The rate of aging varies significantly in individual humans for many different reasons. If we study a large sample of people who are middle aged or older, the impact of these differences become quite obvious, but the vast majority of people do not understand the complex underlying cause-and-effect relationships.
In general, most genetic adaptations in a large population take place very slowly over long periods of time. The human life form has changed very little over many thousands of years. In contrast, lifestyle changes that dramatically impact the rate of aging take place quickly in a single lifetime – significant benefits can be achieved in only a few weeks.
For example, there has been a significant increase in American morbid obesity since World War II. For the last twenty years, American obesity has increased 200% to 300%, depending on age group. More than 60% of Americans are now overweight. 30% to 50% of Americans (over 100 million) are obese, depending on sex and ethnic group. As the “body mass index” increases, the risk of deadly diseases increase, while life expectancy decreases significantly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control state that obesity is costing over $117 BILLION per year, and increasing each year.
Many deadly weight-related, age-accelerating diseases like heart disease (heart attack and brain stroke), high blood pressure, type II diabetes, cancer and obstructive sleep apnea (respiration blockage during sleep) have increased dramatically, due to daily lifestyle choices of poor nutrition, fast foods, insufficient exercise, improper negative thought patterns and irrational decision-making cognitive processes.
The expensive, rapid decline in the health of our sedentary society in recent years cannot possibly be due to inherited genetics, but they are often passed from parents to their innocent children through injurious unhealthy lifestyle training examples.
Food intake has increased, while the level of healthy exercise has decreased. The average portion size of unhealthy french fries, sugar drinks and candy bars have increased 400% to 500% in the last thirty years. In only 20 years, the average weight of American women has jumped from 140 pounds to 164 pounds (largely due to low fat, low protein, high carbohydrate female diets).
More Americans spend more time in front of computers, televisions and video games (eating large quantities of bad snacks), and less time standing, walking, playing sports, exercising and doing heavy labor. Parents are transferring their poor lifestyle choices to their children, with dramatic life threatening results. An alarming number of young children are getting adult-onset diabetes, etc.
Obesity has become the most important health problem in America, but clueless board-certified, licensed medical doctors receive almost NO formal training in this critical. They know how to prescribe dangerous, expensive, poorly-tested (often recalled) new pharmaceuticals, procedures like chemotherapy and radiation treatments that are guaranteed to kill healthy cells, mutate DNA and create new cancer, and they do risky, often unnecessary surgery. All this, but they don’t have time to learn how, or discuss deadly disease PREVENTION.
Since the work on the Human Genome Project, much has been learned in a short time about the genetics of tumors. They are formed when DNA is damaged (by many diverse causes). Depending on the unique genetics of each particular individual tumor, various treatments may or may not be effective. Standard indiscriminately prescribed chemotherapy and radiation treatments may do deadly damage to the patient, when if the DNA of the tumor had been studied, it may have been possible to determine that chemotherapy and radiation treatments could not possibly be effective on a particular tumor.
For example, the World Health Organization has already genetically classified over 100 brain tumor variations, many of which are as different as night and day, having widely varying responses to different types of prevention and treatments. Until the details of genetic testing of cancerous tumors is much better understood, it is both irresponsible and downright idiotic for oncologists to indiscriminately prescribe deadly chemotherapy and radiation treatments to naive patients who lack critical thinking skills. Common medical (mal)practice should be made a felony crime, until doctors are forced to understand and apply the scientific knowledge that has been published in the last few years.
America spends far more per person on healthcare than any other nation, but we also have much higher major disease rates than more intelligent nations that spend far less, but pay more attention to PREVENTING disease, rather than ineptly dealing with it after the fact, indiscriminately using expensive treatments that often do much more harm than good. If you have strep throat or a broken bone, medical doctors do a good job of dealing with the problem. BUT, if you are obese and having problems caused by excess body fat, medical doctors are for the most part of very little value. They waste your time and money, and if they give specific weight loss advice, it is often incorrect, ineffective or sometimes unhealthy. Remember, there are a lot of overweight medical doctors, and some of them still smoke.
America has much higher paid doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, but most other advanced nations have healthier citizens. The World Health Organization ranked the over-priced United States healthcare system a very low 37th among all nations! (We rank just below tiny Costa Rica.)
Our typical U.S. healthcare is far BELOW international mediocrity – it is relatively abysmal, corrupt, ineffective and badly misdirected. With respect to LIFE EXPECTANCY, the United States is a dismal 24th. On average, Americans should expect to spend more time disabled and die earlier than citizens of most other advanced nations (who spend far less on healthcare than we do). Obesity has become a large portion of the problem, BUT, the number of U.S. doctor-caused (iatrogenic) deaths plus serious injuries is measured in the millions each year. Even the healthcare given to U.S. Presidents like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon failed to inform them of the simple steps that could have greatly reduced the risk, and delay or prevented, the diseases that ultimately disrupted their lives and killed them.
With the overweight baby boomers about to retire, our bad medical information overflowing, and low-quality mainstream healthcare costs spiraling upward (faster than the cost of our poorly-managed gasoline and other energy), medical expenses are about to bankrupt the poorly-managed, actuarially-unsound, ineffective, American Medicare system. Preventable diseases (like morbid obesity, heart disease (heart attacks, brain strokes), cancer, diabetes, Ronald Reagan’s Alzheimer’s Disease, etc.) will soon far exceed the available resources of our dreadful healthcare system.
Throwing more money at the current ineffective, inefficient American medical system, and the corrupt politicians and government agencies that regulate it, is NOT the right answer.
New legislation to block or limit malpractice lawsuits against rotten, uninformed, unqualified doctors is NOT going to end the many millions of American-doctor-caused iatrogenic injuries or improve the quality of our failed medical system. The thinking that created this ghastly mess, and the unwarranted public trust in it, is insufficient to correct it!
It is obvious that those at fault have strong incentives to hide this clearly-documented information from American patients and tax payers. Comprehensive disease prevention (practiced by dozens of other nations with a far superior heath record) is extremely important.
American healthcare needs radical rethinking. Do NOT expect it to come from overpaid doctors, pharmaceutical companies or corrupt government agencies. It must begin from a grass roost movement of better-informed individuals. This movement has begun among dissatisfied baby boomers that are nearing retirement and searching for better healthcare and disease prevention solutions. There has been an explosion in alternative medicine products and practitioners. Some of it is midnight cable television quackery. We need to sort out the truth, measure, monitor and publish what works and what does not (including the worst of the mainstream medicine that is injuring millions of Americans each year).
Obese Americans spend billions of dollars each year on ineffective diets, diet books, and diet products. No study has ever shown that any of today’s dangerous artificial sweeteners has ever helped anyone lose one pound, but people blindly buy “diet” products and do long-term damage their health every day, with no loss of ugly excess body fat. Diets do NOT work in the long term – PERMANENT LIFESTYLE CHANGES DO.
Loss of excess body fat is an important part of the long-term solution to America’s overall poor health condition. BUT, weight loss and disease prevention are mostly overlooked by mainstream modern American medicine and governmental regulatory agencies. Bad “status quo” ignorant medical doctor arrogance is unforgivable. Patient blind trust in the highly-flawed American healthcare system is NOT justified (as documented by World Health Organization comparative studies and rankings mentioned above).
An important report in the Journal of the American Medical Association points out that less that half of American medical doctors discuss weight problems with their patients. The U.S. CDC believes that this is one of the important reasons that the “obesity epidemic” has become the most important health issue in America. The problem prevention solution is being ignored by doctors who could rapidly help reduce the underlying problem - IF they knew how to deal with it, and they would take the time. The lack of U.S. doctors discussing weight problems with their patients is largely due to: (1) lack of scientific knowledge, and (2) lack of time created by cost-conscience health maintenance organization insurance penny pinching. The best solution is NOT a dangerous pill or surgery (all that M.D.s understand). The best solution is widespread understanding of solid scientific knowledge about nutrition, exe4rcise and mental aerobics.
Some doctors refer their overweight patients to registered members of the American Dietetic Association. The New York Times ran a powerful article on how the corrupt American Dietetic Association receives significant funds from the worst food industry offenders to endorse their disease-and-death causing products, like trans fats, artificial sweeteners, etc.
The people who created America’s expensive, corrupt, below-mediocre healthcare system are absolutely NOT capable of correcting its many serious problems. Their conflicting profit motives, corrupt bias, ignorance and history of deliberate deceit make it impossible.
This Joyful Aging material is presented to help the thoughtful intelligent reader learn more about the simple things that can be done to significantly slow down your own rate of aging and delay or even prevent the onset of many age-related diseases. If you have ever known a person who has grown old before their time, or visited a home that cares for the elderly, then you probably already understand the powerful emotional motivation to avoid unnecessary suffering and sadness for all of those who love these declining senior citizens.
Unhealthy, unhappy aging is NOT a natural process. It is the result of a poor healthcare system that ignores disease prevention, and uninformed voluntary lifestyle choices that the irrational majority makes every day of their lives.
Your thoughtful concern for your own future and that of your loved ones is demonstrated by the fact that you are now reading these words.
Joyful Aging’s goal in sharing the following valuable information with you is nothing less than to help you understand how to live a much healthier, happier, productive, and rewarding life, by providing you with the knowledge to become a living example of success for those around you to appreciate.
We are not trying to promote a particular product or service. This website does not attempt to diagnose or treat any particular individual. We are serious research scientists and individuals who have spent decades studying the underlying issues and successfully practicing superior antiaging methods for ourselves and our loved ones.
We are freely providing this information as an informal education and lifestyle enrichment service as a legacy for our families, friends, associates and anyone else on the worldwide web who is interested. We actively solicit your comments, interest in future related materials and constructive criticism. Please email us: JoyfulAging@AOL.com
Premature aging of the brain, nervous system, sensory organs, motor control, circulation, heart, joints, bones, skin, digestive tract, hormonal secretions, neurotransmitters and immune system can begin at any time of life. Feeding a newborn infant a formula other than mother’s milk introduces the risk of many maladies, as does improper nutrition of the mother while carrying or nursing the child. Teaching a baby to like the wrong kinds of foods (like “rewarding” them with candy for good behavior, or buying them unhealthy food with a toy in the box) accelerates the rate of aging, as does paying attention to commercials for bad food products and unhealthy lifestyles (like smoking, drinking alcohol and laziness) latter in life.
Various factors cause the body to deteriorate, including genetics, injuries that do not heal correctly, allergies, toxic chemicals, pesticides, preservatives, synthetic chemicals and foods (like trans fatty acids, sugar and sugar substitutes), heavy metals, free radical oxidizers, poor nutrition, excessive radiation (sunlight, industrial and medical), excessive stress (in various physical and mental forms), and sedentary inactivity, to name just a few.
Chronological age and biological age are not the same. By middle age, we can easily observe significant differences in individuals of the same chronological age. Poor lifestyle choices (like smoking, drinking and excess sun exposure) are most obvious in the skin, but the same is true of all internal organs. Aging is a physiological process that is only partially dependant on how old we are. How we look externally is a partial indicator of our biological age, but external appearances are often deceptive (due to risky surgery, unhealthy cosmetics, etc.).
Sometimes, premature aging occurs without any symptoms until suddenly there is a catastrophic traumatic event such as a heart attack, cancer, or a stroke. More frequently, atrophy (tissue and organ decline) occur incrementally, as in muscle weakness due to lack of exercise, mucous membrane and glandular deterioration with decreasing hormone levels, increasing blood pressure, and progressive irreversible neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, and alcohol-related dementia.
Frequently, a body that is aging prematurely sends many messages to its owner that it is malfunctioning. The most common messages are pain and dysfunction. The cause of the early pain may be acute or chronic inflammation, joint instability, insufficient blood supply, or pressure in an enlarged / diseased organ or surrounding tissues.
At the moment of conception, most people are genetically capable of living their lives without serious pain and suffering caused by chronic degenerative diseases, IF their mother provides a reasonable gestation environment AND they adopt a healthy lifestyle as an adult (which the irrational majority do not).
Without premature aging, normal life expectancy is estimated to be over 110 years, but very few people achieve this today, due to a great many non-genetic lifestyle and environmental risk factors. Those who are over 100 years old today. often had simple, back-to-basics lifestyles with good nutrition, exercise and positive mental attitude.
100 years ago there were no televisions, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, X-rays, nuclear fission, or fast food restaurants with “happy meals” to teach children to eat extremely unhealthy foods. Most mothers stayed home and lovingly invested a lot of time in good foods and the mental health and social skills of their children.
Natural foods with minimal processing were the only available option. Nearby friends were important (in stark contrast to today’s Internet-based social isolation). Healthy exercise was required just to make a living. People did not spend all day in front of a computer and come home to bad food in front of a TV. They did not send their children to play violent video games, just because they were too lazy to spend time with the family they had created.
Today’s brave new world is indeed much different than that of our great grandparents. Today’s rate of unhealthy premature aging is generally much worse than was theirs, and it continues to get worse rapidly. Many more people are dying today of heart attacks, brain strokes, cancer, diabetes, violent antisocial behaviors, etc. than ever before in American history. The World Healthy Organization how bad American healthcare and life expectancy is relative to other nations.
In Psalms 90:10, King David said: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten (70); and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years (80), …” Three millennia later, with all of our stressful lifestyles, polluted environment, and many dangerous modern U.S. prescription medicines, chemotherapy, radiation, and risky, unnecessary surgical procedures, most Americans still cannot expect to live much beyond 70 to 80 years old, and a great many do not even make it that far. An obese American (with a “body mass index” above 35) has a greatly reduced chance of living 70 years. Our leaner ancestors were much healthier and many lived long beyond 70, as did humans nearly 3,000 years ago.
In many ways, our modern environment is far more chaotic and unhealthy than the world was 3,000 years ago, or even 100 years ago. Most modern people chose a less healthy lifestyle of poor nutrition, not enough exercise, and poor mental aerobics, which all contribute to pervasive premature aging, pain, inflammation, unnecessary suffering and expensive care giving.
Unfortunately for us, profit-motivated conventional medical care has focused more on short-term immediate-gratification symptom relief with neurotoxic painkillers and risky surgical procedures, and insufficient emphasis on slowing the premature aging process and preventing or curing disease.
Providing quick-fix symptomatic relief is often much less effective and much more expensive over the long term than correcting poor lifestyle choices that are the root cause of unnecessary premature aging. One obvious example it is much better to convince someone to stop smoking, than to try to ineffectively treat metastasized lung cancer many years later with high-risk approaches like chemotherapy and radiation treatments that actually directly CAUSE DNA mutation cancer. Many similar but subtle issues are difficult-to-understand risk factors for premature aging.
Poliomyelitis impacted millions of lives since ancient times. At the peak of its American polio devastation in 1952, Jonas Salk developed a one-time vaccine that effectively prevents polio. Older baby boomers are the last generation to have young friends who were struck down by polio. Today’s youth don’t have a clue what polio was, and for that we must all be very thankful.
Salk generously gave his valuable discovery to the world as a free gift. Those days of caring, compassionate, intelligent research scientists, drug manufactures and medical professionals now seems to be gone forever in our commercialized selfish world of “nothing-matters-but-profit medicine.”
Corporations have a legal fiduciary responsibility to stockholders to maximize return on investment. It now costs roughly $800 million dollars to get FDA approval to distribute a new drug. If a corporate executive tried to do what Jonas Salk generously did, the government and stockholders would have him censured or thrown in jail! It would be a major mistake for any medical research scientist to work on trying to prevent or cure any disease, since this would be extremely unprofitable. The goal is now to develop extremely expensive patent medicines that people will be forced to take for the rest of their lives. DO NOT EXPECT ANY PROFIT-MOTIVED CORPORATION TO EVER DO ANYTHING TO PREVENT OR CURE ILLNESS, ESPECIALLY UNNECESSARY RAPID AGING.
Today’s medical doctors openly report that they accidentally kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, due to their endless “iatrogenic” errors. Their peers would not call it malpractice, since everyone in mainstream medicine has agreed to make the same set of pervasive mistakes - Over 100,000 Americans are killed every year by “properly prescribed and administered” prescription drugs. Millions more are injured but do not die immediately. This is over and above the death and injury cause by improperly prescribed and administered drugs, surgery and unnecessary high-risk medical procedures like chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which are guaranteed to kill healthy cells and introduce new cancer into a suffering cancer patient. How insane is the world we now live in.
American iatrogenic (doctor-caused death or illness) results in astronomical increases in modern malpractice insurance. This makes the cost of modern, risky, low-quality healthcare spiral upward for everyone, while our people are disable more and die younger than people in nations with superior healthcare that costs far less.
