All of us want to live a long and healthy life. The search for the Fountain of Youth has been an obsession of man from time immemorial. More than ever before, our quest for that “secret formula” today has intensified in the research labs and medical centers around the world.
While the scientific exploration and pursuit goes on, cosmetic surgery today is able to do “miracles” with the external physical look, from sophisticated dental procedures to nose and eye job, breast enhancement, facelift, liposuction, to tummy tuck, etc. While these wonderful procedures can make a 60-year-old look like 40, or even 30, and improve the psyche of the individual, they do not confer physiological youth, health, and longevity.
Physicians, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, on the other hand, have continually advocated their time proven prescription for health and longevity: moderation in calorie intake of low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet, consisting mainly of fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains, and minimal red meat, eggs and other dairy products; daily physical exercises; abstinence from tobacco; moderation in alcohol intake; stress management with mini-vacation and time offs, with family and/or friends; and regular annual medical check-up.
Clouding the issue to a blur, pseudo-scientists employed by food supplement manufacturers, who are obviously motivated purely by financial gains, are victimizing the unsuspecting public with their grand claims that their juices, potions or lotions, or tablets and capsules are a cure to multitude of diseases on the planet from acne to Alzheimer’s, from diabetes to cancer. Some even have the audacity to infer their product improves longevity. Unfortunately, people who do not know any better, who are simply groping for a relief, a cure, or a remedy to make them feel younger, swallow all these medically unsubstantiated infomercials and ridiculous assertions, hook, line and sinker. Disappointingly, even our government and its agencies are impotent in protecting the public from this sham and scam.
Geneticists have now identified a gene that allows people to live to 90 or older and also helps prevent the onset of dementia we call Alzheimer’s. Those with this “supergene” have a lot greater chance of hitting the century mark without the usual accompanying confused thinking and memory loss from brain cell damage, which some hypothesize could be due to beta-amyloid protein deposition. More studies are underway to settle this issue.
This gene variant, the “supergene,” is technically known as CETP VV. Individuals with this special gene “age slower and have the ability to resist life-threatening ailments such as heart disease,” according to Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
“A brain function test found that seniors who had inherited the gene variant were twice as likely to have good brain function – able to think clearly and remember new information – compared to seniors without the gene,” says the report.
How the “supergene” promotes longevity and protects the brain is still unknown. Past studies have shown that the gene “could affect the size of the lipoproteins in the blood that deposit or clear away cholesterol…people with the gene tend to be at less risk of clogged arteries,” according to Dr. Barzilai.
The bad cholesterol or LDL (low density lipoprotein) and triglycerides from the food we eat thicken our blood. The thick blood is circulated through the arteries and “painted” on the inner wall of all arteries in the body, including the coronary (heart) and cerebral (brain) arteries. As the arterial walls thicken with layers upon layers of thick blood, the arterial lumen (caliber or diameter) becomes narrower, and the arteries eventually get clogged. This obstruction reduces or cuts the blood (oxygen and nutrients) supply to the organs they are supposed to deliver to, which damages the cells and tissues of those vital parts of the body.
The usual findings among Alzheimer patients are elevated blood cholesterol level, and on postmortem, their brain tissues have a lot of beta amyloid deposits, akin to the cholesterol deposits on the walls of the arteries elsewhere in their body. In view of this, it is postulated that the inherent ability of the supergene to slow down the cholesterol and beta-amyloid deposit, or even clear existing deposits, promoting better blood circulation to the brain and other vital organs, might be the mechanism of its protective action. The final word has not been said on this issue.
Since we do not know who among us have the “supergene,” all of us have to behave, live a healthy lifestyle, and take advantage of what today’s sophisticated medical science and technology can offer us to maximize our health, happiness and longevity. Getting older is terrific, because the only alternative is to die young. Let us grow in years but remain young at heart.
Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org