The Life Extension RevolutionJune 2005
By Matt Sizing
Restoring Youthful Hormone Levels
Because “hormonal decline is a primary factor in the aging process,” separate chapters are devoted to sex hormones (such as progesterone, estrogen, estradiol, and testosterone) and to thyroid and growth hormone.
Although bioidentical hormone replacement therapy offers extraordinary benefits for men and women entering middle age, the public at large remains shockingly ignorant about the readily correctable effects of age-diminished hormone levels. Dr. Miller clearly distinguishes between desirable bioidentical hormones and thoroughly discredited, side effect-prone synthetic versions. It is important to work with an anti-aging doctor to develop and periodically reevaluate individually customized dosages, thus ensuring a natural and optimal balance between various hormones.
Detailed female and male protocols for bioidentical sex hormone replacement are included, as well as a discussion of the benefits of hormone-modulating herbs and phyto-estrogens for women and of prostate-protecting nutrients for men. The book clarifies common misconceptions about anti-aging treatments (such as the overlooked role of testosterone in women and progesterone in men), as well as those concerning the causes of and remedies for estrogen dominance in men. Precautions for those with hormone-sensitive cancers are noted, as are recommended nutrients and herbs for relieving menopausal symptoms (black cohosh, licorice root extract, dong quai) and protecting prostate health (nettle extract, pygeum extract, and lycopene).
Thyroid and Growth Hormone
Two other hormone systems merit evaluation in a comprehensive anti-aging program: the familiar but largely misunderstood thyroid hormone, and the somewhat more mysterious and controversial human growth hormone. “Both thyroid and growth hormone are fundamental to maintaining a youthful, healthy body as you grow older,” says Dr. Miller.
Symptoms of underactive thyroid function include weight gain, constipation, insomnia, fatigue, susceptibility to colds and flu, cold hands and feet, sleepiness, and dry or flaky skin. Yet suboptimal thyroid function is frighteningly common, under-diagnosed, and under-treated. Endocrinologists estimate that one in five women and one in 10 men over 60 suffer from underactive thyroid. Astonishingly, one study found that 40% of patients who were already taking thyroid medication still had abnormally high levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), an indicator of low thyroid function. Because even “normal” TSH levels increase heart disease risk, Dr. Miller advises testing for TSH and other blood markers of thyroid function, and working with an anti-aging doctor to bring these values into the “optimal” range signifying peak thyroid function.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is responsible for the remarkable growth spurts seen in childhood, and later for repair and regeneration of tissues and organs in grown adults. According to Dr. Miller, “Growth hormone also works throughout life to maintain bone strength, muscle tone, brain function, and the integrity of the hair and skin.” Signs associated with diminished HGH include thinning bones, decreased muscle strength, fat accumulation, impaired heart and immune function, wrinkled skin, and thinning hair. Like other hormones, HGH declines with age; by the age of 60, HGH levels are just 25% of youthful levels. Although supplementing with injectable exogenous (outside the body) HGH remains somewhat controversial, Dr. Miller argues strongly in favor of considering it as part of a comprehensive anti-aging program. Alternatively, nutrients such as L-arginine, L-glutamine, L-ornithine, lysine, glycine, and niacin are known to increase the body’s endogenous (internal) release of growth hormone, as are activities such as regular exercise.
Strategies for Maximizing Brainpower
Developing “maximum brainpower for life” concludes the discussion of body- and mind-rejuvenating therapies in The Life Extension Revolution. As Dr. Miller notes, “Even a minor loss of cognitive function is a serious matter, and one that can cause a great deal of emotional distress. Our minds are the thing that makes us most uniquely us, the means by which we interact with the world around us and make our mark in that world. The thought that this might somehow slip away from us as we get older is very disturbing.”
Growing knowledge of the biochemical and energy-producing processes that underlie brain function affords us the opportunity to support those processes through a strategy of lifestyle and behavioral changes, diet, and supplements. Six critical ways to support optimal brain function are: increasing circulation and oxygenation to the brain; enhancing energy production in the brain; promoting neurotransmitter production; maintaining the structural integrity of the neuronal membranes; increasing the size and complexity of the neuronal network; and protecting the brain from oxidative damage.
Along with a program of basic nutritional support and “targeted” brain nutrients such as phosphatidylcholine, ginkgo biloba extract, and acetyl-L-carnitine, Dr. Miller incorporates critical elements such as physical exercise, hormone balancing, mental exercise, and stress reduction in his comprehensive program for promoting brain health. Also included is a discussion of so-called “smart drugs.” While virtually ignored in the US, these drugs are widely used in Europe to treat neurodegenerative disorders and improve brain function. Some, such as L-deprenyl and hydergine, are approved for off-label use in the US, while others, such as piracetam, adrafinil, and modafinil, have yet to gain FDA approval. Dr. Miller offers advice, cautions, and strategies for those interested in obtaining these drugs.