Several wise countries Canada, Australia, Denmark, etc.) have made it ILLEGAL to sell products that are commonly available and consumed in large quantities in America (like the deadly trans fats used in American bread products, fried foods, chips, etc.) Consequently, there are now more dollars worth of healthcare in a Detroit automobile than dollars worth of steel! (How very sad.) This is NOT true for the exact same car produced in Canada, which has UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE COVERAGE FOR EVERYONE (an emphasis on education, prevention and a healthier population). In the U.S.A., 45 million people have NO HEALTHCARE INSURANCE, and that number is now rapidly growing by over 1.2 million per year. Canadians live longer and spend less time disabled with disease, than Americans doing the same jobs.
The high cost of America’s healthcare (in contrast to healthier Canada, Japan, etc.) has forced General Motors to fire thousands of their employees in recently years. In 2005, GM announced more layoffs of an additional 25,000 people in the near future. It is very likely that the American corporations are going to be forced to spend even less on health insurance (to become more competitive internationally). More than 45 million Americans will have no health insurance, and the health of the average American will continue to decline. The trend is very predictable. The thinking that created these trends is insufficient to reverse them.
Europe spends far less on healthcare than the U.S., but unlike the ineffective U.S. FDA, the European Union scientifically studies the relationship between food, food supplements and health. They regulate food supplement providers and wisely require detailed labeling and product warnings that the U.S. FDA totally ignores. Intelligent Europeans understand that disease prevention through good nutrition is far more valuable than expensive medicine, surgery and risky procedures (like chemotherapy and radiation treatments AFTER avoidable diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. are present).
In a foolish attempt to reduce valid malpractice lawsuits, 2005 U.S. legislation limited medical law suit claims. If a prescription drug that was approved by the corrupt U.S. Food and Drug Administration is the direct cause of the painful death of thousands of people, how much is that worth? Should anyone be held accountable? What responsibility should the FDA be held accountable for? What if one of the deaths is you, or the person you love most in the world?
The great American medical economic disaster is happening just as the baby boomers are about to retire. We have been conditioned to ignore prevention opportunities and rely on corrupt, commonplace, inept, ineffective medical (mal)practice to reduce our illnesses AFTER we have contracted them (instead of avoiding them as other superior nations do). Almost everyone already knows that Medicare and Social Security are actuarially unsound and headed toward bankruptcy. More intelligent preventive healthcare in other nations has been shown to cost less and be more effective (people are healthier and live longer) than in the U.S.
Many companies can no longer afford to provide their retirees with lifetime health care coverage, which was common a generation ago. This economic fact is true, even if we were not in a severe economic downturn, where pension plans have also gone bankrupt and corporate corruption and greedy gross mismanagement are rampant. What a huge negative change we have undergone in the last half of a century, since Salk represented everything that was good about the medical profession and our grandparents cared deeply about the world they were leaving their offspring.
America may be one of the most “successful” nations in the history of this world (by some monetary standards), but we are also one of the few industrial nations that cannot find it in our hearts to provide even minimal healthcare benefits for everyone. The thinking which created today’s problems is insufficient to solve them. We clearly need preventative medicine and alternative integrated approaches to lifestyle behavior patterns that have been proven to stop or reduce many forms of unnecessary premature aging. Anything less will continue to produce an economic and healthcare disaster, when the baby boomers begin to retire next decade.
Please forgive me if I sound a bit cynical, but I think it puts me in a category described by George Bernard Shaw:
“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”
I tried to raise my children, as my research scientist father raised me: Live in the moment; pay attention to the details of the world around you; try to understand cause and effect; when you discover that your conceptual models are flawed, strive to learn more and correct your flawed decision-making thought processes. Whenever were traveled across town or around the world, we played the “POO Game.”
In an attempt to expand their Powers Of Observation (POO), I’d ask them about things we had just seen, often after they were no longer visible. I asked them about how these things related to their previous knowledge, and how they could apply new information tomorrow.
I often complemented them on Good POO, especially when they observed something interesting that I had missed. This taught me about their curiosity, which I then encouraged and built upon. Sometimes, I would tell them “Good POO” and someone nearby would look at us strangely – This always made them laugh about our inside knowledge of the fun POO game.
It is sad that most parents and teachers have poopy POO, and so do their children and students. They get up today and do the same things they did yesterday, futilely hoping that things will get better tomorrow, but they can’t, don’t and won’t.
Our worst American classrooms encourage poopy POO. Students are forced to conform to the epidemic plague of mindless mediocrity. They must sedentarily wait to be spoon fed, like little baby birds waiting for smelly old worms, rather than paying attention to the real-world principles of life all around them.
America needs many more rational skeptics, intelligent cynics, and curious critical thinkers, who pursue high POO and the long-term laws of cause and effect around them. The very few with good POO learn to understand so many important things that are not taught in obsolete schools, and that the irrational mindless mediocre majority will never become aware of.
Headaches Are Often A Sign Of Unnecessary, Avoidable, Premature Aging
Ask a modern mediocre American who lives in front of commercial television: “What should you do when you get a headache?” The answer is almost always “take a pill” (where “pill” is based on something that they or their mother saw on television recently or long ago).
This misinformed “poor POO” pervasive practice, (which most people do blindly without even thinking), is like irrationally removing the battery from a noisy smoke detector, rather than investigating and correcting the source of the smoke or fire.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like common aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen all thin the blood, effect platelets, and are therefore statistically linked to a higher risk of brain stroke and various forms of internal bleeding (including death from peptic ulcers).
The more you take, the higher your risk of devastating catastrophic permanent brain damage, neuropathy, ulcers, etc., which also increases significantly with age. Stroke is among the most significant killers of overstressed, prematurely-aging Americans. Most painkillers increase its risk.
Acute and chronic inflammation is directly link to most diseases and unpleasant pain. 90% of Americans regularly consume some form of caffeine, which increases inflammation.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID painkillers) are typically “COX-2 enzyme inhibitors.” NSAIDs include the above OTCs and many prescription drugs like VIOXX (one of the most widely prescribed drugs before it was withdrawn 9/2004), CELEBREX and BEXTRA. One of the problems is that they also inhibit COX-1 enzyme in varying degrees. This directly causes internal bleeding (in the brain, digestive system, and other organs), ischemic neuropathy (large or small incremental nerve death –intellectual, sensory and control function loss) and painful slow death by peptic ulcers, etc.
According to the scientific studies that followed the removal of VIOXX, MOST painkillers increase the risk of heart attack – some by up to 71%!
In April 2005, the U.S. FDA issued new label warnings for all prescription and over the counter anti-inflammatory painkillers. Prescription painkillers now must carry "black box" alerts warning of heart disease and stroke risk (which most consumers sadly ignore). Over-the-counter brands (which are usually taken at lower doses and for a shorter amount of time) were forced to include more information about the risk that they impose. The FDA recommends checking with your doctor if you take over-the-counter painkillers for more than 10 days.
Popular Painkillers With the Highest Risk
Indomethacin (Indocin) and sulindac (Clinoril) (traditional NSAIDs) had the highest risk in the new study. Indomethacin increased heart attack risk by 71% and sulindac by 41%. Mobic raised the risk of heart attack by 37%, while the recently pulled Cox-2 drug Vioxx increased risk by 32%. In a study published in the British Medical Journal, June 2005, commonly used and abused ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and many others) was associated with a 24% higher risk of heart attack.
Bextra was recently removed from the market during the FDA's sweeping review of anti-inflammatory drugs. Bextra has been associated with a potentially fatal skin disease called Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
Heath risks increase significantly with escalating doses of all the NSAIDs. The higher the dose, the greater the risk, the studies have all showed.
Although encouraged heavily by profit-motivated commercial advertisements that ignore well-documented public health issues, habitually popping legal painkillers is an extremely DUMB thing to do.
It is interesting to note that painkillers often INCREASE long-term chronic pain in a variety of different ways. Not only do painkillers increase the risk of deadly diseases, they also do NOT reduce long-term pain! Mindless consumers with poor powers of observation are. hypnotized by misleading commercials. They respond to their increased level of pain (caused by pain amplifiers like caffeine, other stimulants and previous use of painkillers) by increasing the dangerous dosage of risky painkillers, which increase their pain even more in a cascading cycle of ever-increasing discomfort. This is a downhill snowball cause-and-effect of continually making things much worse until it eventually triggers sever personality changes and ultimately results in premature death (common in most Americans).
All NSAID / COX-2 inhibitors statistically increase the risk of HEART FAILURE and BRAIN STROKE. This risk increases with dosage and duration of taking common-but-dangerous painkillers. Should you take them every time you feel a pain?
The irrational mediocre majority of TV watchers, caffeine consumers and pill poppers (with limited critical thinking skills and weak powers of observation) incorrectly think that they should continue their long-term bad habits. They indiscriminately buy large bottles of painkillers, and keep them handy. Many foolishly take one or more per day, which increases their rate of aging and the risk of premature painful death. It should be a felony crime for parents to teach these bad lifestyle habits to their children!
There are many reasons for headaches and body aches, including: lifestyle-induced premature aging, improper mental response to physical and mental stress, vascular inflammation, hangover, stimulants (neural irritants and pain amplifiers like caffeine, ephedrine / ephedra, illegal drugs, etc.), unnatural patented prescription drugs, infections, poor nutrition, toxins, environmental pollution, pesticides, preservatives, artificial food flavorings, vascular problems, high blood pressure, excessive anaerobic exercise, uncorrected orthopedic (shoes) and ergonomic problems (chairs, work center habits), improper use of risky food supplements (poor / misinformed self-medication), conflicts between multiple drugs, drugs and foods (like grapefruit), etc.
Commercials teach mediocre people with poopy POO and limited critical thinking skills that pain is linked to inflammation and anti-inflammatory drugs (OTC and prescription) are wonderful painkillers (which just happen to be very profitable for the misinformation advertisers who degrade public health).
Inflammation may be “acute” (a temporary injury that will heal if given the chance) or long-term “chronic”, whose trigger source needs to be identified and corrected. In either case, masking the problem with painkillers and leaving the source in place is the wrong thing to do.
Inflammation is triggered (initiated) by disease or injury to cells, tissues and organs, such as exposure to toxins, smoke, alcohol, radiation, pesticides, chemicals, allergens, dander, dust, dust mites, insects, stings, bites, pollen, mold, fungi, detrimental bacteria, viruses, parasites, carcinogens, stimulants (neural irritants and pain amplifiers like caffeine, ephedrine / ephedra, etc.), a fall, blow or concussion, cuts and scrapes, surgery (necessary or elective/cosmetic), food allergies, too much or too little of critical enzymes and vitamins, genetic mutations, drugs (legal and illegal, prescription and OTC), drug interactions with other drugs or certain foods (like grapefruit, etc.), excess body fat / obesity, and many other subtle or significant primary or secondary sources that may be difficult to understand.
In response to trigger event(s), the immune system releases white blood cells (macrophages) that concentrate in the injured area. Macrophages and “histamine” regulate the production of pro-inflammatory “cytokines”, chemical messengers that attack and clean up cells in the affected area.
Inflammation in a correctly controlled environment is an important part of the healing process. If you scrape your arm, the reddening of the skin around the injury is an example of the “histamine response.” It increases red and white blood cell flow to the injury and thus accelerates the healing, infection-fighting, and tissue-regrowth processes.
Another common example of the histamine response is the swelling of nasal passages in response to allergens. The body is trying to accelerate healing of sensitive mucous membranes, but excess inflammation creates the unpleasant “stuffy” congestion feeling.
OTC “antihistamines” attempt to reduce stuffy inflammation (in nasal passages, etc.), but antihistamines can slow the healing process and dry out mucous membranes. This can make nasal tissues crack and allow air born allergens, bacteria and toxins to directly enter the blood stream, triggering more disease, infection and inflammation.
If the inflammatory trigger continues (like daily smoking, environmental pollution, excess body fat, etc.), “cytokine” production rises, sending more and more signals for white blood cells to attack the trigger. This excessive, preventable, immune system response will eventually damage otherwise healthy cells, tissues and organs.
Chronic cellular damage, caused by long-term exposure to inflammatory triggers, will overwhelm the immune system and produce DNA mutations that result in viable, uncontrolled, self-reproducing cancer cells. In some cases, especially in those of advanced biological age or compromised immune systems, the body loses its ability to stop the cytokine production and “down-regulate” the chronic inflammation. Accelerated aging, heart attacks, vascular failures, brain strokes, dementia, diabetes, various forms of cancer and many other deadly diseases are the direct result of unrestrained inflammation, which is often combined with increased pain and the bad habit of taking OTC or prescription anti-inflammatory medications (to merely mask the inflammation triggers caused by poor lifestyle choices, without resolving the underlying source of the avoidable inflammation).
Inflammation is the result of trigger event causes (many of which are preventable), but inflammation also CAUSES many diseases throughout the body. Inflammation is BOTH a cause and an effect of illness.
Inflammation causes pain. This pain reflects cellular, tissue and organ damage that can eventually result in premature death. Here is one example: Suppose that taking a painkiller (or neurotoxic alcohol, drugs, or an excitotoxin like aspartame or MSG) weakens micro capillaries and there is a tiny hemorrhage that cuts off the blood supply to one-or-more neurons. Most people would not immediately notice such an isolated event, except for the fact that it triggers a cascading set of more serious reactions.
As one-or-more neurons begin to die, there is a histamine response that attempts to repair the damage by increasing blood flow to the starving cells. This causes inflammation. In tiny bundles of compacted nerves (in the brain, eyes, and throughout the body), inflammation caused by the death of one nerve, pinches off the blood supply to adjacent nerves in the same bundle.
When the small initial inflammatory trigger source causes the death of large numbers of neurons, people begin to notice a wide variety of central nervous system symptoms, such as: increased pain, headaches, blind spots, loss of memory, loss of sensation, loss of motor control, shaking, etc. If the person merely masks the inflammation trigger with a risky anti-inflammatory painkiller, and the original inflammation trigger is not removed, the problem will get progressively worse over time. Most individuals and medical doctors are extremely short sighted and only deal with symptoms, rather than the underlying causes of progressive disease, which are harder to understand.
Masking the pain with anti-inflammatory painkillers not only eliminates the immediate motivation to study and deal with the inflammation trigger (often due to poor lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, caffeine, or taking painkillers), but the anti-inflammation drugs themselves CAUSE unnecessary heart disease, internal bleeding, etc. that accelerates aging, INCREASES inflammation and the risk of drug-induced premature death. (This foolish concept is similar to the common medical malpractice of prescribing radiation treatments and chemotherapy, (which directly CAUSE DNA MUTATION CANCER, for people who already have a serious case of cancer.)
The relatively new CRP blood test is a measurement of inflammation, which has been found to be a fairly accurate predictor of many deadly diseases like heart attack, diabetes, accelerated aging, and many other common severe ailments.
In quick summary, a good diet rich in certain high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables can significant reduce CRP in only a few weeks. Conversely, medical research scientists can now use CRP to help quantify the life-threatening impact of poor lifestyle choices like: smoking, drinking, caffeine, insufficient exercise, excess body fat, not enough sleep, violence, negative thought processes, etc.
If a bad lifestyle choice is made, inflammation increases and so does measurable CRP. Improve your lifestyle (nutrition, exercise and mental activity) and your CRP will be reduced – indicating lowered risk for many diseases that are directly caused or aggravated by inflammation.
Your CRP number is a statistically significant measure of your rate of aging and risk factors for many deadly diseases. Repetitive CRP testing over time allows research scientists to precisely demonstrate, compare and rank the most valuable ways to reduce these measurable inflammation risk factors. They can also quantify the negative impact of elective procedures like cosmetic surgery, and other poorly studied potentially-dangerous inflammation-causing lifestyle choices.
Briefly consider the inflammation associated with painful arthritis. This disease has many different causes and treatment options. The dumbest option is anti-inflammatory painkillers (like VIOXX, NSAIDS, etc.), which temporarily mask the problem, and do nothing to reduce the source of the pain. For many people with certain types of arthritis, there are modern food supplements like glucosamine or hyaluronic acid for individuals who are allergic to shellfish. Such products hydrate the joints and encourage the growth of new cartilage. In many cases, this can completely eliminate arthritic joint inflammation and the need for risky, invasive joint replacement. These inexpensive nutrition solutions can be (for many people) far superior to the standard prescriptions for disease-causing anti-inflammation drugs like Vioxx, Celebrex, Bextra and OTC NSAIDS, which are widely advertised in medical journals and on television, while inexpensive, less profitable glucosamine and hyaluronic acid are simply not understood or recommended by most of the doctors who injure their patients with dangerous high-profit prescription painkillers. In fact, the corrupt U.S. FDA will not even allow the providers of glucosamine and hyaluronic acid to advertise the potential specific benefits of their food supplements, since they are not classified as FDA-regulated “drugs.”
