What can Centenarians teach us about cholesterol levels and longevity – It isn’t what you think

Medicine qua medicine comes into existence when it appropriates knowledge and skills, no matter what their origin, in order to further its healing purposes.” — Edmund Pellegrino

The world population is aging with a rapid increase in the very elderly aged 80 and up. Those who make it to 100 and beyond (centenarians) are considered an exceptional human model of healthy aging and extreme longevity.

In general, centenarians appear to escape—or at least significantly delay—the diseases of aging that normally cause mortality at earlier ages. In an attempt to understand why some people live well beyond what is currently considered to be the ‘normal’ lifespan, gerontologists have identified a variety of factors that centenarians share. These include not smoking, a healthy diet, regular exercise, avoidance of stress, family connectedness, and a positive attitude.

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Adaptogens – Essential Support for Restoration, Protection, Resilience, and Longevity

In my observation, far too many people today are merely surviving instead of thriving. I attribute most of the erosion of well being and resilience—including the growing prevalence of chronic, degenerative diseases—to the increased stressors of contemporary society. Although the role of stress in disease has long been recognized, it is now more fully understood through the advances of scientific research.

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in cancer has been the discovery of the relationship between the sympathetic nervous system and cancer growth and reoccurrence. This was first detected though observational research showing a strong association between cancer patients on beta-blockers and a reduction in reoccurrence rates, a slowing of cancer growth, and decreased angiogenesis. 1-6 Researchers studying the relationship of vagal nerve activity (measured through heart rate variability) and the neuro-modulation of tumors found improved overall survival rate in cancer patients when the parasympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for calming the body) is activated.7

These are exciting discoveries, and support my life’s work on the importance of using herbal adaptogens and nervines to help the body adapt to physical and emotional stressors. Neither disease nor treatment of disease, including natural approaches through health optimization, can be described in a linear reductionist model, which is what almost everyone attempts to do. It is the collective effect of the perturbations in multiple underlying networks that result in the symptoms of disease, thus effective treatment should be directed at strengthening and harmonizing all systems of the organism. Continue reading “Adaptogens – Essential Support for Restoration, Protection, Resilience, and Longevity”

Your Genes Are Not Your Destiny: The Science Of Epigenetics

The science of epigenetics is turning what we’ve long held true about biological destiny upside down. Although it remains true that our DNA—our genetic code—provides the blueprint for our physiological makeup, researchers have discovered that there’s something extra controlling our genes—and food and herbs may in fact be the most important factors in our genetic well-being.

That extra “something” controlling our genes is the epigenome, the cellular material that sits on top of the genome (the complete set of genetic material present in a cell or organism). While epigenomes do not alter the genetic code, they direct genes to switch on (becoming active) or off (becoming dormant) through a variety of biological mechanisms. This intriguing finding means that your genetic heritage is not the primary determinant of your health, disease risk, or longevity.

spices-and-herbs

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Optimizing Hormones Naturally Versus Hormone Replacement Therapies: Part I

Woman Meditating

Not so long ago, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was routinely prescribed for menopausal women to alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia, as well as to protect against osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia and aging. Even women who were content to age naturally were sometimes pushed into taking hormones. For example, my mother decided against hormones, and was told by her doctor, “All right then, you can just let your skin sag and watch your body age quickly.” Unfortunately for women, hormone replacement turned out to have unexpected negative consequences, as long-term clinical studies showed that HRT increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, blood clots, and hormone-related cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer—even with short-term use. HRT is also associated with a significant increase in lung cancer and death from lung cancer. It’s almost unthinkable, but HRT has even been prescribed for women with breast cancer, with the result being double the reoccurrence rate of cancer (J Natl Cancer Inst 2008; 100: 475-482).

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Thoughts on Healthy Aging

Woman Standing on Rock

This may seem to be a radical stance, but I believe it is mistake to think that illness and disease are an inevitable part of the normal aging process. Although we may think of aging in relation to outward appearance, the way we look reflects only certain aspects of age, some of which are superficial–such as gray hair and laugh lines. How we think and feel inwardly–including our energy and zest for life–and the way our brain, bones, digestion, immune system, and the rest of our body functions is a much more accurate indication of our aging status.

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Secrets of the Blue Zones: The World’s Hot Spots of Longevity

I’m intrigued by research on the Blue Zones, which are essentially hot spots of longevity. In these areas of the world, it’s not uncommon for people to still be living active, healthy lives beyond the age of one hundred. So far, researchers have identified five Blue Zones:

These areas are diverse geographically, culturally, and spiritually. But what they have in common is a lifestyle that naturally supports all of the facets of good health: physical, emotional, and spiritual. People fortunate enough to be born in Blue Zones eat healthfully (a plant based diet, accented with small amounts of animal protein). Continue reading “Secrets of the Blue Zones: The World’s Hot Spots of Longevity”