IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
– Dylan Thomas (1914–1953), Welsh poet.
“Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” Collected Poems (1952).
This is just the best time to share a selfie. Some apps can automatically “beautify” your face just before sending it. In an era of deep fakes, to edit yourself younger is the least of crimes. Some people, though, want a deeper approach to aging.
Some of you (with disposable income, of course) may feel it’s time to get that HIFU, face lift, hair transplant, and face peel. And still, some would choose the “natural” way of slowing down the ravages of time by fixing their diets, exercising, or giving up smoking and drinking.
A third way has actually been under investigation for more than a decade now by the US National Institute of Aging (yes, it exists!). It has to do with pumping the body with hormones — naturally occurring chemicals that help keep our bodies working normally and optimally. Many researchers believe that the aging process is accelerated when these vital hormones begin to decline.
Get me that hormone! Hormones, from the Greek hormo or “to set in motion,” are substances released by our glands. Generally, hormones regulate and stimulate myriad functions of the body – from growth, sexual development and reproduction, to metabolism, immune response, and many others. Some of the glands are the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testes, and the pituitary. It is noted that these hormones decline by middle age but the effects are unclear. Not all hormone levels dip. The parathyroid hormones in fact increase in aging and this may contribute to bone loss in osteoporosis. The billion-dollar question is: Will replenishing the other hormones improve function and energize the person? Three hormones are under heavy scrutiny because of unproven claims these can stall aging or make one young again.
DHEA. Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA is produced by glands perched atop the kidneys, the adrenals. DHEA is converted by the body into two hormones – estrogen and testosterone. By the mid-20s, DHEA begins to decline. It is marketed as an “anti-aging remedy,” because of supposed testimonials of increased immunity, improved energy, increased muscle mass, even fat reduction. The only problem is there are no consistent and long-term studies to back up these assertions. How much testosterone and estrogen is produced from DHEA? This varies per individual. What is known though is that high levels of testosterone and estrogen are dangerous in feeding cancers – testosterone in prostate cancer and estrogen in breast cancer.
Human Growth Hormone. At the base of the brain is the pituitary gland that secretes hGH or human growth hormone. As the term implies, it is an essential hormone for normal growth and development. As the person ages, however, hGH levels decrease. Applying the dictum of “more is better” (perhaps inappropriately), the hormone is re-introduced to the body artificially. Again, the manufacturers trumpet getting hGH shots will increase muscle mass, give a heightened sense of well-being, and improve stamina. The downside, often not mentioned, is that hGH can have serious side effects such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart failure.
Melatonin. Frequent travelers and cabin attendants swear by melatonin supplements. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland within the brain. Normally, it regulates the sleep cycle – increasing at night time and falling off in the day. As an “anti-aging” product, it is supposed to improve sleep and fight against free radicals (an anti-oxidant effect) that damage cells. Research has proven that supplements from as little as 0.1 to 0.5 mg improve sleep, thus its popularity with the jet lag-prone. However, it can also disrupt the sleep-wake cycle contributing to more problems like irritability, drowsiness, headache, and confusion. Those with hypertension should also red-flag melatonin because it can constrict blood vessels and worsen blood pressure.
DHEA, human growth hormone, and melatonin ought to be in anyone’s watch list. While no one can stop you from using them, be cautious and apply doubt liberally. Remember that Juan Ponce de Leon never did find the “fountain of youth.” He ended up in Florida.
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