The easy-to-administer CRP blood test can precisely measure and document the many benefits of improved nutrition. Long-term consumption of anti-inflammatory drugs can be a serious health risk. The CRP test demonstrates that lifestyle choices are much more effective at reducing inflammation and the related pain and secondary injury. The CRP test does not account for anti-inflammatory drugs, or measure the health risks that such drugs add to your life.
CRP has recently been found to be even more important to monitor than other older, less-effective blood tests like serum cholesterol, etc.
The CRP test is relatively expensive. Misinformed lazy medical doctors who have not kept up with modern literature about CRP and the many anti-aging scientific advances are not using CRP enough. They treat only symptoms and fail to investigate lifestyle-related, preventable disease causes.
If you feel that you are at risk for the many diseases that chronic inflammation is related to, discuss adding a CRP test to your annual physical examination. Find a licensed physician who will work with you to find causes, rather than treat only your symptoms.
If your CRP number is more than 1, improve your lifestyle and then have your CRP checked more frequently, until you see it drop below 1. Remember, your medical doctor has almost no formal training in non-prescription lifestyle improvements, so you will have to look elsewhere for authoritative information. CRP is an excellent way to receive precise, scientific, widely-recognized feedback about improvements to your diet, exercise and mental aerobics.
If you are one of the 45+ million Americans without health insurance, you can become a member of organizations like the Life Extension Foundation and receive significant price reductions on a variety of laboratory tests, including CRP, homocysteine and other comprehensive blood tests. You should budget at least $250 per year for comprehensive blood tests – more if you are found to have any values that are out of range.
Indiscriminately taking some food supplements (like iron) or eating foods that are artificially fortified with them (without knowing that you are already too high or too low) can kill you. Regular laboratory blood testing is critical, but be very careful about doctors’ subsequent recommendations to mask symptoms, rather than identifying and correcting the underlying source of your health problems and pain. Investigate the opinion of others and alternative solutions and treatments before adding the risk of dangerous drugs or unnecessary surgery. Natural disease prevention is a much better solution than things like joint replacement, chemotherapy, radiation, painkillers, etc.
The many manifestations of migraine can vary dramatically from one patient to another, and even within the same patient at different times. During a migraine pain attack, changes in brain activity (negative mental images and stress-related thought processes) produce inflamed blood vessels and nerves around the brain. Inflammation accelerates aging. High blood sugar (increasingly prevalent among overweight Americans) increases inflammation-related pain, disease and premature aging processes. Inflamed nerves can fire erratically. Inflamed nerves can pinch off the blood supply to adjacent nerves, causing progressive, irreversible, nerve bundle death. In extreme cases nerve inflammation can result in a variety of sensory illusions, such as hallucinations, unusual voices, hypersensitivity to light, sounds, temperature, touch, etc. and radical thoughts, fears, depression or muscle contractions. Stimulants (neural irritants and pain amplifiers like caffeine, etc.), increase nerve sensitivity and migraine pain.
High stress and mental anguish can trigger severe migraine headaches. When blood vessels tighten (especially the sides of the neck below the ear lobes), blood pressure increases. The heart can pump blood to the throbbing brain, but tight neck muscles and vascular inflammation prevent some of the stale blood from returning to the heart and lungs to receive a fresh supply of oxygen. This lack of oxygen increases the inflammation response and further aggravates the migraine pain / inflammation spasm cycle.
Many people can be trained in calming “mental imaging relaxation techniques” (such as prayer, relaxing meditation, self hypnosis, positive mental imaging, etc.). These techniques can often effectively interrupt the migraine pain / stress / inflammation cycle in only a few minutes.
We all need to learn how to cope, relax and let things go that are beyond our control. Most stress is self-generated. Our mental images release “fight or flight” adrenaline, which accelerates our heart rate and stimulates sensory perception, including our throbbing pain. It is not the situation or the stimulus that creates the stress – It is the mental image (good or bad) that we associate with it that triggers either comfort or stress, which aggravates inflamed blood vessels and pain-producing nerves. In modern introductory psychology courses, this is called Stimulus / Imagery / Response (SIR). Improving lifestyle and proper SIR mental conditioning can significantly reduce migraine pain.
It is not what other people do to us, or the situations that we find ourselves in, but rather, the mental image that we link to our current situation is what results in unhealthy levels of stress. Happiness Is A Learned Mental Attitude, Not A Situation.
Migraine headaches are common among children, as well as adults. Young and middle-aged women are especially susceptible. People with migraine headaches tend to be chronically tense. Ironically, sometimes the migraine pain greatly increases when they finally relax. This type of migraine can happen on Friday afternoon, when the person is able to relax after a week at work or school. In this case, relaxation of blood vessels causes them to expand and push against sensitive inflamed nerves. One shortsighted symptomatic prescription drug approach is the use of vasoconstrictors, without dealing with the source of the stress.
Very few stressed out medical doctors take the time to understand SIR mental imaging techniques or to teach relaxation exercises to their patients who experience self-generated unnecessary stress-related pain. Writing a risky (neurotoxic) painkiller prescription is much faster (and thus more profitable). AND, pharmaceutical salespeople have long provided perks and incentives for doctors to prescribe their most-expensive recently patented unnatural drugs.
Most general practice medical doctors, and even specialized neurologists, are unfamiliar with other ways to treat migraine pain and the cascading complications. Among the most successful are self-control strategies using biofeedback to quantitatively measure and give the patient guidance about relaxation techniques..
Biofeedback simply means giving patients information about their physiological states and allowing them to learn how to control them. At one level, biofeedback is a way to gain conscious control over one's physiology: mind over matter. But, in a deeper sense, biofeedback is also a way to tune into one's body's wisdom, correct invalid mental images, and allow the brain to self-regulate. This mind-body unity is achieved when the conscious mind is in a state of focused relaxation - quiet but highly alert. It is like the state of "flow" that successful athletes sometimes feel when they are at their peak performance.
A New York psychologist, Dr. Jeff Carmen, has specialized in treating migraines with biofeedback for many years. He began with a group of traditional procedures that have proven successful in many research studies. These are ways of learning consciously to relax, to turn off the "fight-or-flight" side of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the so-called "sympathetic" branch. This allows the relaxed "parasympathetic" arm of the ANS to become dominant. Sympathetic over arousal has a number of effects: cold hands, fast heart rate, fast shallow breathing, muscle tension, and sweat glandular over activity.
Traditional biofeedback training to reduce migraine pain involves learning the correct mental images required to warm the hands, reduce sweating, slow down breathing, and lower muscle tension (especially in the neck).
There are separate instruments that measure each of these, and information can be presented to the client on a computer screen. By watching the display, one can learn to control these physiological processes by simple trial and error mental image refinement. In addition to biofeedback in the office, home practice is essential. Two twenty-minute periods of daily practice, and numerous short periods of a few seconds each are essential, as one slowly learns to stop generating unnecessary, undesirable levels of self-induced unproductive mental stress.
After years of experience with traditional biofeedback methods, Dr. Carmen invented a new procedure, which is faster to learn and offers greater migraine control. It involves learning to control the temperature, (and hence the blood flow and metabolism), of the prefrontal areas of the brain, the location of the so-called "executive" functions of self-control, memory, and attention, and the highest concentration of “feel good” endorphin receptors. A sensor is placed on the forehead that looks deeply into the brain by measuring far infrared temperature. Infrared radiation passes directly through the skull and can be seen by the optical sensor. The new sensor is similar to the new heat-imaging techniques police use to look through the walls of houses in search of illegal drug grow lights. Most people are able to learn to control their temperature within a very few sessions. The results have been striking: about 80-90% of clients report significant improvement in migraine frequency or intensity, and over half have no migraines at all following the treatment, which involves no medications, just mental conditioning.
Dr. Carmen has presented his results at the Society for Neuronal Regulation. Other physicians and health practitioners are now using his system with good results. The best news is that in most cases brain temperature biofeedback is quite fast, often giving relief from headaches in as little as 2-5 sessions. The older processes of finger temperature biofeedback, breathing, etc. have been around for much longer and are understood by more biofeedback specialists. In all forms of biofeedback training, a similar mental attitude is important.
Thousands of years before the work by Dr. Carmen, or the use of the term “biofeedback,” countless others discovered similar mind / body mental image control processes. The ancient Greek term “hupnos”. from which we derive the word hypnosis, was used hundreds of years before Jesus. The word appears 5 times in the Greek New Testament. Jesus used and taught hupnos to His disciples. It is also linked to miraculous observations.
If you have migraine pain, or medical complications caused by an inability to control or cope with stressful situations, you CAN learn how to change your mental images, lower your frontal lobe brain temperature, warm your hands, reduce sweating, slow down your breathing, and lower muscle tension that aggravates many painful conditions. You can do this by visiting a licensed biofeedback neuronal regulation specialist, certain psychologists, some religious counselors, or simply by taking control of your negative mental images and replacing them with tranquil, positive, happy, upbeat images of the way things ought to be. In this case, reality clearly does not matter – Perception is far more important than reality in combating chronic migraine pain and reducing many of the mind / body factors that control the immune system and processes of unnecessary premature aging.
One important message from Laughter and Humor Therapy in Psychoneuroimmunology - In the 1960s, Norman Cousin used funny movies and laughter to help cure his otherwise hopeless debilitating disease. He later wrote a book on "Laughter Therapy" that promoted this method. Today, the American Cancer Society references it as potentially beneficial, without scientific proof. Having experienced its many benefits myself, I recommend that participating in humorous situations is even more beneficial than passively watching television situation comedies.
Laughing out loud increases healthy respiration (a problem for many ill people). Tightening the upper cheek muscles with a big smile opens sinus passages. The creative frontal lobe of our brain is fed by blood vessels that flow past the nasal sinus cavities. The brain is a 7/24 hotbed of metabolic activity. It appreciates having its blood supply cooled. When the brain gets too hot, our stress level increases and we become grumpy, irritable and more sensitive to pain. Laughter releases calming endorphins (endogenous opioids). Increasing cool blood flow to the frontal lobe, that is loaded with endorphins can reduce stress-related pain and accelerate the healing process. If we simply smile and laugh when we are depressed, we will quickly become happier, healthier individuals.
Our hands can be warmed by merely petting a warm fuzzy animal (real or even a fake-fur stuffed toy). Holding hands with a smiling dance partner will also raise hand temperature, release endorphins, and provide many other mental, musculoskeletal and cardio vascular benefits.
Stressed neck muscles (which can restrict the flow of stale blood from the brain back to the heart and lungs) can be relaxed with a simple mental image of being in a warm relaxing happy place. I have a dominant personal sensory image of a beach in Florida with the sun shining on my neck, the blue waves rolling in and the rustle of palm fronds in a fresh, gentle, ocean breeze. I also have one of being suspended effortlessly in three dimensions while scuba diving in warm water on “Rainbow Reef.” By taking a deep breath I can rise or go deeper while enjoying the curious reef life forms.
Your autonomic nervous system responds more effectively, if your imaginary happy place has many vivid imaginary sensory inputs: color, motion, sounds, smells, etc. I also use such images to help me quickly fall asleep at night and dream pleasant dreams without disturbing nightmares. People who experience premature aging due to unproductive sleep caused by unpleasant night measures can use biofeedback techniques in a professional sleep laboratory, to learn “lucid dreaming,” which teaches you to recognize a nightmare while it is happening, and redirect it to your happy place image.
Mental conditioning can (without any drugs) help you effectively use productive REM sleep (rapid eye movement dreaming) to consolidate your short-term daily memories with your long-term stereotypes and discover creative alternatives to problems that you encounter during the day. My rainbow reef image (above) has matured on its own over time into a fantasy of Peter-Pan-like flight, that allows me to rise above the day’s details during my dreams and see a broader view of an otherwise complex situation context. During a stressful day, we rely heavily on logical, business-as-usual thinking. Productive REM sleep is irrational and fanciful creative thinking. I usually wake up refreshed and happy, ready to deal with issues that now seem much less stressful than they were the day before. Headaches are extremely rare for me, and I am convinced that this reduces my personal rate of aging.
If you frequently come home with a headache, you need some mental reconditioning. Unnecessarily elevated levels of stress almost always impair cognitive processes and increase sensitivity to pain.. Adrenaline from the sympathetic nervous system shuts down higher-level intellectual problem-solving creative capacity and enhances glucose metabolism in the muscles to help you run faster or fight harder. This was the correct thing to do when hungry bears chased our ancestors, but it is NOT what you need in today’s high-pressure office politics.
To help reduce high-pressure deadline stress, try to complete large jobs in small increments throughout a given time period instead of all at once with an impossible deadline. This is an issue of high-productivity job-related time management skills.
Long hours of sitting with a fixed focal length in front of a computer can cause severe eyestrain headaches, If this ever happens, you probably need glasses, specially design to make your eyes completely relax at the precise distance of your computer display. Carefully measure the distance from your eyes to your computer display when you are in the proper ergonomic position (neck-straight – nose perpendicular to shoulders, back vertical and supported, wrist at or below the elbow, knee at or above hip and toes elevated/supported – foot perpendicular to leg). Bring the eye-to-display measurement with you when you have your next refractive eye exam.
High blood sugar makes the refractive index of your eye unstable and you will frequently need to change your eyeglass prescription. Get your blood sugar under control and stable before you get new glasses. If you still get eyestrain headaches, you are still doing something wrong. Don’t give up until you get it right. Avoid popping pain pills – the problem will only get much worse.
Pain in your head is trying to tell you not to do what you did that caused it, but the irrational majority would rather temporarily mask their pain, rather than alter their unhealthy lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, mental activities, work-and-play habits, etc.) that caused the pain in the first place. It is generally easier for you to pop a pill than to investigate what caused the problem, regardless of the fact that the pill may cumulatively increase your risk of ultimate catastrophic brain devastation or other serious potential side effects (some of which include sudden death).
OBVIOUSLY IRRATIONAL THINKING: Perhaps you know that your pain is a common hangover, just pop two pills and then make plans to go drinking with your friends again soon. (GAK!) Alcohol is undoubtedly neurotoxic – it kills nerves all over your body. The hangover is merely the first proof that this is irrefutably true. Ultimately regular alcohol consumption WILL lead to untimely death (breast cancer, etc.), or extremely unpleasant alcohol-related dementia (if you live long enough).
People rapidly build resistance to pain killers. As the pain gets worse and over-the-counter drugs become ineffective, it is easier for your doctor to prescribe a more-dangerous painkiller, rather than to study your lifestyle and then try to convince you to change your bad habits, so they usually don’t even try.
MORE IRRATIONAL THINKING: Scribble a quick prescription, and move on to temporarily reduce the next patient’s pain, while ignoring cause-and-effect avoidable lifestyle choices. (Double GAK!)
Consider this: If premature aging could be reduced and normal bodily function reestablished, then people would not only live longer and be happier, but they would also have a higher quality of productive life AND eliminate their recurring pain problems. BUT, cured patients would spend much less on drugs and medical doctors, so American corrupt medical practice deals mostly with temporary symptom relief, rather than intelligent disease prevention.
The modern profit-driven medical profession clearly has a negative economic incentive to develop a long-term cure for your problems, rather than to make you dependant on their long-term, high-risk, money-making medical care. Likewise, they have no monetary reason to do the research to develop a one-time inexpensive vaccine, or to teach you how to improve your lifestyle to prevent or delay the pain of many age-related diseases.
Let’s take a more detailed look at other things that are clinically linked to premature aging, associated with severe migraine pain.
Stimulants (like those in caffeine, ephedrine / ephedra, etc.) are actually neural irritants and pain amplifiers. Every living nerve in our body is constantly “firing,” whether we are awake or asleep. You can see these pulses clearly on electrocardiograms and brain electrical activity monitors. Many neurons normally fire roughly ten times per second. They are constantly saying “I’m alive – Keep listening.” When a nerve dies, the nerves that were attached to it will in a matter of seconds start looking for other nerves to listen to. (In advanced neurodegenerative disease, reduce numbers of neurons to talk with results in loss of memory, cognitive capacity, motor control, etc.)
When a sensory nerve is stimulated (sight, sound, smell, touch, temperature, etc.) or a chain of thought process / memory nerves or communication nerves are activated, they fire more frequently than normal. Cut yourself and many nerves will fire rapidly and tell you in a fraction of a second to do something quickly.
