Facing The Truth of Getting Old

People are not immortals and losing spice for life while we age is natural. Question is how fast we will let it happen. Even though plenty of us are afraid of growing old, often there is no proactive and purposed health behaviour seen. We still cannot prevent aging, and the first signs we start to notice in ourselves and how we have suddenly aged, is our appearance – the beauty of the skin, glow of the face, and the fitness of the body. It is a natural reaction to attempt making changes after we start seeing the effects of the aging process in the mirror. Conversely, practical evidence shows that people lead happier and healthier lives only after they finally give up on the idea that aging can be undone by medical procedures and plastic surgery. However, the more steps we take to implement a healthier lifestyle before the ravages of age start to appear, the better the chances of sustaining our quality of life as our age advances. It is for this reason that we should talk more about the power of prevention.

AGING SOCIETY – GLOBAL AND INDIVIDUAL AGING

We are aging, not just as individuals or communities but as a world. Referring to the Natural Institute of Aging (2014) in 2006 almost 500 million people worldwide were 65 and older. By 2030, that total is projected to increase to one billion – one in every eight of the planet’s inhabitants. Above all, the most rapid increases in the 65-and-older population are occurring in developing countries, which will see a jump of 140 percent by 2030. According to European Commission (2014) approximately 18 percent of the European population is currently 65-or-older and by 2060 the elderly will outnumber the children by more than two times. Moreover, the most senior group of people (80 or older) is growing faster than any other segment of the population.

The population in developed countries is living longer and life expectancies are steadily inching upwards. According to Westendorp and Kirkwood (2007) human life expectancy has yet to settle at some ceiling imposed by genetic programming, which means that we are finding the basic mechanisms of aging to be intrinsically more manipulative than had been previously thought. People are living longer in retirement, which results in increased travel, medical care, and medical tourism (travelling for health purposes). When we think about our increasing longevity, societies and economies need to be ready for an elderly population who actively wants to be part of an active living environment, work and travel, and all while being treated with respect.

Human aging has many dimensions and at its heart it is a biological process. Physical aging is its most visible face, yet human aging is also a socio-cultural phenomenon. The way we perceive and interpret others’ comments and gazes, combined with their compassionate questions and well-intended considerations may reflect our physical and functional age even more vividly than a mirror on the wall. So the community is aging psychologically inside groups of individuals who are continuously reflecting each other and adopting lifestyle behaviors.

Individual aging is characterized by progressive changes associated with increased susceptibility to many diseases and is influenced by genetic factors, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures. According to medical doctor Rainer Arendt from Dolder Grand Spa in Zurich, the human aging process can often be described by loss of complexity – general decline in physiological and behavioral function. Also he claims that person’s various body parts age differently, however, the aging process can be delayed, accelerated or progress normally; one´s biological age can be best seen from the outside – skin, hair and nails. Instead of waiting to see how our physical body loses all of its beauty and vitality, it is wise to take preventative measures and delay the aging process. And here we are not only talking about how to live longer but even more importantly, how to prolong one’s health span – our years of healthy life. Extending one’s health span is what makes living longer a value well worth pursuing.

Behavioral and lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and obesity are commonly associated with the development of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (Lopez, Mathers, Ezzati et al., 2006). According to World Health Organization (2014), 80 percent of premature deaths in Europe are caused by diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These age related lifestyle diseases are preventable and often avoidable, and there is much a person can do with the help of proper knowledge.

Another important factor that can greatly affect one’s quality of life while they age is their mental state. The physical toll that depression can have on an individual cannot be overstated. For example, the WHO (2014) stated that depression is the leading cause of years of healthy life lost to disability for both rich and poor countries alike across all regions in the world. This burden is only likely to increase in proportion to other diseases over the coming decades. According to American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (2013), researchers have found that based on telomere length, subjects in the study who suffered clinical depression for a period of two or more years actually aged seven to ten years, when compared to non-depressed people. To explain, telomeres are found in our chromosomes and their length provides researchers with useful information regarding one’s effective age. The longer the telomere length is the younger one’s effective age, so we can see why maintaining both our physical health and mental health are important to the quality of life that we lead while we age.

