Longevity is in the headlines of both the regular news and the scientific community publications these days, and there are now no fewer than 180 longevity institutes associated with universities in the world today. There is also a national board certification in “Anti-Aging & Regenerative Medicine,” in which practitioners can become experts in helping their patients develop a plan to pursue one’s health span and longevity. Without vibrant health, the prospect of longevity is not as appealing.
In addition, a recent study shows that if we can delay the physical decline associated with old age, we could see over $38 trillion per year in economic benefits to society. This focus on extending health span instead of just lifespan should increase the relative quality of life.
Breakthrough: Telomere Length
Working with telomere length as a measure, there have been amazing breakthroughs in the science of longevity. Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age. They are combinations of DNA and protein that protect the ends of chromosomes and help them remain stable. As they become shorter, and as their structural integrity weakens, the cells age and die quicker. Telomere lengthening has become the “holy grail” of anti-aging medicine.
Eight years ago in 2013, Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical researcher at the University of California at San Francisco and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute at UCSF, published research showing that a lifestyle change which included diet, exercise and stress reduction could extend telomeres approximately 10% in length.
Breakthrough: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
More recently, Dr. Shai Efrati and his team of physicians at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel published a study showing that, when a patient did 60 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy at 2.0 atmospheres of pressure for 90 minutes over a 90-day period, the average patient saw an increase in their telomere length of between 20% and 38%. This is an amazing breakthrough in anti-aging longevity science, an increase of well over 200%-400% more than the previous “major breakthrough” in longevity research.
Additionally, we’ve seen breakthroughs in wearable technologies (watches, rings, chest bands) that interact with our phones and computers and give hour-by-hour feedback to individuals interested in understanding the personalized diet changes, sleep changes and exercise changes which improve health span.
Breakthrough: Looking at SNPs
Simple buccal swabs can give an inexpensive window into the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that describe the uniqueness of each individual’s DNA scaffold. Also available to knowledgeable practitioners is a blood test that gives a peek into what portions of your DNA you are using and which are turned off. This knowledge can change lifestyle habits of diet, exercise and recovery and indicate specific supplements or pharmaceuticals to truly personalize your care. Working with practitioners who are versed in these SNPs and mRNA fragments can shorten the search for your personalized path to health span and longevity.
It is easy to see that the choice for each of us now is between a life prolonged in suffering on pharmaceuticals that are tuned to the epidemiologic science of double-blind drug studies or the study of performance-driven individual lifestyle, wearable metrics and the personalized dive into the genome.
About the Author
Dr. Eleanor P. Womack, M.D., is a Harvard-trained physician who worked in Dr. Ornish’s lab as a medical student and is double-boarded in internal and anti-aging & regenerative medicine. She is the medical director of both Westlake Medical Arts and ATX Hyperbarics. In the spring of 2022, Dr. Womack and her team will be launching the Scientific Longevity Institute in West Lake Hills, Texas.