Stimulants irritate nerves throughout your body, which makes you more alert, since you are constantly experiencing elevated levels of pain from everywhere. Many adults become totally addicted to stimulants and cannot function without their unhealthy morning cup of coffee, but this pervasive lifestyle error is clearly accelerating premature aging of your entire central nervous system.
By clinical definition, stimulants make you more “irritable.” Many medical doctors are extremely addicted to caffeine (some to stronger stimulants). They will tell you that “Coffee is not so bad – it is the only way I made it through my 36 hours shifts as an intern in the ER.” Then, they will prescribe a neurotoxic pill to kill your pain, which is being made even worse by the stimulants you ingest every day.
Simple lesson: If you are in pain, STOP TAKING PAIN AMPLIFIERS! Stimulants and sugar unnecessarily accelerate the aging of your entire central nervous system and cause other premature aging problems like diminishing the capacity of the immune system.
Among the worst pervasive neural stimulants are “excitotoxins”, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame (Nutrasweet®, Equal®, etc.). Excitotoxins don’t stop working once they get past your tongue – they overexcite nerves throughout your body and burn them out like flipping a light switch on and off rapidly (excito-toxin). They release minute amounts of neurotoxic methanol, which is well known to cause nerve death, blindness, and damages micro-capillary blood vessel walls causing inflammation, migraine headaches, etc. (See Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills)
Excitotoxin ingestion can be greatly reduced by knowing what to look for, reading ingredient labels, and asking restaurant owners if they use MSG or aspartame. Most modern diet foods and diet drinks contain neurotoxic aspartame.
There seem to be no credible studies that anyone has lost weight by consuming aspartame. In fact, it is so strong that they become addicted and often crave more sugar. There are however clinical studies that demonstrate that many people who STOP taking aspartame begin to lose weight!
Here are a few of the common dangerous foods that contain MSG: Accent seasoning, bacon bits, baking mixes, bouillon cubes, bread stuffing, breaded foods, canned meats, cheese dips, clam chowder, corn chips, croutons, dry roasted nuts, frozen dinners, frozen pizza, gelatins, Oriental foods, pot pies, potato chips, processed meats, relishes, salad dressings, salt substitutes, seasonings, soups and soy sauce.
Some people who suffer from frequent migraine pain are particularly sensitive to foods that contain “tyramine,” such as aged moldy cheeses; and preserved meats with nitrates and nitrites that can trigger migraine headaches. Here are a few examples of common foods with nitrates: bacon, beef jerky, bratwurst, corn dogs, corned beef, ham, hot dogs, liverwurst, lunch meats, pastrami, pork and beans, salami, sausage, smoked fish, Spam (the kind that you eat) and most turkey lunch meats.
Too much or too little sleep can trigger a migraine pain attack. Roughly 7.5 to 8 hours is appropriate, which allows time to fall asleep and then 5 or 6 productive uninterrupted 75 minute sleep cycles (plus or minus). The REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that occurs when we fall asleep and dream between each sleep cycle is essential to mental heath and long term memory consolidation. A repetitive lifestyle pattern of too little sleep, followed by strong morning coffee, will definitely accelerate aging. If you suspect that too much or too little sleep is a cause of your migraine pain, then adjusting your workload, stress level, and sleep schedule may help.
High stress combined with too little, or unproductive, interrupted sleep can increase many migraine irritability risk factors. Frequent middle-of-the-night urination (caused by high blood sugar, prostate problems, bladder infections, etc.) can aggravate this pervasive premature aging problem. Possible solutions include correcting urinary problems and going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. It may be important to adhere to this schedule, even on weekends and holidays, to prevent migraines. If you cannot manage 8 hours of sleep every night, then be sure that you do it whenever you can. See:
Sleeping with too large or too small of a pillow, where the neck is not straight, can trigger migraine pain and may lead to neck muscle / ligament strains with painful inflammation spasms. The potential problem seems to increase with age. If this happens to you even once, it will leave a strong memory that should motivate you to take corrective action to prevent it in the future. Watching television with your neck propped up can have a similar negative impact. Having one side of your neck very warm and the other side very cold can cause a painful asymmetric neck muscle nerve pinch. Proper neck position ergonomics and manual neck massage can sometimes help avoid or reduce such unnecessary pain.
Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D supplements (in combination) just before going to bed can help relax muscles, and they may provide many other health benefits for most aging adults. For some people, taking a low-dose (300 mcg) of natural melatonin improves productive sleep, but avoid the common unnecessarily-high doses of 1 mg to 3mg that are in most over-the-counter melatonin products – too much is not good. In general, the minimal amount that does the job is a superior solution with fewer adverse potential side effects.
Many women with severe migraine pain have attacks linked to the stress of their menstrual cycle. Fluctuating estrogen levels are thought to play a role. Menstrual migraines can be more debilitating, difficult to treat, and last longer than other migraines. Migraine also may worsen in early pregnancy, but in later pregnancy, it generally improves. Migraine typically declines in frequency as women age and estrogen levels decline. There is evidence that oral contraceptives or estrogen-replacement therapy can provoke or worsen migraine in some women. Post menopausal hormone replace is linked to other premature aging processes, breast cancer, etc. Hormones are a very delicate balance that changes significantly as we age. Indiscriminate self medication with food supplements that encourage hormonal changes is dangerous to do without adequate monitoring and analysis. Incorrect food supplementation can trigger migraine attacks – Remember: Pain often means “Don’t do that!”
If you are have headache pain, don’t just take a pill – try to understand the source and take corrective action to avoid the problem in the future. Every time you have a headache, write it down, and try to think what you did, ate, drank or thought that may have triggered your pain. Then rethink your unhealthy premature aging lifestyle choices. If you lack “will power”, seek a support group or professional behavior modification therapy – it may be well worth the investment, but be careful to not become a dependant personality. Developing discipline and self-control is a valuable character asset that will greatly assist you in the future.
One serious modern medical deficit is that very few medical doctors have much exposure to nutrition, integrated medicine or complementary therapies. Patients with serious medical problems should NOT passively accept professional advice that they are "just getting older" or that they "will have to learn to live with it" or that there is "nothing more we can do." If your medical professional says these words to you, and offers nothing more than temporary quick-fix painkillers, then you should proactively study alternative sources of important healthy lifestyle information, since no one human knows everything about everything going on inside of you. We live in a complex society of isolated specialists, with only partial knowledge about most topics.
Antiaging, integrated medicine, and complementary medicine currently offer proven alternative therapeutic approaches that are slowly being recognized more by traditional medical doctors, (who have generally only been trained in surgery and unnatural patented prescription medicines). Very few medical doctors have the intellectual capacity or time in their busy schedule to keep up with the latest scientific research in areas that may be of great interest to your personal health and well being.
If you have been diagnosed with a serious problem, be careful about paying too much attention to unreliable anecdotal evidence from late night cable TV infomercials and biased individuals who know little about the underlying scientific cause-and-effect. (See Pill Pushing Quacks)
Take the time to read everything you can on the subject from reliable sources with diverse opinions, being sure it investigate alternative points of view, based on (often contradictory) clinical trials, laboratory tes, etc. (Do you remember when the tobacco industry funded clinical research that said that there was nothing wrong with smoking?).
Better yet, study the risk factors for common age-related diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, hemochromatosis, etc. and learn how to PREVENT them in the first place, or at least delay their onset and reduce the lifetime cumulative damage of preventable premature aging.
Inherited Genetic Blueprint (the DNA that is in the nucleus of every human cell in our body and brain) accounts for only a portion of the reasons for faster-or-slower individual aging rates, and the premature onset of age-related physical and mental problems. The environmental and the lifestyle choices that each of us make every day of our lives account for the majority of the reasons that many people appear to age much faster than others who have similar genetic factors.
We do not get to pick our parents, or the life-influencing genetic program that is built into our DNA from the moment of conception, but mature adults have the ability to make extremely critical lifestyle choices about nutrition, exercise, attitude, and the various environments that they decide to live, work and play in.
We will introduce basic genetic issues and future hopes, and then discuss how simple lifestyle choices interact with our individual genetic blueprint throughout our entire life, and dramatically influence our rate of aging.
Our Hereditary Genetic Blueprint For Life
We know scientifically that (almost) all humans inherit 23 chromosomes from our father and 23 from our mother. Rarely, minute DNA mutations occur during gestation that result in a human blueprint with factors that neither of our parents possess. The multi-source (male/female) genetic combination form of human reproduction, plus the possibility of rare random mutations, make all of us what we are today. If a DNA genetic blueprint is “good,” it will result in an individual that is more successful than others in a particular environment (for example, one who is resistant to a common, contagious, life-threatening disease like the Black Plague).
Through natural selection, (in animal populations and challenging environments where only a small percentage of the offspring can survive), successful genetics are transferred to future generations, which tend to produce more successful children. But, in human cultures where a high percentage of our children survive, some studies have shown that “less successful” couples, (as measured by level of income, education, etc.), tend to produce more children than many “more-successful” couples (depending on your personal definition of “success”). Recent studies have also shown that better-educated, higher-income, far-sighted individuals tend to pay more attention to living a healthy lifestyle and teaching it to their children. This at least in part helps us understand why the majority of our population suffers from avoidable premature aging problems and diseases.
Genetics and Insurance
Insurance companies must quantify mortality and morbidity risk factors for life and health insurance. People with higher risk factors for early death and people who cost more to treat should pay higher premiums for their insurance. From a purely monetary perspective, dispassionate insurance company “actuaries” have a strong incentive to carefully study all issues that can be used to quantify risk factors and calculate “fair” (and profitable) insurance premiums.
The Human Genome Project progressed much more rapidly than most business (and insurance) companies thought possible. Many international companies and actuarial organization members are now rapidly studying molecular DNA issues that may have a scientific basis for quantifying risk factors. There are also MANY controversial social, political, ethical and legislative issues about what all of this implies for our future.
One point is important to observe: Since actuaries have significant funding to study and quantify risk factors (of all types), intelligent humans can study actuarial data to understand how important specific risk factors are in their own life. This valuable information can be used by smart individuals to intellectually prioritize lifestyle decisions, to reduce personal and family risk factors to greatly enhance the length and quality of your own life and those around you that your example will influence.
Example: Genetic Risk Factors For Breast Cancer
Significant scientific research has taken place in the last decade. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a chemical found on cell chromosomes that provides the blueprint for life. “Chromosomes” are threadlike structures in every cell nucleus throughout every tissue and organ in every living thing. Human DNA’s double helix structure makes it possible for chromosomes to be replicated during cellular division and replication (mitosis).
Chromosomes are composed of multiple “genes” that contain precise instructions for controlling when different types of cells should grow/divide/die and the proteins and enzymes that the genes produce. Some types of genes called “tumor suppressors” slow the process of cellular division and shorten their life.
Abnormal DNA mutations can cause normal cells to become cancerous by de-activating the tumor suppressor genes (and other mechanisms). Researchers are investigating “why” and “how” some genes mutate (exposure to carcinogenic toxins, radiation, etc.). DNA mutations in parents can be transferred to their children. This partially explains why some cancers occur more frequently in some families. However, most DNA mutations that cause breast cancer are NOT inherited; they occur during a woman’s life and may be caused by a variety of factors (radiation, alcohol, smoking and other known and unknown environmental and food toxins).
Breast cancer genes (BRC1 and BRCA2) are two tumor suppressor genes that help repair damage to DNA and prevents tumor development. In 1994, researchers discovered that women who carry mutations of BRCA1 or BRCA2 are at higher risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer than women who do not have these genetic mutations. Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, MD, a Breast Health Specialist at the Mayo Clinic, estimates that 20% of women who carry BRCA1 mutations will develop breast cancer by age forty, 51% by age fifty, and 87% by age sixty.
There are over 2000 known genetic mutation variations associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women who test positive for BRCA defects will not necessarily develop breast cancer; they are merely at higher risk for the disease. Additionally, not all BRCA mutations carry the same risk of cancer. A new study conducted at Baylor College in Texas reveals that the protein ATM (ataxia telangiectasia) is linked to breast cancer development in women who test positive for a mutated BRCA1 gene.
HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) is another gene that plays a key role in regulating cell growth. Unlike tumor suppressors, HER2 mutations can increase cell growth and reproduction, often resulting in aggressive tumor cells.
HER2 protein over-expression affects 25% to 30% of breast cancer patients. Women with HER2 over-expression may not be as responsive to standard breast cancer treatments.
Mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. A recent study published by Dr. Ayman Linjawi (Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) reveals that Stage I breast cancer patients with mutant p53 had an average survival rate of 74% after five years, compared with a survival rate of 83% in those who did not have the mutant p53.
The above example discussion of breast cancer genetic risk factors offers hope that genetic testing will in the future yield innovative preventative measures and treatments for those who have high-risk genetic blueprints. This is also true for a wide variety of inherited disease risk factors.
If you know that you are at elevated risk of a disease like cancer, you should avoid lifestyle choices that accelerate the rate of aging and increase your risk of disease (like smoking, drinking, sedentary lifestyle, exposure to toxins, high stress, negative thought patterns, etc.). You should also follow good nutritional, exercise and mental activity habits that are known to reduce the risk of cancer. In fact, you should make these wise lifestyle choices even if you have not inherited an elevated risk of developing cancer.
Research Into Genetic Aging and Longevity Factors
In 2003, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a 5-year grant of $5.1 million to study metabolic changes associated with increased longevity. It could have important long-term implications for healthcare of the elderly and prevention or postponement of age-related diseases including cancer, stroke, heart disease, and dementia, which may ultimately lead to interventions to slow the aging process.
The scientists are comparing genetic and metabolic characteristics in four species: worms, fruit flies, yeast, and mice. The are looking for common patterns accompanying longer lifespans in these species. Those common patterns should indicate general principles governing longevity - providing improved understanding of inherited aging mechanisms, and a potential means of intervention, which should also apply to humans.
Dr. Robert Shmookler Reis, a professor in the departments of geriatrics, medicine, biochemistry/molecular biology, and pharmacology/toxicology in the UAMS College of Medicine, is program director for this interdisciplinary team of scientists. He explained,
"In evolutionary distance, nematodes and fruit flies are as far removed from each other as each is from any mammal, including humans. Thus, any distinctive features found in common among long-lived worms, flies, and mice is almost certainly true also of humans who remain healthy the longest. Yeasts are quite a bit more ancient than these multicellular, multitissue animals, so if a longevity marker also works in yeast, it may well be universal among animals."
The potential of this study, combined with many other current genetic research projects should greatly improve scientific knowledge about how we can slow the aging process and delay the onset, or even prevent, debilitating age-related diseases. We already understand many important aging issues, such as nutrition requirements, etc.
A modern health restoration testing and education program could include many individualized modern laboratory assessments, such as comprehensive blood tests, testing for ingested and internally produced antioxidant status, digestive analysis, immune system function, hormone status, internal organ enzymes, circulation, body fat, muscle mass and other accelerated aging indicators. An effective treatment program could then be established including: nutritional therapies, digestive cofactors, enzyme enhancement, hormone replacement, exercise, mental attitude, and behavioral changes to risky lifestyle choices.
One problem is that there are no foods or food supplements that everyone should consume under all circumstances and at all times in their life. Many nutrition and exercise choices involve highly individualized pros and cons.
You do NOT need a doctor’s prescription to obtain most types of blood tests. Joyful Aging does NOT support or encourage self-diagnosis of any disease, but after a healthcare professional has diagnosed a specific problem (like diabetes, hemochromatosis, etc.), you can (and should) regularly monitor your own progress in how effective your subsequent lifestyle changes are and compare them to your physician’s baseline blood tests. Frequent feedback can help document your good-or-bad lifestyle and treatment decisions and your personal risk factors for future problems. For proactive intelligent individuals, frequent feedback provides powerful motivation to help change a lifetime of bad habits and greatly improve health, happiness and longevity.
Most young people and menstruating women generally need high iron intake. The iron in meat is often absorbed 10 times more effectively than the same amount of iron found in vegetables, flour or many iron supplements. Some young people and adults who eat little or no meat may be at risk for iron deficient anemia, which reduces the transport mechanism for carrying essential oxygen to cells, tissues and organs, having multiple negative effects.
Some foods have much more bioavailable iron than others. Some foods like those that are high in vitamin C enhance iron absorption, while other things like green tea should be avoided by people with low iron, since they can reduce absorption of some types of dietary iron.
Many men over 40 and postmenopausal women develop excessively high tissue iron storage (hemochromatosis) that can seriously damage almost every organ in the body and lead to many complications that are difficult for most medical doctors to determine the original cause.
Hemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in the US, affecting an estimated 1 out of every 220 Americans. Excess iron accumulates in the liver and causes liver enlargement. Then, other organs are affected. The disease can lead to the development of diabetes, skin pigment changes, cardiac problems, arthritis, testicular atrophy, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, hypopituitarism, chronic abdominal pain, severe fatigue, and increased risk of certain bacterial infections. Once started, any of these diseases (like diabetes) can have many other cascading complications, including death.
Hemochromatosis affects men five times more frequently than women. It is particularly common in Caucasians of Western European descent. Symptoms are often seen in men between the ages of 30 and 50 and in women over 50 (although some people may develop serious problems by age 20). Alcohol consumption increases the underlying risk factors.
People with high “serum ferritin” levels should minimize intake of iron rich foods (like red meat and especially internal organ meats like liver, etc.). They should avoid alcohol and raw shellfish. Vitamin C supplements enhance iron absorption and should be avoided (the exact opposite of what people with low iron should do).
Consuming decaffeinated green tea while eating foods with high iron content can partially reduce iron absorption. Certain prescription drugs also increase iron absorption.
Some people need to improve iron absorption, while it is extremely important that other people to reduce iron absorption (since the body has no way to reduce excess iron). The effective therapy for hemochromatosis-related rapid premature aging is to reduce iron absorption and regularly give blood.
The only accurate way to know which approach is best for a particular individual is often a simple blood test. Self-diagnosis and self-medication can be very detrimental, even with natural foods and over-the counter drugs and food supplements, without the proper laboratory tests and trained interpretation of test results.
High iron storage (hereditary hemochromatosis) is one of the most common of inherited genetic diseases. It is initially detected as high serum ferritin levels in comprehensive blood tests. Everyone over 18 years old should have their blood screened at least every two years, since early detection can reduce the lifetime damage of this common, treatable-but-not-curable disease.
There is an inherited “HFE gene” (on chromosome 6 in human DNA) that is statistically linked to excessive tissue iron build up. Mutations in the HFE gene (C282Y and H63D) can contribute significantly to the likelihood of developing “hereditary hemochromatosis” (HHC). An accurate test is now available for these commonly inherited HFE gene mutations. (See American Hemochromatosis Society)
The prevalence of this common-but-poorly-understood disease, and the economic incentive to reduce its impact is so significant that our federal government is sponsoring genotype screening of 100,000+ Americans to gather more information for predicting its impact and risk factors.
When oxidized iron (literally “rust”) builds up in our tissues, it can seriously damage almost every organ in the body, especially our iron-sensitive liver. Hemochromatosis is linked to many cascading internal organ diseases, such as diabetes (pancreas and insulin receptor damage), cardio vascular damage and arthritis, all of which accelerate the rate of aging, pain, suffering, and ultimately the needless tragedy of avoidable early death.
Most vitamin and mineral supplements contain iron and vitamin C. Some also contain piperine (Bioperine® - a black pepper concentrate), which enhances the absorption of vitamins and minerals (including iron). This may be a good thing for some children and menstruating women, but supplements containing iron, vitamin C and absorption enhancers like piperine can be very bad for a significant portion of the mature adult population. It is not entirely what you eat that counts, but rather what you absorb that really matters. Almost all products that contain enriched flour have indiscriminate iron supplements, which have harmed many senior citizens causing otherwise preventable deadly diseases for decades.
The only effective hemochromatosis treatment involves education, behavior modification, minimizing iron intake/absorption/storage, and regularly having iron-rich blood extracted. Companies that indiscriminately “enrich” their products with iron and vitamin C, are unwisely increasing the aging rate and damaging the health of roughly 20 million Americans with high iron storage. Alcohol further damages and enlarges the liver problems caused by hemochromatosis, which regrettably leads to avoidable pain, suffering and premature death. Many mature people with high iron levels are not aware that they have the deadly problem, or the cause-and-effect damage of the foods and vitamin/mineral supplements that they are consuming.
Modern genetic research has recently documented some sources of the serious-and-common hemochromatosis problem. Now we need to quickly educate the medical profession, government health agencies, insurance companies, “enriched” food / vitamin-and-mineral manufacturers, and the general public. It is sad, but the process of nutrition-related disease-prevention education moves very slowly.
Joyful Aging introduces hemochromatosis as one common example of the individualized complexity of genetic factor and lifestyle choice interactions. Simple changes in eating habits can significantly reduce the impact of this common disease, and many others. There are thousands of similar individualized genetic-and-nutrition topics, which would take more than a lifetime to explore in depth. Intelligent, caring adults need to study the issues that are the most meaningful to the health and happiness of themselves and their loved ones.
Individualized Genetic Nutrition Requirement Example 3: Heart Disease Genes
Six percent of Americans carry a genetic blueprint that greatly increases their risk of heart disease. Eating good foods, and avoiding bad ones, can eliminate much of the risk.
The heart-disease gene types (variant forms of a normal gene) are more common among blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and other racial or ethnic groups than among Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. But some people of all races seem to carry the gene variants.
These heart disease genes cause thickening of arteries. A diet high in “arachidonic acid” (found in meat fats) increases the bad effects of the inherited gene forms. But a diet high in fish oils, such as those found in salmon, tuna, and mackerel, reduces the negative heart disease risk factors.
Raffaele De Caterina, MD, PhD, and Antonella Zampolli, PhD, of Italy's National Research Council write "These findings suggest that the (heart-protective) effects of (oils) derived from fish might be more prominent in (or perhaps limited to) persons with (the gene variants)," January 1, 2004, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
The Origins of Heart Disease
The findings come from a groundbreaking study that pulls back the covers shrouding the mysterious origins of heart disease. James H. Dwyer, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Southern California and UCLA knew that mice lacking the 5-lipoxygenase gene were nearly immune to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
To find out whether this gene was important in human disease, they analyzed a racially diverse group of 470 healthy, middle-aged men and women. They found that 6% of these people had a variant form of the gene. Apparently, these gene variants increased a person's 5-lipoxygenase activity. Theoretically, increased 5-lipoxygenase activity would cause cells of the immune system to accumulate inside artery walls. As they accumulate, they cause inflammation and promote the accumulation of cholesterol molecules in the artery wall. Over time, the buildup of artery-clogging plaque leads to heart disease.
People with the gene variants have much thicker artery walls than those with normal forms of the 5-lipoxygenase gene. Thicker artery walls is a measure of cardiovascular disease.
Nutrition and Genetics Are Linked Together
5-lipoxygenase is an enzyme that breaks down fats (particularly arachidonic acid, which comes mainly from fatty red meat) into substances that cause inflammation, cholesterol build up and artery wall thickening. They reasoned that the more arachidonic acid a person with the gene variant ate, the more signs of heart disease they'd find. In the study, they found that people with the gene variant were particularly sensitive to the heart-clogging effects of a diet high in arachidonic acid.
But there was good news, too. People with the gene variant were also particularly sensitive to the healthy effects of diets high in fish oils. Those who ate the most of these oils were able to blunt the effects of their genetic tendency toward heart disease. They suggest: "These findings could lead to new dietary and targeted molecular approaches to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease according to genotype, particularly in populations of non-European descent."
Knowing that you have a heart disease gene variant might give you strong motivation to improve your nutrition, but even without DNA testing, eating good fats should be a good thing for intelligent, informed people to do.
The Future Hope Of “Progeria”
In this section, we move from common genetic disorders to some of the rarest, to see how they are providing us with new scientific insight into the genetics of possibly preventable premature aging.
“Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome” dramatically accelerates the rate of aging in children. Humanity is fortunate that only about 100 cases have been reported worldwide since it was first described in 1886. This form of Progeria causes a child to age about 700% faster than normal. By age 10, a Progeria child has respiratory, cardiovascular, and arthritic conditions similar to a 70-year-old senior citizen. The unique Progeria genetic blueprint causes dwarfism, wrinkled / aged skin, baldness, and a pinched nose, but they have normal brain function.
It is sad, but there is no cure or treatment for Progeria patients, and little economic motivation to develop one. We can only love these children deeply, (give them fun movie roles as space aliens), and do everything we can to make their short lives as happy a possible.
The small number of living Progeria children do give us a wonderful ongoing academic opportunity to study the genetics of accelerated aging. When we combine this with our recent exploding scientific capacity to more precisely understand the extremely complex human genome, there is real hope that in a few years advanced DNA medical science will be able to develop innovative treatments for some people suffering from a flawed genetic blueprint.
This exciting prospect gives us great hope that the short lives of today’s sweet Progeria children may lead to great improvements in the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Future generations will owe a debt of great gratitude to the contribution made by these innocent children, and to those who know and love them the most.
Genetic Engineering Concerns
All modern earthly plants, animals and humans are the result of thousands or millions of years of “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest,” in a set of competitive environment niches where more genetic variations are produced than can possibly survive. This has always been done since Homo Sapiens first existed. Individuals choose their partners (or the partners of their offspring) based on characteristics that they consider desirable. The underlying genes of the parents are passed on to later generations in greater numbers, and eventually “good genes” dominate the population. People who were resistant to the “Black Plague” lived through it, while millions of Europeans died from it. It turns out that this gene may also play a role in resistance to the frightening HIV/AIDS virus. Undesirable individuals of any species that carry ineffective genes for a particular set of environmental conditions will eventually vanish from the population, as the environment changes over time. This is a totally natural process of gradual evolution.
For centuries, humans have subjected plants and animals to “artificial selection” accelerated evolution – planting and breeding only the “best of breed” to combine their most “useful” elements, such as rapid growth and desired obesity, to increase food yield, wool growth, resistance to disease, etc. In some cases, these “domesticated” genetic variations (like fat white poultry and delicate greenhouse plants) cannot defend themselves and survive in nature, except in human-protected unnatural environments.
As humans continue to learn more about manipulating DNA, genetic research is attempting to greatly accelerate artificial selection and produce laboratory genetic mutation species, which would occur extremely rarely in nature, or perhaps not at all. Recent advances in computer hardware and software since the 1970’s are enabling new genetic experiments to be simulated in minutes or hours that could take millions of years to produce through natural selection or human-controlled breeding programs. The combination of computing science and biology is yielding surprising possibilities that were unimaginable, even a few years ago. Complex mammals have been “cloned” and serious genetic research into human cloning and laboratory genome manipulation is secretly (and publicly) going on around the world, despite strong moral opposition by many.
Genetic engineers now routinely “cut and splice” portions of DNA strands from different species together (using special-purpose enzymes) to create completely unnatural new species with unusual (and in some cases unpredictable) complex new characteristics. Some are viable, some are not. “Recombinant DNA gene splicing” is being done every week with both plant and animal DNA, and in some cases with combinations of plant and animal DNA. Religious ethics people say that we have already gone way too far.
The spectacular movie “Jurassic Park” was based largely on scientific fact, and a little bit of emotional entertainment imagination. No one knows for sure what genetic engineering may produce in the near future. We probably will not see a reconstituted T-Rex or Velociraptor next year (even though it is ultimately quite possible). However, we might encounter an accidental viral mutation or a man-made bug or bacteria that quickly kills humans, or destroys human habitat, and does not respond to any known treatment.
Some research scientists speculate that humans may have already accidentally invented deadly diseases. Is AIDS related to the development of antibiotics? It is a distinct (but unproven) possibility. Autoimmune deficiency diseases first appeared shortly after the widespread distribution of “penicillin.” Anything is within the realm of scientific possibility with uncontrolled genetic engineering. The prospect is in many ways frightening far beyond Jurassic Park.
Antibiotics were the “miracle drug” of the 1950s. Rather than being engineered under strict labatory conditions, they were accidentally discovered and refined slowly over time.
Doctors initially prescribed penicillin with reckless abandon. In some years, more than one third of all Americans received a prescription for penicillin. We now know that this was a significant medical malpractice error. When we take antibiotics, several very bad things happen. One is that antibiotics kill only part of the bad bacteria in our bodies. The ones that are left in us are naturally resistant to antibiotics. With their competition removed, they run rampant and cannot be cured with antibiotics. This is bad not only for the individual, but also for society as a whole, as new, highly-contagious, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are bred in, and spread from, the million of people who take antibiotics.
Joyful Aging certainly does NOT recommend that antibiotics be avoided altogether. When a child has a painful sore throat, a culture should be quickly taken to determine if it is a dangerous, contagious streptococci bacterial infection. Failure to do so could lead to even more serious rheumatic fever, which used to cause permanent heart valve damage before penicillin was developed. Strep throat can be quickly cured with targeted (narrow spectrum) antibiotics, but then there is another issue to deal with:
A serious problem with antibiotics is that they kill both bad and GOOD bacteria (micro flora) in our system. Documented beneficial (safe, Class I) bacteria include: Arthrobacter agilis, Arthrobacter citreus, Arthrobacter globiformis, Arthrobacter leuteus, Arthrobacter simplex, Azotobacter chroococcum, Azotobacter paspali, Azospirillum brasiliencise, Azospirillum lipoferum, Bacillus brevis, Bacillus macerans, Bacillus pumilus, Bacillus polymyxa, Bacillus subtilis, Bacteroides lipolyticum, Bacteroides succinogenes, Brevibacterium lipolyticum, Brevibacterium stationis, Kurtha zopfil, Myrothecium verrucaria, Pseudomonas calcis, Pseudomonas dentrificans, Pseudomonas flourescens, Pseudomonas glathei, Phanerochaete chrysosporium, Streptomyces fradiae, Streptomyces cellulosae, Streptomyces griseoflavus, and many others. Beneficial bacteria convert food that we eat into bioactive compounds, vitamins and nutrients that our bodies must have to remain healthy. Without them, our bodies become weaker and unhealthy.
After consuming antibiotics, our initial problem (like strep throat, etc.) may get better or be cured (for the moment, until we are re-exposed), but our overall health may decline significantly in other areas, due to depleted beneficial micro flora. Very few medical doctors have any training in the underlying cause and effect relationship or the solution. Those who do should follow a prescription for antibiotics with “probiotics” that replace the micro flora that the doctor’s antibiotic prescription destroys.
How many times have you received a prescription for an antibiotic without a recommendation for replacement healthy probiotics? Your board-certified licensed physician was obviously uninformed about this important concept. Failure to rapidly replace micro flora AFTER the use of antibiotics can unnecessarily accelerate your rate of aging.
The pharmaceutical industry does NOT promote probiotics, since they are naturally occurring life forms that cannot be patented, and therefore are not very profitable to produce. And, medical doctors receive almost no training on non-prescription natural solutions to the many serious health problems that medical doctors create every day.
Genetically Engineered Medicine
Researchers now understand how customized “retroviruses” may soon be developed that could alter a particular individual’s DNA AFTER it is conceived, and correct “undesirable” inherited genetic defects, such as serious cancer risk factors, or something as mundane as lactose intolerance, which 30% of the adult population has already inherited. Our unique DNA controls the enzymes we produce, and thus all of our inherited physical characteristics. Are there things about yourself or your children that you would change if you could?
Retroviruses and other controlled genetic laboratory manipulations have the potential to go far beyond natural or artificial selective breeding programs. They are also almost guaranteed to produce some ghastly undesirable genetic mutation surprises, when scientists try to learn what works and what does not. Some aggressive scientists will say that the risk of frightful mutations for a few will be well worth the potential for superior health for the many, just as politicians do when they wage war in the name of freedom and liberty. Other concerned individuals suggest that one bad mutation could produce a disease that could destroy most humans.
Analogy: The original developers of the atomic bomb thought that there was a possibility that they might set the earth’s atmosphere on fire and destroy our entire blue planet, but they proceeded anyway without knowing for sure what would happen. We are merely “lucky” that their doomsday atmosphere fire concern was unfounded. There was no public awareness or debate about what might have happened when the first atom bomb was tested. We did not find out until decades later about the long-term deadly consequences of radioactivity with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Now we worry about terrorists building “dirty bombs” out of pervasive radioactive waste. In the 2004 Presidential campaign, both candidates stated that nuclear proliferation was their greatest concern. Sen. Bob Graham stated that a nuclear terrorist attack inside America was “inevitable.” What new global dangers will genetic engineering create tomorrow?
Both the moral principles and the scientific mechanisms of genetic engineering topics are extremely complex with no simple solution possible. It is far beyond the understanding of voters and politicians. The issues and society’s polarization as they become more aware of (predictable) genetic engineering “accidents” will only increase emotionally and chaotically in the future.
There are valid concerns and ongoing ethical and scientific arguments about where we are going with genetic engineering. Humans have recently crossed some irreversible thresholds and opened secret doors, behind which no one can see very far. It may already be impossible to rein in and consciously redirect these new genetic technologies, though many are already trying. The polarized topic of stem cell research (with good and valid arguments on both sides) was hotly debated in the 2004 presidential campaign.
