President-elect Barack Obama is inheriting the greatest confluence of intricately woven catastrophes this country has had to deal with in more than recent memory. Two wars. Failing banks in the US and abroad. Failing industrial complex at home. A subpar public educational system. Dismal consumer confidence. Wall Street turmoil.
And if that wasn't enough, a large white elephant looming in every living room: a broken healthcare system that is absolutely contributing to the malaise of the American economy. And the issue isn't simply that Americans are uninsured, or underinsured. Unfortunately, the problem is deeper, more pervasive, and requires a whole new way of thinking about how our health should be managed.
Until our newly elected government has the time, energy, and inclination to comprehensively address this crisis, we have to take our health into our own hands in more aggressive ways than ever before. And that starts with truly understanding how -- and why -- we age. As we grow older chronologically, our body deteriorates, but it does not have to be this way at all. We can all learn how to live younger, starting right now.
Aging Happens Every Moment
Aging occurs throughout the entire body from the moment you are born until the day you die, but to various degrees. As children, we call these changes "development." As adults, we refer to them as "illness." The difference is purely semantic. Every time an internal system changes for the worse or stops working the way it should, whether it is the heart, bones, kidneys, brain, or ovaries, we age. As one system begins to fail, it sends an aging code to the rest of the body, transmitting a signal that things are falling apart. This code is a death signal that the rest of the body responds to in kind.
Simply put, every disease that afflicts you after the age of 40 is essentially an accelerated form of aging. So wouldn't it be helpful to know the age of every part of your body? That way you can fix your oldest parts and stop them from pulling the rest of your health down. We have the medical know-how to find illness and reverse it. We just need to get doctors on board with this type of proactive medicine, instead of waiting around for a "surprise" illness to strike.
Anti-Aging Medicine Needs to Focus on the Brain
Preventative treatment is exactly what "anti-aging" medicine is all about. In my office I take an integrative approach, which means that I combine the best medical protocols available for each of my patients. Once their oldest parts are identified, I can help them begin the process to reverse aging in these afflicted parts through a combination of lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, diet modification, bioidentical hormones, and when necessary, medicines.
What Health Care is Missing
Right now, our current healthcare system doesn't take care of your most important organ: the brain. The brain transfers electricity to the rest of the body through four primary brain chemicals. Each is responsible for different aspects of your health. Dopamine monitors your metabolism and your brain's processing speed, but health insurance won't cover a brain health assessment. Acetylcholine controls memory and attention, and we are spending millions treating dementia disorders without including a standardized memory test into your yearly well visit. We also spend millions on anxiety disorders and addiction which are connected to GABA, but there isn't proper screening of addiction in primary care. Lastly, serotonin is related to mood and sleep disorders, but instead of preventing these issues, all types of doctors are handing out SSRI's, and often without the necessary accompanying mental health therapies.
Keeping our brain healthy could mean adding 15 years of productive life to our endgame: it's just that critical. So the first step is to talk to your doctor about the following tests that can pinpoint with incredible accuracy the age of every part of you body, including your brain: brain mapping with BEAMâ?¢: measures the production and expression of the four unique brain chemicals through the use of brain electrical activity mapping known as BEAMâ?¢. BEAM technology allows us observe the brain at work. The electrical impulses are converted into pictures showing colored bursts that represent actual brain transmissions. From these pictures we can make intelligent decisions about which of the four primary brain chemicals need to be addressed, and then can accurately assess the effectiveness of treatment.
An Effective Tool
DEXA Scans: The most effective method of determining body fat percentage is by using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, more commonly known as a DXA (or DEXA) scan. The DEXA outshines standard BMI charts and formulas and virtually all other methods of weight measurement. Keeping your weight to within a reasonable level of body fat is the number one way you'll prevent illness so that you can look and feel younger for years to come. MRIs and PET Scans: Today's MRI's and PET's can detect cancers on the cellular level so that you can begin treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. My office offers head to toe ultrasounds for just this reason. The next generation of imaging is called SPECT scans which can provide truly three-dimensional information. Remember: early detection -- and treatment -- is the key to your survival.
My AgePrint Quiz at pathmed.com. This test will help you pinpoint the exact age of all your parts, and help identify a wide variety of health issues you may be facing, including why you are having difficulty losing weight, problems with your memory, attention, and moods, as well as more traditional health concerns. Discuss the results with your doctor ASAP.
Until President Obama can get around to fixing healthcare, take economic responsibility for your heath. The next time you go to your doctor, and s/he only checks out your heart and your cholesterol, but doesn't take into account where you are with menopause, or how your joints are feeling, or why your hair isn't as shiny as the last time you were in, or why your skin is as dry as parchment paper, remind the doc that you are a whole human being and want to be treated as such. Ask for a "head-to-toe" physical with the latest blood tests and technologies that your insurance will cover, and start taking command of your own health so that you can begin to look and feel younger. March, 2009
Eric R. Braverman, M.D. is the author of books and more than 120 papers and has been practicing medicine for more than 22 years. He is renowned for his work in anti-aging. Dr. Braverman is he author of the best-selling books Younger You (McGraw Hill) and The Edge Effect (Sterling) and is one of the foremost experts in Integrative Medicine. Dr. Braverman was recently appointed the Clark Randt Memorial lecture and is Clinical Assistant Professor of Integrative Medicine in Neurological Surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in the Department of Neurosurgery.