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The Secret to Being Ageless

November 2006

By Dale Kiefer

Two years ago, in an exclusive interview with Life Extension magazine, actress and bestselling author Suzanne Somers described how menopausal symptoms such as weight gain, diminished sex drive, hot flashes, and difficulty sleeping had turned her formerly happy life into a misery, leaving her feeling cranky, tired, and irritable around the clock.

Her efforts to regain her mind, body, and quality of life led her to discover bioidentical hormones—natural hormones that mimic the hormones produced in our bodies—which are almost completely lost with aging. Suzanne described her remarkable journey back to optimal health in her groundbreaking book The Sexy Years, which introduced millions of women to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and changed the way we look at menopause.

Now, in her new book Ageless, Suzanne takes bioidentical hormone replacement to the next level, introducing an inspiring, medically validated approach to reversing the aging process and maintaining a healthy, vibrant, mentally sharp, sexually active life, while strengthening the body's natural defenses against age-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. Packed with updated information on bioidentical hormone replacement and anti-aging medicine, Ageless brings together 16 prominent anti-aging doctors who are at the forefront of a medical revolution to show how traditional approaches to aging are woefully inadequate and outdated.

Recently, Suzanne again sat down with Life Extension's William Faloon to discuss her new book and how the transforming power of bioidentical hormone replacement has inspired her to reach out to millions of aging men and women alike.

WF: Suzanne, thank you so much for writing this great book about bioidentical hormone replacement. You've produced an important guide for people who want to change their life and experience the benefits of optimal hormone balance. Starting at the age of 43, I noticed my hormone levels were declining and, as a result, I developed horrendous symptoms. So, for me, your book is not just a matter of scientific validation, but also of you and I sharing the same benefits, and now trying to get the good word out.

SS: It's so hard to believe that there's resistance to this. There certainly is ignorance and lack of information everywhere. Women all over America—and now men—come up to me wherever I'm appearing and they're really interested in this new kind of medicine. People look at my husband and me as if to say, "What are you two doing? How much work is it?"

I always say, "This aging thing requires some work if you want to do it successfully. You've got to commit to it and put in about 20 minutes in the morning, depending on how deep you want to go." The Sexy Years was the first layer, which focused on issues like "I feel like crap, I can't sleep, I can't control my moods, I'm gaining weight, my libido is nonexistent, etc." Once I replenished my sex hormones, I felt great.

WF: And now with your new book Ageless, you're taking hormone replacement to a new level, from helping alleviate the miseries of menopause to achieving optimal, lifelong health.

SS: Exactly. Once you really start exploring hormones, you realize we are the last generation that can expect to die the old-fashioned way, from heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer's. That is, unless you decide to jump on this fast-moving train and investigate this new type of medicine. It is essential to change the way you approach your health and to learn how your body works so that you are empowered with substantial information whenever you meet with your doctor. If you sense that your doctor has a total of eight minutes to spend with you and it's easier for him or her to write you a prescription, then something is wrong! It's time to move on and find a doctor who is concerned about you. You need to understand the effects of pharmaceuticals and try to avoid them at all costs, unless you need them for pain, infection, or mental illness.

For any condition, I always go the natural way first. For me, bioidentical hormones are the first line of defense. Strengthen and correct your major hormone systems, such as insulin, sex hormones, thyroid, cortisol, and adrenals. Once you get all those strengthened, you're sleeping better, you're losing weight, and you're more resistant to the diseases of aging.

WF: And that's just the beginning of the benefits of bioidentical hormones.

SS: It is. Aging is incredible. The deeper you go with hormone replacement, the better you feel, the more energy and vitality you have, the more exciting it is. For me, aging is an experience of bliss, absolute bliss. I don't care what your age is, I always ask, "How young is your energy? Do you wake up and want to jump out of bed? When you jump out of bed, are you pain- and ache-free?"

These truly are the golden years. Yet the golden years have always been associated with little gray-haired people who are shrinking away. We baby boomers are thinking, "Well, the angst of youth is gone, I'm no longer worried about who I am and what I'm going to do, I've done my job in terms of raising my children, hopefully by now I've found the mate who is right for me, and now I can enjoy my life with good health and vitality."