Most modern leading-edge research is funded by powerful commercial enterprises. They seem to be caught up in an ever-accelerating global crap game, where future high-risk proprietary investment decisions are measured by potential profitability, rather than the overall good of society.
When Dr. Jonas Salk developed the Polio vaccine, after many years of painstaking research, he freely donated its valuable secret to the good of mankind. Those days of scientists caring so much for a grateful society are probably gone forever. It now seems that such Godly altruism can no longer exist in America’s profit-motivated capitalistic competitive multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry.
The 2004 influenza vaccine problem is only one obvious example, due to the low profitability of vaccine production. As a result, many Americans will die unnecessary deaths from flu. What would Jonas Salk think of today’s medical / pharmaceutical industry greed, and lack of concern for the obvious public need? How will American economics, politics and society in general continue to decline in the future?
The lion's share of medical research funding goes to high-tech patentable drugs and expensive high-tech high-touch treatments, while far less investment goes to natural, low-cost, unprofitable solutions, such as globally beneficial public health initiatives like simple child nutrition and lifestyle education programs. Today’s goal is to develop inexpensive drugs that can be patented and sold for extremely high profits tomorrow. The goal includes developing drugs that people will have to take for the rest of their lives. It is a major economic mistake for a company to develop a vaccine that you only need to take once in a lifetime (as did generous Jonas Salk). What a very sad society we have created, and now we have new prescription drug legislation to further reward pharmaceutical companys for pursuing their current unhealthy economic goals.
Billions of research dollars are spent to develop and market profitable toxic pesticides, but virtually no funds go to help organic farmers, or zoning laws that make suburban sprawl inevitable and forever pollute previously pristine farmland. Our grocery store food is NOT what our grandparents ate, and some of it is now very unhealthy, though it looks like the old fashion wholesome food of yesterday with nice color and no pest damage.
Did you know that almost all grocery store oranges are “painted” orange (but really green under the paint)? Most green bananas are transported in trucks filled with a special chemical gas to unnaturally turn them the familiar yellow that consumers expect. Did you know that cheese comes from milk, which is white? Europeans think Americans must be crazy when we put dye in our cheese to make it artificially yellow, for no reason other than traditional American expectations. The average consumer’s expectations are downright dumb. Do you scan the oranges you select and reject the ones that show a little green (unpainted area) on them?
These are not self-generating phenomena. Corporations motivated by selfish profit exert their power and political influence to line their own pockets at the great expense of the majority of society. Modern drug benefit legislation now guarantees extremely-high payments to pharmaceutical companies that develop “popular” (not necessarily safe or effective) new patented drugs. Actual government decisions (made by a majority of power-hungry, self-centered, dishonest politicians) shape our society. Their decisions are influenced by profit-motivated lobbyists. This will continue to be true with the (currently unpredictable) future of genetic engineering. This is plain and simple truth, not a skeptical Luddite perspective.
We must learn to live healthy and joyfully in the world of today’s geopolitical reality. Perhaps society should support pure scientific research and those applications of our new genetic science that contribute to preventing and curing disease, while morally opposing the new “eugenics” and the post-human future that today’s techno-utopians want to be paid big bucks to bring about. Citizens have the right to their own unique opinion about genetic research funding. In America, we have the right to elect politicians who represent the opinion of the majority, and we can work to defeat those who do not, despite overwhelming political dishonesty, greed and corruption.
Albert Einstein said: "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."
Edmund Burke wrote: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"
Thomas Jefferson felt: "When the government fears the people, you have liberty. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny."
In many ways, the U.S. government approach to healthy food, medicine, lifestyle choices, public education, and the funding of valuable research and recommendations is both corrupt and tyrannical. America may in fact be the “most successful democracy that the world has ever seen”, but there is still much room for improvement.
Very few citizens feel that our elected politicians represent us well, or that our tax dollars are being spent for the betterment of society as a whole. With this writing, Joyful Aging encourages everyone to learn what you can about the controversial issues. Voice your opinion, and vote for representatives who listen to, and act on, your concerns. Do not be apathetic or just vote for the lesser of two evils. This is the only possible path to the true liberty that our nation is based upon. Don’t hesitate to support a superior third party candidate.
Margaret Mead wisely said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."
Only a few years ago, no credible scientist thought seriously about cloning humans. The topic was not on any politician’s agenda. Cloning and human gene manipulation were thought to be decades away from being remotely feasible, and likely to be discouraged for reasons that range from religious ethics to raw fear of the unlimited unknown potential consequences.
When Dolly the sheep was cloned (a higher level mammal, like humans), and the first complete Human Genome Project mapping was completed, the tone in the scientific and popular press radically changed. Suddenly, respected voices spoke out as though human cloning and the genetic "improvement" of embryos were both desirable and inevitable.
The advocacy of “human eugenics” (improvement of superior race hereditary qualities) became strictly taboo after the WW II Holocaust. Eugenics is now reemerging in a new form, not as a Nazi totalitarian genocide-and-breeding policy, but as a modern, freely chosen, consumer-and-profit-motivated “right” to have the "best possible healthy child”, with no genetic defects.
Should we restrict those people with “inferior or flawed genes” from breeding (as Hitler tried to do)? Should we develop a “retrovirus” to correct inherited genetic defects if we can? Should we abort a flawed or “inferior” fetus before it is born (as is commonly being done today after “amniocentesis”)?
Should our children all have blond hair and blue eyes? Should parents be able to select the sex of their child (as is already being done in countries that restrict the birth rate)? Where will it all lead?
What is the boundary between good and evil? What will we see in our own lifetimes? How soon will the “truth” of genetic engineering mechanisms, motives and madness become known by the general public? Will we debate the issues before or after the fact? Will our elected officials represent our personal desires?
Some of science fiction will soon become fact, just as surely as we now have a used car lot on the moon. But, what have we overlooked as a society that has already opened Pandora’s box?
Our world is now changing more rapidly than ever before in human history. Some things are better, but many are worse. Some things that the Bible calls an “abomination” have become popular and politically correct. Very few people can read the newest signs of the times and reliably predict what may happen to us in less than one or two generations.
Modern technology lets us study which genes specify the code for which human characteristics. We can now either cut and splice them out of embryo DNA directly, or identify embryos with these genes and terminate them before they are born. Emotions about whether or not this should be done run high. Outrageous zealots have murdered adults, to protect the rights of the unborn.
The successors to today’s genetic engineering technology may have a more profound effect on humanity than any other technology we have seen to date (including computers and the Internet). Technology will force communities to address what humanity is, and what a human is or should be. Even if we decide that certain types of genetic experiments should not be done on humans, the technology will be developed anyway. It will happen because corporations who fund expensive genetic research are motivated by greed. It will happen by stealthy subtle steps, because each small step along the way will be justified on humanitarian grounds, like incremental stem cell research.
Few people would disapprove of a technology that allows children with significant deformities to be cured before they are born, so the first wave of experimentation is likely to allow this. It may only take a few crippled persons shouting at politicians: “Why did you block the research which would have prevented this from happening to me” for such legislation to be passed by others. Any democratic legislature, which prevents genetic researchers from eliminating deformities, will not last very long.
The most prominent, and perhaps the most acceptable, reason given for genetic engineering is its potential use in preventative medicine. A few cells from an embryo can be genetically analyzed to detect harmful mutations or predisposition towards genetic illness. The next wave of genetic research will include culling children with gross abnormalities, which is already happening (“We are certain that your fetus has Downs Syndrome. You surely don’t want to take it to full term, do you?”).
The next step for today’s reality into believable science fiction may be similar selection of a number of possible offspring, based genetic traits learned form extension to the successful Human Genome Project (“This zygote will be born blind, this one will have red hair and be left handed, and this one will have a heated temper. Do you want to use one of these, or should we start again with another batch?”).
Then we could see recombinant DNA gene spliced designer babies, which will contain the most desirable genes of the parents, with genes from other admirable people mixed in, where neither parent had DNA that they felt was good enough. This is this believable technology of tomorrow’s Jurassic Park genetic engineers.
Along the way there are likely to be some dreadful mistakes made. Sci fi writers long ago warned us about the potential mutant defects and gross abnormalities that are possible when we play with DNA. In the short term, a few spectacular accidents will surely make the technology temporarily unviable, just as did accidents in the Space Program. But, genetic engineering technology will slowly improve quietly in the laboratory, and most of the above things seem inevitable in the lifetime of many of today’s casual observers. Since the birth of Dolly, society has suddenly entered into a brave new world of unprecedented genetic engineering possibilities.
We can reliably predict that the modern human population growth rate is exponential. Earth’s natural resources, our food, our environment and lifestyle choices are being heavily impacted by unprecedented numbers of people, pollution, and by our pervasive new technologies.
Do we really want to double human life expectancy and further add to earth’s burden? Or, do we want to control population growth rate (as some overcrowded nations are already trying to do with mandated birth rate policies). Should we legislate which genetic traits can be bred, and which should be terminated and not allowed?
Who should have access to human genetic engineering of their offspring, and who should not? Must new technology be restricted, or only made available to the rich and powerful? Just as society cannot reach consensus about abortion, we will never all agree about many of the never-before-considered issues of tomorrow’s genetic engineering.
Many of us are very certain that Moore’s Law will continue in electronics (ever cheaper, faster and more pervasive intelligent computerized electronic gadgets). Today’s computers are many thousands of times more powerful than those of only twenty years ago. Many Joyful Aging readers have lived through the result of moving from 1 million instructions per second (1 MIPS) primitive personal computers to today's 3,000+ MIPS commodity machines at many local discount stores.
Frivolous computer applications that were unthinkable uses of computing power are now pervasive or even passé on today’s small, inexpensive thinking machines, which is some ways enhance the human intellectual potential (and in some ways cause our intellect to atrophy). Our mobile telephones now have digital cameras and video games. Inexpensive computers that will be readily available by 2010 will be 1,000 times more powerful those in use in 2005.
Try to imagine the countless potential applications of trillions of instructions per second and terabytes of data storage on a tiny finger-nail-sized chip by 2010. Imagine wearing a $100 video camera that can continuously record EVERYTHING you see and hear in an entire lifetime. Now apply the same thinking to tomorrow’s advances in genetic engineering, which has already been greatly enhanced and accelerated by recent advances in computing technology.
What will the next few years of genetic engineering do to tomorrow’s offspring? Now that mammals have been cloned and we have used computerized new-millennium robotics to document the complete human genome, is there a hidden exponential “Moore’s Law of Genetic Engineering” just waiting to be discovered and exploited tomorrow? The answer is an obvious YES, but what are its consequences? We are much like the first users of hand calculators were in the 1960’s, when we sent men to the moon with little more than mechanical slide rules.
Are we (as an uninformed society) as short-sighted today about our genetically-modified future as engineers, entrepreneurs, and the general public were just before the invention of: hand calculators, PC’s, the Internet, pervasive sloppy microsoftware, spam, computer viruses and techno-terrorists? The boundless analogies of what tomorrow may look like are much larger than the collective human imagination. No one can see it all, but many of the foundational trends are already in place, just as Moore’s Law was in the 1960’s. At least some of what may happen tomorrow is predictable.
Genetic engineering has given large corporations profitable, new, pharmaceutical patents, but the long-term impact of many modern drugs is yet unknown. Consider Vioxx, Thalidomide, etc. We do know that many “approved” patented medications have been removed from the marketplace, after needlessly killing thousands of people who trusted board-certified medical doctors when they prescribed risky new medicines. Today’s most-popular prescription drug is directly linked to sudden death in thousands of people, only hours after taking it, yet it remains readily available to millions (and the subject of countless spam scams).
With all of the research money that is now pouring into expensive, risky, patent medicine, we have yet to fully investigate many non-patentable, God-given, natural alternative treatments and lifestyle changes. Pill pushing quacks prey on desperate people who are displeased with mainstream medicine. And, government agencies STILL do not check to see if our foods, and food supplements, contain what their label claims, or that the products on our grocery store shelves do not contain toxins, or are good or bad for us to eat.
Pandora’s New Pantry
More than 70% of modern American food has already been altered by genetic engineering. It may now be nearly impossible to avoid unnatural mutant food, even if it is grown on an “all organic” farm. Yet, we don’t have a clue about its long-term impact on our world. We know for sure that strong winds have uncontrollably spread genetically engineered pollen around our globe. Organic farmers have lost their customers when genetically altered DNA was discovered in their carefully grown vegetables.
Concerned researchers have recently documented that some genetically engineered plants are killing some types of animals, and making many others much weaker and susceptible to disease. Mutant food and known deadly toxins are being recycled throughout the environment and food chain - from grains to meats and fish to humans. Everyone is at risk - from the strictest “organic only” vegans, to those with carnivorous hamburger habits.
No one has an economic incentive to warn the general public about what is going on, and our mandated food labels do not even require genetically altered foods to be tested or noted. Earth’s delicate balance has been irreversibly upset, and we know not what we have done to our own future.
Man / Machine Integration Evolution
Animal brain tissue has already been connected to robotic thinking-and-learning machines. Nanotechnology robotics, biology, genetic engineering, medicine, information sciences, artificial intelligence and cognitive sciences are all combining in surprising new ways in a profit-motivated drive to create tomorrow’s technology products as rapidly as possible, with little or no public debate (or even awareness of what has already taken place).
What will be the ultimate result of human genome man/machine reengineering? How will the rock-stable straight line of “Moore’s Law of Exponential Computer Power Growth” interact with tomorrow’s explosion of genetic engineering and long-life man-made unpredictable intelligent life forms? Science fiction authors and moviemakers have generated billions of dollars by making the emotional possibilities believable for multitudes, but what will actually appear in next year’s news reports? What will all of us do when it does ? ??
Consider the following real world problems that are already being investigated by a few genetic engineers.
The name comes from doctor John Langdon Down, who first described the condition in 1866. In 1959, Professor Lejeune proved that Down's Syndrome (DS) is a “genetic condition” caused by the presence of an extra chromosome. DS (also called Trisomy 21) is now known to be an abnormality of DNA chromosome 21. Most of the time, DS is not an inherited disorder. Two healthy parents can have a child with DS. It is also possible for two DS parents to have a child without DS.
For every 1,000 babies born, one will predictably have DS. It occurs in families from all social, economic, cultural, religious and racial backgrounds. DS adults can on average expect to live to between 40 and 60 years of age, but there are more differences between people with DS than there are similarities. They have many of their families' distinctive physical characteristics and therefore resemble their brothers and sisters. They also have features shared by others with DS. They have varying degrees of learning difficulties.
The human body consists of trillions of cells that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Every human cell nucleus contains DNA with 23 chromosomes from the father and 23 from the mother (that is 23 chromosome pairs, a total of 46 “autosomes”), wound together like a twisted zipper.
(In contrast, dogs have only 40 autosomes and chimpanzees have 48 autosomes, which are very similar to the corresponding human autosomes. The genetic material in two chimp chromosomes is compressed into only one human chromosome. Humans probably did not evolve from chimps, but we most likely had a common ancestor that is no longer living. Tiny mosquito cells have room for only 6 autosomes, whereas the black mulberry has 308 chromosomes, and some simple protozoa have over 800. The structure and content of DNA controls the diversity of all life on the earth. The number of chromosomes is not the only issue, since a small deer found in Taiwan’s mountainous regions, called the “Chinese Muntjac,” has 46 autosomes, as do humans. The Dog Genome Project, based on technology developed for the Human Genome Project, is now studying genetic similarities and lower disease resistance that can be created by pedigreed inbreeding within dog families. The Dog Genome Project has already led to improved dog health, and should provide genetic disease understanding for humans that is difficult to gather, due to the historical diversity of random human interracial cross breeding.)
Chromosomes, and the many genes and nucleotide sequences within each chromosome, carry the blueprint for enzyme production, which influences all of the physical characteristics that can be inherited within one species.
A person with Downs Syndrome has an extra chromosome number 21 – a total of 47 autosomes in all. This DNA mutation results in a disruption of normal growth, and usually produces a viable child with DNA that is not exactly like other humans.
The extra DS chromosome can come from either the mother or the father, and is present because of a genetic accident when the egg or the sperm is created, or during the initial cell division following conception, (i.e. when the egg and sperm fuse and them begin “mitosis”).
There are 3 different types of DS:
1. 95% of DS people have standard trisomy 21. This is always an accident of nature. It can happen to anyone and the reason for it is still unknown.
2. Approximately 1 in 100 people with Down's syndrome have inherited the condition from their mother or their father because of a genetic anomaly called a “translocation.”
