessing functional levels of B12. A subset of organic acids, the dysbiosis markers, may provide useful information regarding gastrointestinal pathogens that can contribute to immune compromise. Animal studies demonstrate the reduction in intestinal function in aging populations, which may compromise nutritional sufficiency, (179) thus assessment of digestive function is reasonable even in the absence of symptomatology.

Amino Acids

Deficiencies or imbalances in amino acids can indicate fundamental reasons for numerous disorders. Amino acid malabsorption syndrome or imbalanced amino patterns reflect abnormal organ and glandular processes that have critical bearing on optimal function. Methionine, homocysteine and key amino acid components of the energy production cycle (CAC) are particularly important factors in aging relative to liver detoxication capability, cardiovascular risk, emotional stability, and physical activity.

Mineral Analysis

The evaluation of essential and/or toxic elements can be of use in the evaluation of many clinical conditions. Essential mineral imbalances can affect nearly any tissue and organ resulting in a myriad of disorders. Trace element deficiencies can disproportionately affect enzyme systems that are used in regulatory substrates resulting in amplified disease conditions.

Cortisol

Increases in free plasma cortisol are associated with aging. (180) Low cortisol values are associated with various degenerative diseases that may advance the aging process. Plasma or salivary cortisol measurements may be used as markers in the evaluation of the aging process.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

DHEA may have significance in the aging process. (181) Serum or saliva provides useful monitors of these values.

Lipid Profile

Triglycerides: A chronically elevated triglyceride level is associated with degenerative disease conditions and anaerobic metabolism demonstrating difficulty utilizing triglyceride fatty acids.

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)

This glycoprotein is used as a marker for the detection of prostate cancer. Studies on rats demonstrate a stimulatory effect on thyroid function by prostatic secretions (182) and thyroid hormone control of calcitonin via an interaction with the prostate. (183)

Clinical Notes

Looking at CoQ10 and other intermediaries for cellular energy production this could be an important key to the aging process. Looking at CoQ10 alone leads us to the role of insulin regulation, heart function and liver function. A good example of cellular uncoupling of energy due to oxidative stress would be Greg Lemond who after being a world champion bicyclist succumbed to mitochondrial disease. On inspection this makes sense due to the amount of free radical damage that was more than likely occurring due to the rigorous training schedule and years of training. For non-athletes, professional athletes and the rigorous amateur alike taking additional antioxidants to reduce m(DNA) as well as cellular DNA is essential for an anti aging program. Many other aspects are to be considered such as immunity, neuro-endocrine health and stress response along with optimized metabolism.

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