Anti-aging medicine comes of age

Is this the shift in medicine we've all been waiting for? Announced last week, the American Medical Association is going to recognize a new breed of physicians who will now be practicing anti-aging medicine. This new field has gone from a handful of physicians to almost 1,500 nationwide. But what does this mean for the average user of modern medicine? Well, remember that the wheels of a giant, like medicine, turn very slowly.

What would the office visit to an anti-aging physician be like and how would it differ from a visit to the family practitioner? Most family practice physicians still rely heavily on medications to control symptoms.

From the standpoint of holistic medicine -- which anti-aging medicine would now be the closest thing to -- medications are seen as synthetic chemical compounds that indeed do work, but many times only further suppress symptoms. This is not to say that medications would never be utilized, only that other avenues would first be explored before resorting to the use of harsh chemical compounds.

The physician specializing in anti-aging medicine will use vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other more natural phytochemicals (plant based chemicals) to treat symptoms while allowing the body to heal itself. Medications would be used when other attempts fail.

Of course, he or she will want their patients to be very knowledgeable about their bodies and their illnesses and be willing to take some of the responsibility for their health and their treatment. Improved nutrition will be a must. Clean water and air, less meat, no highly processed dead foods allowed here. Yes, a large part of our health will definitely be up to us.

Of course, all the modern technology of testing and surgery would still be utilized. Hopefully there will be less need because symptoms would be addressed long before the need arises.

Another big push in the area of anti-aging will be the use of human growth hormone, or HGH -- a naturally occurring hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland and decreases with age. Studies have shown that the use of HGH has the ability to increase energy, muscle mass, sex drive, collagen in the skin, the list is lengthy. Up until this point HGH has been used only for those suffering from pituitary tumors and or surgical removal of the pituitary gland. Several drug companies are racing to be the first to release an HGH based drug that can be used to combat aging. Unfortunately, the list of side effects can be lengthy.

Over the years many a classification of drug has been released with great anticipation that this will be the one that will ''cure'' it all. Antibiotics and steroids are good examples. Indeed, many of us are alive today because of the use of these kinds of drugs, but long term use is not conducive to good health. Will this one be any different? Time will tell. It's still a drug!

In the meantime, the average person has many wonderful natural tools at their disposal to combat the inward and outward signs of aging. Two of the leading experts in the field with excellent user-friendly books on the market are Deepak Chopra MD, Ageless Mind, Timeless Body and Andrew Wiel MD, his latest being 8 Weeks To Optimal Health.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online August 30, 2000

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