3. The third type of DS is also rare. It is called “mosaic DS.”
For reasons not yet fully understood, the statistical chance of any woman having a DS child increases with her age, particularly after 35 years. The age of the father appears to be much less significant. Modern doctors often offer older mothers the option of performing “amniocentesis.” This is a technique of sampling the DNA of an unborn fetus and testing for genetic traits and abnormalities. The mother is then given the option of terminating her pregnancy if the predictable result is undesirable.
Pro-Life supporters find this practice offensive and want it made illegal. Pro-Choice people support the mother’s right to make such informed decisions. These two religious, emotional, political factions can never be brought together with a compromise of value systems. There are many productive DS individuals living happy lives today who are glad that their mother did not kill them in the womb. There are other low-function DS people who are abandoned by their frustrated parents and become the (unhappy) wards of state government institutions.
Genetic research and the outgrowth of the successful Human Genome Project are adding new options for amniocentesis culling of fetuses, for reasons other than genetic abnormalities. The number of genes that are understood is increasing rapidly with new scientific research. We can accurately predict that the number of reasons for culling will continue to increase in the future. Hitler would have loved what genetic engineers are doing today.
The next question is: How soon before genetic engineers will develop a “retrovirus” (or similar technique) that can remove the abnormal DS 47th chromosome early in a new pregnancy (or create an environment where it cannot happen in the first place)? When they do (which may happen soon), should this procedure be made routinely available to women over 35 who want to reduce the risk of having a DS baby? Should the government subsidize the procedure for those who cannot afford it? Or, should only poor people with deeply held emotional religious convictions bear the burden of raising DS children, when all that they really wanted was a healthy happy baby to love?
WS is a rare inherited genetic disease with symptoms that resemble premature aging. WS is one of several human “progerias,” which are considered partial models to help genetic research scientists study many of the complex processes involved in premature human aging, and the reason for ultimate death.
During adolescence and early adult life, people with WS develop a diverse array of age-related diseases including: arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), malignant neoplasms (new growth of tissues that serve no beneficial function), cancerous tumors, type II (age onset) diabetes mellitus, ocular cataracts, osteoporosis, and the many cascading complications of these dissimilar disease processes.
These individuals generally have an aged appearance including early skin wrinkling, graying and loss of hair. The gene responsible for WS (known as the Werner helicase “WRN gene”) has been identified and cloned by researchers funded by The National Institute on Aging (Yu et al., Science 4/12/96).
The normal WRN gene produces an enzyme involved in DNA metabolism and repair. Several signs of defective DNA metabolism have been identified in cells obtained from WS patients. The consequences of the defective WRN gene mutation may be related to the accumulation of DNA damage in the cells of people with WS leading to the premature development of age-related diseases.
It is hoped that WS research, combined with other input from the new millennium Human Genome Project, will soon produce new treatments for a variety of genetic defects that adversely accelerate the human aging process.
Let’s briefly discuss the DNA cellular reproduction process involved in Werners Syndrome. The enzyme protein produced by the defective WRN gene is present in the “nucleolus” (inside the cell nucleus).
The chromosomes in the nucleolus contain a special type of DNA called rDNA, which has codes for making ribosomes, cellular protein factories. Research results (by Sinclair and Guarente Cell, Vol. 91) showed small circular fragments of rDNA in old cells. In this age-related ring form, the rDNA can replicate quickly and abnormally monopolize and overload the cell’s replication factory.
It has been suggested that the accumulation of these rings may be part of “The Molecular Clock,” where after a certain number of cell divisions the normal chromosomes stop replicating, cell division ceases, and rapid age-related decline takes place. The normal WRN gene may be capable of slowing accumulation of the rDNA ring production, but when the gene is mutated, as in Werners Syndrome, the cellular aging clock accelerates and longevity decreases.
Another reason why cells are thought to stop growing lies in the reduction of chromosome length as the cells divide. The replication of DNA helps decide the fate of cellular division, senescence or suicide.
A protein (telomerase) protects the natural end of chromosomes (telomeres) and is present in the embryo when cells are rapidly dividing and exponentially increasing in number. There is an approximate relationship between the age of an individual and the length of the telomeres (the DNA in older individuals is generally shorter). However, the rate of reduction of chromosome length (DNA aging) can vary significantly from one individual to the next.
To help understand telomere aging, imagine a roll of tape that contains a coded message written on its sticky side. To read the tape, it has to be unwound. Folding over the end of the tape will make this a lot easier. If every time the tape is unwound, the end is damaged and a new fold over is made, the tape will get shorter and shorter, until eventually the end of message on the tape is destroyed.
The telomere ends of chromosomes contain non-coding, protective, repetitive, redundant elements of DNA, which act like a buffer that prevents the loss of essential coded DNA information during cellular reproduction (biological mitosis). But eventually, when telomerase in not present in a mature adult, a critical point is reached as the telomere buffer is incrementally used up. When this predetermined point is reached, the DNA says, "stop reproducing me, I’m too old." The cell ceases to divide correctly. If it continues to reproduce, then essential genes will be snipped off, resulting in damaged, mutant new cells with incomplete or inaccurate genetic information (which may in some cases result in cancerous mutations and other types of unhealthy replacement cells). Thus, “eukaryotic” chromosomes (in cells that can reproduce themselves through mitosis) have a finite number of times that they can divide before the essential DNA message can no longer produce healthy new replacement cells.
The level of telomerase varies with age, and the maximum number of cellular reproduction cycles also varies widely with type of cell. Our stomach lining is constantly being digested and replaces itself about four times each day. Blood cells must be replaced every fifteen days or so. Cells that have a high replacement rate obviously must have the ability to reproduce many more times (without losing essential DNA information) than do cell types that reproduce less frequently. One partial explanation is the level of telomerase in diverse type of cells in our bodies.
Many cells live much longer than others (like the stomach lining which lasts a few hours and blood cells that last fifteen days). In contrast, neurons (central nervous system connections, sensors and brain cells) typically do not reproduce (under normal circumstances after embryo gestation). The neurons that you have today were (for the most in part) in place when you were born. What value will there be in having a good complexion with healthy organs, muscles and bones, if we have permanently damaged our irreplaceable central nervous system, brain, sensory nerves and motor control paths with toxins, alcohol, and preventable neurodegenerative diseases?
The sheep named Dolly (the first cloned large mammal) began life with partially-aged DNA (shortened telomere buffers from her one parent), and therefore, Dolly did not live the normal life expectancy of an average sheep. Until the complex secrets of telomeres are understood well enough to manipulate them (at least years in the future, if ever), cloning of mammals will be impractical, risky and obviously unhealthy for the genetically flawed offspring.
Modern science does not yet know how to clone mammals and restore their telomeres to that of a sexually produced infant with two healthy biological parents. This recently-documented cloning problem places strong skepticism on those who naively believe that we are now ready to begin routine cloning large mammals (including humans). It may happen one day (if science learns how to deal with the scientific, moral and legal issues), but humanity is currently incapable of doing what nature has been doing for countless millennia.
Scientists can now successfully clone many plants and lower life forms and use recombinant DNA gene splicing to manipulate their inherent characteristics, but today’s mammal cloning process is clearly flawed. If (when) scientists learn how to extend the telomeres in a clone (perhaps with a retrovirus, discussed above), it is conceivable that a similar treatment could one day extend the telomerase, telomeres and lifespan of a mature adult, but that does not seem to be in our immediate future (yet).
Is our potential lifespan predetermined at the moment of conception? We know that the “Molecular Clock Theory” is interesting, but it is obviously oversimplified. Environment and lifestyle choices are well known to affect our potential lifespan. A purely cellular description of aging is insufficient for a complex multicellular organism, especially mammals. But, genetic research scientists and the Human Genome Project have begun to provide us with some subtle hints and clues about the truth behind normal and abnormal aging, and our ultimate unpreventable death.
Environmental effects such as exposure to common toxins, pesticides, preservatives, free radicals, unnatural (not fully understood) new patented prescription medicines, excess body fat, high blood sugar, etc. can lead to premature cellular aging and a shortened life expectancy. Free Radicals are well known to directly cause cellular mutations and DNA damage, leading to cancer and other deadly diseases. In contrast, overproduction of superoxide dismutase (SOD - a protein that scavenges harmful free radicals) has been experimentally shown to contribute to extended longevity in fruit flies.
The SGS1 gene (found in humans and in food yeasts) functions much like the WRN gene. Manipulating SGS1 mutations can significantly increase or decrease the life span of food yeasts in controlled laboratory experiments. Another gene, when mutated, enables worms to live up to fifty percent longer. Such experiments are not known to have been conducted on humans (yet).
It is thought that longevity-enhancing genes are involved in slowing metabolism, although the exact mechanism of extended longevity is not fully understood. A lower metabolic rate means that cells sustain age-related damage less rapidly, because there is a slower build up of internally produced toxic metabolic substances. This theory also helps explain why excessive stress (in various different physical and mental forms) appears to accelerate aging, but we also know that regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise, which clearly accelerates metabolism, also reduces risk factors for many deadly diseases.
We also know that when people retire, the elimination of the stress of getting up and going to work can result in a sedentary lifestyle, which can detrimentally accelerate atrophication and aging. There seems to be a delicate balance necessary between too little and too much stress, to maximize healthy, happy longevity. Self image and an enthusiastic, motivating “joy of life” interact in complex ways with our physiology, metabolism, and immune system to greatly influence our longevity, health and happiness. (See Psychoneuroimmunology)
The ability to replicate undamaged DNA is important to sustain a healthy multi-cell (eukaryotic) organism like that in all mammals. Cells have conditional mechanisms to prevent their own replication, and thus to “commit suicide,” if-and-when they are “too old” and not in a state that is fit enough to be reproduced. When working properly, these mechanisms can prevent some types of old-ir-mutant cells from surviving and forming neoplasms and malignant tumors. When damaged DNA does produce mutant cells, a healthy immune system can purge the foreign cell, but this defensive capability diminishes with age. It can also become overloaded by the exponential growth of cells with some types of mutant DNA, in the same way that our immune system can be overwhelmed by a rapidly reproducing influenza virus, etc.
White blood cells are an extremely important element of the human immune system. They attack and kill foreign and mutant cells in the blood stream. Like all eukaryotic cells, white blood cells must have the telomerase protein to protect the telomere ends of DNA chromosomes during mitosis. Low levels of telomerase, or too many reproduction cycles (during long periods of fighting disease, inflammation, free radicals, toxins, etc.) will damage the white blood cell telomeres and eventually result in imperfect, weak or useless white blood cells, allowing cancer and many other diseases and infections to overwhelm the body. Since the cycle type for blood cell replacement is only fifteen days, the cascading decline rate is exponential and it may be only take a few months after telomere depletion before having a deadly immune deficiency result.
I hope that the above information has made it very clear that protecting telomeres is extremely important to healthy happy, Joyful Aging. In a three-decade-long observational history, the "Bogalusa Heart Study” found an interesting link between excess body fat and premature death – the white blood cells of overweight people are shorter (have aged faster) than those of people who are not overweight.
Clearly, it is easy to observe that there are very few obese people who live well into their advanced years. Excess body fat impairs and overwhelms insulin receptors, resulting in diabetes and other deadly diseases. Clearly, people who do not control their blood will surely sugar age much faster, and die much earlier, than those who eat correctly and exercise properly.
But now, scientific research has explained yet another mechanism whereby being overweight (as are most Americans) directly causes premature aging of white blood cells, and devastating immune system deficiency, which will surely result in early death by forms of disease that a healthy immune system can prevent.
In the future, if cells can be manipulated genetically by boosting the levels of substances (like telomerase protein) that keep them virile and dividing properly, then maybe many individuals will one day be able to live longer, healthier, more productive and rewarding lives. But, there is the underlying concern that such a cellular-life-extending approach may also accelerate the growth and spread of some mutant forms of cancer, which would normally die out on their own. Surely, serious genetic engineering errors will be made before we have a mature understanding of the underlying cellular biology.
Recently, researchers extended the lifespan of human fibroblast cells (a type of skin cell) by using “recombinant DNA gene splicing” (with enzymes that cut and paste DNA chains) to create reproduced fibroblast cells with the gene to produce telomerase, (which extends their maximum potential number of mitosis reproduction cycles, Science, Vol. 279). There is hope that one day genetic scientists may eventually develop a flawless form of this type of innovative treatment that could be applied to living humans and many more of us will live to 120, or even longer.
Stem cell research is considering new neuron growth possibilities, but for now it is far from widespread practical medical application. There is optimistic scientific speculation that genetic engineering will eventually be able to trigger new cell replacement (for spinal cord injuries, brain damage, neuropathy, diabetes, etc.), but this is still a complex unresolved biological technology. It seems likely that genetic engineers will be able to extend the life expectancy of non-neural cells, long before we can replace large numbers of neurons damaged by disease, traumatic accidents and poor lifestyle choices. It is far better to do what we can to reduce our rate of aging, and prevent cellular damage, than to try to repair irreversible permanent brain damage, etc.
One important message about critical lifestyle choices is that it is far better to intentionally avoid known carcinogens (like smoking and alcohol), and to eat and exercise properly in order to PREVENT countless deadly diseases, than it is to hope that exotic genetic medicines will one day cure the bad habits that we have today.
Studies suggest that only three percent of Americans honestly think that they consistently eat and exercise correctly, and many of them are misinformed about what proper nutrition and exercise involve. There is enormous potential to extend longevity and improve quality of life by merely improving education about voluntary lifestyle choices. We cannot expect corrupt government agencies, or profit-motivated corporations to voluntarily facilitate the significant changes. It comes down to individual knowledge about the difference between right and wrong, and personal responsibility to change bad habits into good ones.
A Quick Review Of DNA and High School Biology
At the moment of our egg-plus-sperm conception, we inherit our unique lifetime genetic blueprint from our two parents (unless we are an identical twin or a future clone). Genetic defects can be inherited from either or both of our parents. If we inherit the same genetic defect from both parents, it can often more-than-double the risk of developing a serious disease.
Genetic defects may also be extremely-small “gene mutations.” There is a critical time window immediately after conception when a gene mutation can occur in a stem cell (caused by an environmental toxin, “free radical,” “cosmic ray,” radiation treatment, prescription-or-illegal drug, pollution, smoking, alcohol, etc.) that can result in a gene defect that neither one of our parents possess. This is rare in terms of percentage, but it probably happens frequently in terms of total numbers, as our global population adds over quarter million new babies every day, some with random genetic birth defects.
Some gene mutations produce a non-viable embryo that spontaneously aborts. A small percentage results in viable-but-deformed babies (such as Downs Syndrome). Some gene mutations may be subtle and hide a dormant deadly disease that may emerge decades in the future (such as hemochromatosis).
Some genetic combinations or mutations can also result in children that are more successful (in an ever-changing environment) than either of the two parents (as Darwin suggested). Such successful offspring should pass their good genes on to future generations.
For example, when the black plague ravaged Europe, it eliminated less hearty individuals and preserved those that were genetically resistant to it, which enhanced the longevity of countless future successful generations. When the less resistant died, they ceased to consume resources, which then became available to the more successful generations. Something similar is happening today with HIV/AIDS, smoking, drinking, obesity, hygiene, and driving without a seat belt. Those who are intelligent enough to avoid deadly “diseases” will survive and raise more successful offspring than those who ignore healthy lifestyle choices. If mother dies in a car wreck, while talking on her cell phone and not wearing a seat belt (as many mothers do every week), then perhaps her family will learn how important proper lifestyle choices really are.
This form of “survival of the fittest” is not mere theoretical speculation. Regardless of your religious convictions, the historical observation of the impact of the black plague in improving the overall population’s resistance to disease is absolute irrefutable scientific fact.
Today, some people with the hearty black-plague-resistant genetic blueprint have been exposed to the potentially deadly HIV virus and yet they never develop full-blown AIDS. The danger is that they can be (knowing or undiagnosed) HIV carriers and quietly transfer this insidious virus to less hearty, indiscriminate (ignorant) individuals, who will age prematurely and eventually die a slow painful death with a disabled immune system.
Over half a million Americans have already died from AIDS. Millions of individuals are currently infected with at least the early stages of HIV. With few exceptions, most cases of HIV / ADIS are transmitted by poor lifestyle choices (of lovers, mothers, careless healthcare individuals, deviants, criminals, poor hygiene, etc.). The sin of killing a person you love seems difficult to forgive.
DNA is in the nucleus of every living human cell that makes up every tissue and organ in our entire body. The cells in the heart, muscles, bones, eyes, brain, hair, etc. of an infant all contain the same DNA genetic blueprint, yet somehow they know whether what type of cell they should become. One theory suggests that the development of an embryo’s primitive spinal cord tells stem cells the difference between muscles, bones, eyes, fingers and toes. Morally controversial stem cell research is considering how to activate stem cells to repair damage to the spinal column and many other previously impossible types of healing, repair and body part replacement. Recent legislation attempted to limit or eliminate stem cell research along the lines of human cloning experiments, but all forms of stem cell research contributes to foundational scientific knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.
