July 23, 2014

Anti-Aging Medicine: Forever Young

Florida is home to more anti-aging doctors than any other state -- and they're finding many patients willing to spend thousands to feel like they did in their 20s and 30s.

Amy Keller | 12/1/2009

Dr. Jennifer Landa
Dr. Jennifer Landa, 40, runs an anti-aging practice in Maitland and is chief medical director of BodyLogicMD. [Photo: Brian Smith]
As we sleep, the pituitary gland near the base of the brain secretes a protein consisting of 191 amino acids that flows into the bloodstream. Although the substance, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), remains in the bloodstream for only a few minutes, its impact on the body is dramatic. When HGH binds to receptors on target fat cells, it stimulates the breakdown of triglycerides and suppresses the cells’ ability to store fat. At the same time, HGH triggers the liver to produce a potent anabolic hormone called IGF-1, a messenger molecule that stimulates bone, cartilage and muscle growth.

While levels of HGH peak during the rapid-growth phase of adolescence, they drop off as we age, at a rate of about 14% to 20% per decade. By the time we reach our 60s, our HGH level can be as little as 15% to 20% of what it was during our youth.

Most doctors consider declining levels of HGH and other key hormones, like testosterone, DHEA, melatonin, thyroid hormone, progesterone and estrogen, to be a normal part of aging. But a new crop of physicians says it doesn’t have to be that way. The “anti-aging” doctors promote hormone replacement, intravenously administered vitamins and a myriad of other therapies along with dietary changes and weight management as a way to stave off the effects of aging.

“We kind of call anti-aging medicine ‘inner plastic surgery’ because it kind of works from the inside out. So if somebody is considering liposuction, I say, ‘Please let me help you optimize your hormones. Maybe if you’re over 40, even consider growth hormone, and let’s see how good it can get for you in three months,’ ” says Dr. Donald Fisher, a former emergency medicine doctor who now runs an anti-aging medical practice in south Florida, the epicenter of the anti-aging medical movement.

The Anti-Aging Medicine Chest

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) — Bioidentical hormones are plant-derived hormones that are frequently prescribed to treat the symptoms of menopause and andropause, the decline of testosterone in men. The custom-mixed formulas are derived from yams or soybeans and then altered to be identical in molecular structure to those produced by the body. Many advocates of BHRT tout it as a safer, more natural alternative to conventional hormone replacement therapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, says there is no evidence that bioidenticals are any safer or more effective than traditional FDA-approved menopausal hormone therapies.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) — This hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands and serves as a precursor to sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Levels peak around age 25 and gradually decline with age. By the time a person is 70, DHEA levels are just 10% to 20% of what they were in the second decade of life. Promoters claim that restoring DHEA levels with supplements will increase muscle mass, bone growth and fat burning as well as improve memory and boost the immune system. A 2008 Mayo Clinic study concluded that there’s no proof that DHEA has any anti-aging benefits.

Antioxidants — Many scientists suspect that free radicals — the unfettered oxygen particles that are produced during normal metabolic processes and by such activities as smoking — are a primary culprit behind aging. Common antioxidants recommended to help mop up these free radicals include vitamins A, C, and E and
co-enzyme Q10. Polyphenols, which are found
in red wine, fruits such as grapes, pomegranates and berries and tea and coffee, are also effective free radical scavengers.

Fish Oil—
Omega-3 fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. Evidence from studies suggests it lowers triglycerides and reduces the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease. It also decreases blood pressure slightly.

Melatonin — This hormone is produced by the pineal gland, which is located beneath the brain, each night in response to darkness to help induce sleep. It is linked to the regulation of circadian hormonal rhythms, but levels may decrease as we age. Melatonin supplements are often prescribed to help patients sleep better.

[Photo: Tom Hagerty]

Tags: Healthcare

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