WF: Yet a lot of baby boomers seem to be disappointed that at the age of 50 or 60, they don't feel as young as they used to. Many of them suffer from depression, sleep disturbances, weight gain. I work nonstop and I know that my health has been dramatically enhanced by using bioidentical hormones. And just like you, I'm constantly telling people to look at what I'm doing from a hormone standpoint and maybe it will help explain why they might want to consider the same. Why don't people see the logic of this? Since The Sexy Years was published, do you sense that attitudes towards bioidentical hormone replacement are changing?

SS: Yes. Amazingly enough, when Wyeth filed its complaint earlier this year to try to limit our access to bio-identical hormones, I was named in the complaint as one of the key factors as to why their $2 billion-a-year synthetic hormone business had decreased by 72%! This is evidence that my books have had a significant impact in changing the way people are acting on their health.

WF: Life Extension members will consider your being named in the Wyeth complaint as a badge of honor. We've been reporting on this issue for some time. Clearly, your message is getting out there.

SS: My message to women is that there's an answer to the difficult changes associated with menopause and aging, and it's not synthetic hormones, as the drug companies and most doctors would have you believe.

I'll give you an example of how writing The Sexy Years had an impact on me personally. As I was writing, I began to ask myself, "How did I get breast cancer?" And I began to go back over my life. I've always lived a pretty clean life. I've never smoked a cigarette, I drink wine in moderation, I eat healthy. Was there anything environmentally harmful in the little town I came from? Did we have lead in our pipes? Was it the mercury fillings we all had?

At 17, I had a baby, and the doctor never even talked to me about breastfeeding. Giving my baby formula was the first bad choice I made, because doctors now know that breast feeding reduces breast cancer risk. Next, they gave me a "dry-up shot," it was a hormone-ablation drug. I'm sure about 85% of us who had babies in the 1960s were given this dry-up shot. What did that do to us? To ablate our hormones at that ripe young age can't be good.

Then I went on birth control pills, which put a synthetic hormone in my system for 22 years. I hardly ever got a period, I used to brag about it. In retrospect, I realize how awful that was because I was never fully ovulating. Our bodies are designed to give birth and all the healing hormonal aspects that go with it. We missed out on all those pituitary hormones that come with nursing and give the protective measures to your breast tissue. My generation went against nature. Now we're paying a big price for it, and one of the most obvious ways is through the epidemic of breast cancer. Sadly, for many women, it's not even a matter of if I ever get breast cancer, it's a matter of when. Most women I speak with almost expect to get it at some point.

WF: The women you speak to probably have those same risk factors: delayed childbirth and using lots of synthetic birth control. Our view on those birth control pills is that they may inflict DNA damage that accumulates and eventually leads to cancer.

SS: Absolutely. The next aspect of this type of backward thinking is that we all expect to be sick in our old age. When you hear somebody say, "Oh, my father has cancer," you think, "Well, he's old." Or, "My father has Alzheimer's." "Well, he's old." So we expect that we're going to get heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer's. Women in the United States can now expect to suffer eight years of disability before they die. To me, that is unacceptable.

WF: Exactly. At Life Extension, we've worked very hard and poured millions of dollars into research to change this way of thinking. We know that there is a better way, and that we don't have to be sick as we age. Besides supplements and bioidentical hormones, what kinds of things are you taking to further your health and prevent recurrence of the breast cancer?

SS: I inject HGH [human growth hormone] because my IGF-1 levels were very low. I take vitamin B-complex injections because I feel better on them. And I inject Iscador® every other day to build up my immune system so that my cancer won't come back. To me, this is just preventive medicine.

WF: In your new book, you talk a lot about sleep deprivation in relationship to breast cancer. You've had an incredibly successful career, which means you've put a lot of stress on yourself to be successful. Did you suffer a lot of sleep deprivation during your career?

SS: I never understood the importance and value of sleep. I would take some kind of perverse pleasure from outworking everybody. It made me feel good about myself. After the house was asleep, I'd go sit at my computer and write until two or three in the morning.

Most Americans are sleep-deprived. But if they understood how cortisol works, they'd understand that getting five hours of sleep a night is not enough—your cortisol is never going to go down. And if your cortisol never goes down, your insulin is going to be high, which leads to a host of diseases. And you'll end up gaining weight by not sleeping.