LONGEVITY CONCEPTS THAT GIVE US THE POWER OF YOUTH

Last year Angelina Jolie revealed in New York Times (2013) that she decided to go through preventive double mastectomy – removing both breasts to prevent cancer. She had learned through preventive genetic testing that she had the so called faulty gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Angelina´s doctors estimated that she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer sometime during her lifetime. The effect on society that Jolie’s decision had (to undergo preventive genetic testing followed by preventive surgery) is now called “The Angelina Jolie effect”- taking steps to prolong one’s health span by not only avoiding diseases through prevention but also knowing our individual health risks. This example illustrates how preventive health behavior will benefit one’s health span and how it could save lives. Prevention is an investment in our health, which expects us to take responsibility for our own wellbeing, becoming aware of our individual weaknesses and being proactive.

Our aim should not be to look like a 20-year old in our forties but to feel as energetic and happy as possible, to live a fulfilling life and age gracefully. Age management means overall moving from inner health to outer beauty – starting with proper motivation, mindset, and mental health improvements; incorporating suitable exercise, eating, and sleeping habits; improving appearance by using dermatologists and aestheticians, and learning how to independently take proper care of ourselves. These are deep lifestyle changes to implement into our daily routine and practice throughout our entire life. It is vital to start with proper diagnostics and individual “game plan” before jumping into action because the possibilities are virtually unlimited and age management can be tailored to meet one’s individual needs and budget to the finest detail.

Age management is a lifestyle concept that includes a serious medical approach. It is the basis for anti-aging medicine that deals with reversing the aging process via accessing every individual’s peak performance from the inside as well as from the outside. Currently terms like age management and anti-aging medicine can be still used mistakenly because of their novelty. It is important to distinguish between age management and anti-aging treatment as these are fundamentally different approaches. The following table summarises the key characteristics of both concepts:

“Age Management” – The concept of leading our own aging process “Anti-Aging Treatment” – the concept of reversing one’s aging process
Retaining and optimizing health and wellbeing to delay aging process Reversing aging process to promote as youthful look as possible
Improving individual lifestyle while using preventive health care services as well medical interventions Implementation of aesthetic surgery and technological interventions
Prolonging health span to age gracefully Aiming for “peak performance” at any age to prolong health span as well normal lifespan.
Long term health beneficial results offering satisfaction with self-image at later age of life Short term visual results to offer fast rejuvenating effect

People do not just want to cope with aging; they desire to stay young and energetic while living longer than ever before. This is why one should look at an integration of age management and anti-aging medicine services in order to achieve the best possible results in a healthy way – offering the possibility for individuals to go beyond simply rebalancing the normal aging process. Longevity concepts always need to give an individual the option to choose the level of their current health program. The “secret” of preventing premature aging lies in combining the following treatments:

• Genetic medicine (gene tests for body analysis, measuring biological age, creating a personal genetic portfolio)
• Nutrition/Dietetics (e.g. weight management, micro nutrition)
• Physical exercises (e.g. cardiovascular- and strength trainings, yoga)
• Mental health assessments (e.g. stress assessment, burnout management, cognitive behavioural therapy, mind training)
• Beauty enhancements and appearance medicine (e.g. plastic surgery, cosmetology, cell therapies)
• Workshops for correct breathing (e.g. meditation)
• Body function evaluations (e.g. biophysical evaluation, stress tests)
• Health consultations and regular check-ups (doctors with endocrinology or with general medical background)
• Detoxifying programs
• Massage therapies

Age management ought to serve many aims: lifestyle changes, beauty enhancements, health maintenance and optimization, delaying the aging process and postponing age related diseases as well as disability, embracing the normal aging process to reach longevity and prolong one’s health span.
Let us imagine a 75-year old woman running 11 km/h while receiving instructions from her personal trainer through Google glasses, and tracking her physical activity via Iphone, and a heart rate monitor. This is possible even today, however, it is extremely uncommon and almost never seen because often elderly are either not well enough to perform these tasks or not up to date with recent technological innovations such as these available for health care. What is possible in the near future is for the elderly to achieve this level of health, fitness, and knowledge allowing them to reach beyond what is typically seen in people their age today – to make a career change, migrate to another country, participate in fitness competitions, using all the possibilities of high-tech, personalized medicine and enjoying life as they did in their late thirties.

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