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Your Body Changes With Age (Part 1)
by Dr. Robert Drapkin

We are born, we develop, we decline, and we die. The purpose of this essay is to prolong the "develop" and delay the "decline" by advising you to build muscle through exercise, diet, and by understanding how your body works. The most important aspect of good health and longevity is knowledge. Once you have the knowledge you can create your own healthy life style. We inherit the genes of our parents and we learn from our parents what to eat and we mimic their life style at least in early life. To improve we need to learn from their mistakes and learn the new knowledge available today. Today there is an epidemic of obesity leading to an epidemic of metabolic diseases. All of these problems can be prevented or lessened with the knowledge. Modern medicine prefers to palliate metabolic syndrome, hypertension, insulin resistant diabetes, and hyperlipidemia with simple medications. Many of these problems can be eliminated by life style changes if you understand how your body works.

There are 6 common changes that occur as your body ages from 40 to 60 plus years of age in addition to those associated with metabolic changes. These 6 common changes are familiar to all and all can be treated or improved with diet, exercise, and supplements:

  • memory loss;
  • bone and joint pain;
  • vision loss;
  • loss of skin elasticity;
  • frailty;
  • loss of sexual function/interest.

Exercise will improve your memory [K. I. Erickson et al; PNAS 108(7); 2011; P3017-3011]. In the elderly the memory part of the brain called the hippocampus shrinks in size as memory decreases. Exercise will increase the size of the hippocampus and cause memory improvement thus reversing the effects of aging.

Obesity is significantly associated with increased osteoarthritis of the knees due to the increased mechanical stress placed on the knees by the increased body fat and the compensatory alterations in body mechanics [A. J. Hartz et al; J. Chronic Diseases 39(4); 1986; p311-319]. If you lose the body fat you will be able to regain your normal gait pattern [gait is the way you walk] and your knee pains will decrease.

Visual field loss [vision loss] is associated strongly with decreased mobility [K. A . Turano et al; Optometry and Vision Science 81(5); 2004; p298-307]. Another aspect of vision loss is the small blood vessel damage associated with diabetes and insulin resistance caused by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. If you prevent insulin resistance and prevent diabetes [as outlined in this book] you can save your vision.

We start losing muscle mass at age thirty plus and we become weaker, sedentary and gain body fat. As growth hormones and estrogen levels diminish with age we loose tissue elasticity and wrinkles increase [E.Makrantonaki and C. C. Zouboulis; Experimental Gerontology 42(9); 2007; p879-886]. Exercise and supplements are able to restore these hormone levels to normal values thus reversing the skin elasticity-the wrinkles will disappear and your skin will tighten. You will not need plastic surgery. In regard to loss of sexual interest and performance-this is a complicated issue involving multiple organ systems; Suffice it to say that exercise, diet and supplements will raise sex hormone levels to their normal ranges. If a hormone deficiency is the cause of the deficiency; this can be cured with knowledge, diet, exercise and supplements. If your problems are complicated by severe peripheral vascular disease, they will be more difficult to correct.

The story of John T

John was a fifty year-old man who works selling cars. He has been very successful in his career but noticed that his younger competitors were becoming more successful. He had difficulty remembering customer's names. He noticed an increase in his waist size and his shirts did not fit his neck. In the morning, before he went to work his knees hurt –he called this his "football" knees. He started to end each day by drinking scotch and smoking to better control the stress in his life. He lost interest in sex owing to his inability to perform. Even though he played varsity football in high school and understood the value of exercise-he had not exercised in thirty years. His diet was fast food for breakfast and lunch. Dinner consisted of bar foods. He drove home one evening and was involved in a motor vehicle accident and injured his neck and lower back. This is when I first met John. John had been admitted to the local hospital for trauma, anemia, a low platelet count and an altered mental status. His blood pressure was elevated; he was obese [obesity defined later in book]; his blood sugar was high [consistent with adult onset diabetes]; and he felt weak and in pain. Within forty-eight hours John had improved and wished to be discharged. He asked me one question "how can I get my health back?" My answer was simple "you have had an unhealthy lifestyle for thirty years. What you are doing is not working and you are getting worse-not better. If you are willing to change your diet and exercise you will get your health back." John was lucky because none of his metabolic problems were beyond repair. His high blood pressure and diabetes had not yet damaged his kidneys and he did not yet have vascular injuries such as a heart attack or stroke. He had degenerative joint disease that did not require surgery. His anemia and low platelet counts returned to normal with vitamin supplements and the discontinuation of alcohol.

With the proper knowledge, diet and exercise all of his problems could return to normal - and they did. Within six months he lost body fat, his waist size decrease three inches, his blood pressure decreased; and his blood sugar became normal. His interest in the opposite sex returned when his free testosterone blood level returned to normal. In addition, John's energy level increased as did his car sales. His knees still hurt. John T. is now my life-long friend and patient.

Dr. Robert Drapkin is nationally recognized for his work in oncology and hematology. Aside from being a medical doctor, at the age of 70 he is also a bodybuilder – a goal he took on at 50 years old when inspired by his own unhealthy habits and his sick patients, in an effort to help improve the quality of life as one grows older and debunk myths regarding elderly fitness. He recently participated in the Musclepharm 2015 NPC national championships held at the Sheraton Station Square in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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