We do not get to pick our parents, but luckily, most humans inherit a genetic blueprint for a reasonably healthy mind and body. It is what we do with our genetic blueprint as students and adults that will ultimately influence our health, longevity and happiness.
Our nucleic acid contains the specific instructions for lifelong cellular “mitosis” (reproductive growth by cellular DNA replication), production of biochemical enzymes and body building proteins. DNA precisely determines the complex differences between the unique living cells found in humans, chimpanzees, fish, birds, dinosaurs, plants and all known forms of simple and complex life on earth.
The normal human genetic blueprint consists of 23 chromosomes (somewhat randomly selected) from our father’s sperm and 23 chromosomes from our mother’s egg (except for Down’s Syndrome children that have a total of 47 chromosomes).
The same two parents may produce many different offspring with widespread genetic variations. Despite billions of human beings, the statistical probability against two of them being exact genetic duplicates is astronomically high (except for identical twins or clones). Anyone can have minor genetic mutations that differ from both parents.
Each of our chromosomes is made up of complex information genes. Binary zeroes and ones represent digital computer codes, but each DNA gene is represented by combinations of four different chemical “nucleotide” messengers: cytosine, adenine, thymine or guanine (C, A, T or G). A single gene is made up of multiple nucleotides. The number of nucleotides per gene and genes per chromosome varies by gene position. A single gene can have many possible CATG gene state variations (much more than binary). Some gene states (like those that influence hair or eye color) are common and considered normal, while other genes can carry serious disease-causing mutations.
As a direct result of the new millennium completion of the Human Genome Project, we now know that there are about 30,000 (at least 29,550) genes in every normal human cell. We know precisely what their nucleotide states are in a few individuals.
Our individual 30,000-gene values account for 100% of all “inherited” differences between billions of humans. 98% of human genes are an exact match with chimpanzees. Therefore, only about 600 genes account for the huge differences between humans and chimps. Even fewer genes account for all genetic differences between individual humans. It is truly amazing that so much diverse information is stored in so few genes, and that it fits in every tiny microscopic cell in our bodies.
This new millennium Human Genome Project news surprised many scientists who were incorrectly convinced that inherited genetics were much more important than we now know they really are. The Internet is still littered with recent class notes from top medical university courses that incorrectly proclaim more than 100,000 human genes.
Lifestyle Choices: We now know that all of the significant non-genetic differences between individual humans are based on (1) environmental factors, (2) learned behaviors, (3) diversity of lifetime experiences, and (4) daily lifestyle choices (like nutrition, exercise, mental attitude / activity / knowledge, etc.).
For the most part, humans never have been the total slaves of our DNA, since for most of us, our agile and powerful brain gives us the ability to adapt and change many of our non-genetic characteristics and behaviors. The “placebo effect” (see psychoneuroimmunology) clearly documents that our mind has direct control over many subconscious healing and growth processes, which most humans do not begin to understand at the conscious level.
Genetics influence height, but so do nutrition and exercise. Among genetic twins, one may become a criminal, alcoholic, smoker, overweight, chronically ill, or homosexual, and the other one have no such tendency. Behavioral similarities between genetic twins significantly decrease when they are raised in very different environments.
In direct conflict with those who thought that most of our behavioral characteristics are predetermined by unique genetics, we now know that there simply are not enough genes in human DNA to account for most human behavioral differences.
As adults, we are to a large degree the product of our own personal decisions, which are controlled by our knowledge and mental images, all of which can be altered through the process of “lifelong learning in an ever expanding universe of possibilities.”
Our parents may have smoked, but that does not mean that we are genetically predisposed to smoke. The same is true of most human behavior differences. Smoking was a stupid behavior that was glamorized by Hollywood decades ago. We have no genetic need for the byproducts of incomplete combustion, which only accelerates aging, disease and painful death.
We are NOT merely the product of our parents’ genes. We are not merely what our teachers taught us, or our managers wrote on our performance reviews. We are not forced to eat what the local grocer or fast food shack offers. We need not become what politicians or corporations want us to be to support their selfish desires.
We all have free will. We can study, learn and change our worst habits that lead to unhealthy, unhappy lifestyles.
“We are what we imagine. All that we will become begins with our imagination. With our images we create the world.” (Buddha three millennia ago.) This scientific fact is the foundational hope offered by the enlightening material found on JoyfulAging.com – by knowing more, we can improve our longevity, health and happiness, regardless of our DNA.
Inherited genetics clearly play a role in a few diseases (like DS), but we have direct control over MOST of the factors that will determine our longevity, quality of life, behavior and happiness – if we only search for the elusive knowledge of the difference between what is “good for us” versus what is bad, AND we chose to do the good and avoid the bad (which the great masses of the mediocre majority do not). How very sad it is when we frequently hear: “I know I shouldn’t, but…” Such people fully deserve the damage they continue to do to themselves.
The inherited lifetime growth patterns of all humans are defined by multifaceted CATG nucleotide data in our 30,000 genes. Two disparate fields of science are converging to deal with this complex new field of knowledge: (1) human genetic biology and (2) leading-edge computing science. The resulting innovative “think tank” union promises to produce an explosion of new, useful knowledge that will sever future humans from many of the limitations of our genetic heritage, and eventually transform our offspring in countless ways that we cannot yet begin to imagine.
In only a few decades, we may have injectable enzymes, retroviruses, etc. that selectively alter disease-causing DNA genes after conception. The long-term potential of this technology is difficult to comprehend, although many science fiction authors have tried. Yesterday’s sci fi is rapidly becoming tomorrow’s perplexing reality, with many moral and political issues yet to be resolved.
A new breed of dual-talented research scientists has recently emerged. Many call themselves “computational biologists.” Their efforts are revealing how a few genes precisely control our susceptibility to common and rare diseases, and how we cannot only cure ourselves, but eventually, we may learn how to transcend flawed human nature and condition.
Today, genetic research scientists can modify nucleic acid in the laboratory by using special purpose enzymes to “cut and splice” pieces of long DNA strands from different individuals, to achieve desired genetic blueprint characteristics, (called “recombinant DNA gene splicing”). Humans have done similar things with selective breeding for thousands of years. Genetic engineering is merely doing it in the laboratory much faster.
Today is only a science fiction-to-fact beginning. We now understand how future generations may soon elect to eliminate genetic defects from their offspring, and thus from their children's children. In this way, we may revolutionize evolution and the essential fabric of all mankind, which is woven from a great many threads.
This new knowledge has already been applied to innovative plant and animal foods, and to some of our medicines. The pollen from genetically modified corn, etc. has been blown around the world by global air currents. Most Americans have already consumed genetically altered products without realizing it. Optimists believe that tomorrow’s bioengineering will be used to make our food and children healthier and better suited to their ever-expanding environment, but the potential impact is unprecedented and impossible to predict with certainty.
In the 1970’s, when “recombinant DNA gene splicing” first entered the human vocabulary, doubters and doomsayers denounced it, while government agencies and ethical study groups were quick to devise guidelines outlawing the creation of "improved" human beings. But, legislators may soon discover that genetic information and bioengineering is just as hard to control as any other form of computerized data. In the long term, people may be able to make their own choices - humanity and life on earth will never be the same. The tools are in place and the process of using them to do unprecedented things has begun.
If you were painfully dying of an inherited disease, would you consider being injected with a bioengineered substance that could forever eliminate the disease from your body? Pharmaceutical companies have no economic incentive to develop such a substance, since their goal is to develop treatments of symptoms that you are required to take (at least until their patent runs out). But, suppose such a substance was bioengineered (like the one-time polio vaccine) – Would you take it?
What if your child is suffering from a debilitating degenerative disease inherited from you our your spouse? Suppose you know that most of your ancestors have inherited a life-shortening agonizing disease. Would you be willing to have one single gene of your future offspring specifically altered to ensure that the disease was not passed on? What if the probability of success was 99%? One percent of a quarter million new babies per day would ONLY be 25,000 genetic defects per day (9 million per year). Is “genetic perfection” worth the risk of an optimistic 99% success rate?
The $3 BILLION leading-edge “Human Genome Research Project” (coordinated by the U.S. National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland) recently completed documenting all human genes (in one unique individual). It is not a comprehensive study of the genetic diversity of all healthy and diseased human individuals, but enthusiastic futurists feel that this foundation of genetic understanding is an essential starting point for many happier, healthier tomorrows. This project spawned the robotic technology to greatly accelerate study of unique individual DNA.
Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection can download the publicly funded Human Genome Project information. However, genetic research scientists still do not know exactly what each tiny gene nucleotide does (yet). It humbles all of us to realize that the DNA human genome blueprint information, (which occupies almost a gigabyte of modern computer hard disk space), is concisely and precisely stored in every cell that defines the entire human body. Surely, something much greater than the modern human intellect set all of this in motion.
Each gene has the complete chemical information required to make one “polypeptide” (3-D linked chain of amino acids), which are the “building blocks” of the proteins that make up all of our tissues and organs. Each DNA-controlled protein molecule consists of thousands of precisely arranged atoms. The world’s largest supercomputer “Blue Gene” was recently developed by IBM to investigate complex 3-D protein-folding structures. Spectacularly complex artificially intelligent (AI) super computer models are just beginning to unlock the deep secrets of how DNA dictates the subtle differences between healthy humans and those who are burdened with devastating inherited diseases.
The tools of genetic research scientists have already been used for decades to produce exact copies of human insulin. The patent for the original proprietary Humalin® has expired and diabetics now commonly rely on generic Novolin, available at low price at WalMart, etc. (without even a prescription in many states). Insulin-dependant diabetics may not have a clue about Novolin gene science, but practical gene science has already added decades to many lives, and life to their decades. Stem cell research may even eliminate the need for insulin injections in the (near) future. This topic was a political football in the U.S. 2004 election campaign.
Genetic research scientists can now “clone” (make an exact copy of) complex mammals by replicating the DNA of a single parent. Since before the original discovery of the DNA’s double elliptical nucleotide helix “zipper” in 1953, most scientists and religious philosophers believed that cloning a higher life form mammal would be “impossible.” Sexual reproduction from two parents adds random diversity to mankind. Traditional sperm-and-egg conception may be pleasurable (smile), but it is “no longer required” for mammalian reproduction. We can now clone exact copies of mammals. With recombinant DNA gene splicing, we may soon learn how to make minor alterations to a clone’s DNA, to eliminate a known disease, change eye color, height, etc., but most behavioral characteristics require education and changing the environment.
Although the unprecedented religious, political and ethical issues are extremely complex, with strong public opinions on multiple sides of each issue, genetic scientists will soon be able to clone cells from an individual (conceptually similar to the now commonplace laboratory production of human insulin) and generate “perfect-match” replacement tissue-and-organ body parts.
Surgeons have already learned how to surgically replace organs like the heart, kidneys, liver, fingers, hands and legs. Perfect-match replacement parts would eliminate the current need for organ transplant recipients to take drugs that prevent their own immune system from attacking the foreign cells in donated organ transplants, just like Humalin eliminated the allergic reactions to beef and pork insulin injections in diabetics twenty years ago.
Today’s transplant recipients often die from the complications of disabling their immune system, since they become like advanced AIDS patients who can no longer fight off common infections and diseases. Cloned cells, tissues and organs (from stem cell research, etc.) could potentially greatly extend human lifespan and quality of life for countless humans.
The “recombinant DNA gene splicing” process, and growth of replacement organs from stem cells, can take time to incubate in the laboratory, and then evaluate how the uniquely-produced offspring or organs perform in the real world environment, Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer systems have been developed that simulate recombinant DNA gene splicing, natural selection, and survival of the fittest. AI self-learning “genetic algorithms” now allow millions of alternatives to be evaluated in less time than it would take to do even one in the laboratory. Such genetic algorithm computer systems are currently investigating vaccine and medication solutions to the frightening potential threat of bioterrorism attacks.
The future implications for tomorrow’s “health sciences” (in contrast to ancient dark “medical arts”) are nearly impossible to imagine and comprehend. One possibility on the near horizon is “designer” genetic medications that can be cost-effectively custom tailored to correct specific DNA defects in one particular individual (in contrast to today’s mass-market mediocre medications that help some and can kill others).
There have been many significant genetic research advances in the last quarter century, although the result is leading-edge gene splicing is not yet completely predictable. Genetic research is allowing us to do in days or months what nature has taken thousands or millions of years to do through selective breeding and natural selection of plans and animals. “Jurassic Park” science fiction is rapidly approaching potential reality.
Genetic Research Summary: For those interested in Joyful Aging, the latest genetic and medical research has significant implications for happily improving longevity and quality of life, but it also has frightening potential problems.
If tomorrow’s genetic research were to magically discover ways to stop aging altogether, our bodies might remain at our age at that moment for a very long time. The prospect for tomorrow’s unimagined medical science discoveries makes us want to learn how to slow down our aging processes as much as possible right now. Avoiding deadly cancer is one important topic.
(See also Your Genes Your Health)
Cancer includes more than 100 different diseases, all characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal (mutant) cells. Cancer is a disease of damaged DNA (which started out as the “genetic blueprint” that we inherited from our biological parents, and may have been damaged in their, or our own, lifetime).
When a chemical process (like oxidation or an enzyme) modifies even one gene, the resulting cell is a foreign “mutant” that may be able to reproduce exponentially in the original host (by mitosis: exponential growth - doubling and redoubling).
If not eliminated by our immune system (which tries to kill foreign cells), mutant cells may grow uncontrollably as a “cancer” and do great damage, eventually killing the host. (1) Healthy immune systems can destroy limited numbers of mutant cells, and (2) antioxidants can reduce the number of mutations that are produced. As we age and are exposed to the cumulative damage of free radicals, toxins and carcinogens, our internally-produced antioxidant levels and immune system capacity decline. Proper nutrition (some, but not all, fruits and vegetables) greatly influences our level of antioxidants.
“Oxidative stress overload” created by too many unchecked free radicals can overwhelm a weak, older, poorly nourished immune system, allowing cancer and other deadly diseases to devastate the host. The traditional chemical and radiation treatments to kill cancerous cells also devastate huge numbers of healthy cells and tissues. Many leading-edge cancer drugs attempt to inhibit blood vessel growth, which cancers need to grow, but these drugs also inhibit blood vessel growth to healthy tissues and new replacement cells.
In summary, it is MUCH EASIER and BETTER to prevent cancer from starting and spreading in the first place, than it is to rely on indiscriminate, unnatural drugs and radiation treatments for massive numbers of mutant cells that are metastasizing (spreading) to many organs throughout the body. Millions of people who suffered from painful cancers have been killed by today’s risky cancer treatments. How very sad!
Cancer can be created in many sites throughout the body. It is quite often the result of years of repeated irritation, like smoke, alcohol or environmental pollutants, which eventually result in lung cancer, or breast cancer, liver damage, brain damage, etc.
Cancer behaves differently depending on its organ of origin. For example, beast cancer has different characteristics than lung cancer. Breast cancer that spreads to the lungs is different than lung cancer. Even in the lungs, breast cancer continues to behave like breast cancer, and through a microscope, continues to look like breast cancer, no matter where its unchecked mutant cells are found in the entire body. In a similar manner, lung cancer (caused by smoking, pollution, toxins, etc.) can migrate and cause deadly tumors in the breast, etc.
Health problems seldom occur in isolation. With the exception of traumatic accidents like a fire or a car wreck, health problems and diseases like cancer are often the long-term result of a complex, multi-stage process, where the long-term cause-and-effect relationship is very difficult to determine. Often, several risk factors combine to produce devastating diseases.
Cancer risk factors include: family history (inherited genetic blueprint of enzyme production), age, rate of aging, metabolism, environmental pollution exposure (automobiles, factories, pesticides, preservatives, cleaning products, solvents used in fabrics and carpet, heavy metals, etc.), tobacco smoke (first or second hand), other byproduct of partial combustion (gas appliances, candles, barbeque grills, etc.) and especially alcohol consumption.
Recent studies at the Harvard School of Public Health confirmed the significant link between personal lifestyle choices (like alcohol consumption) and breast cancer, which has long been suspected by medical practitioners, and the statistical observations made by public health research scientists (epidemiologists). One problem has always been that the cause-and-effect cycle for cancer often takes more than a decade. It is both difficult and expensive to study with epidemiological precision, especially since multiple risk factors combine in complicated ways.
Medical research scientists have now clearly documented (with reproducible clinical studies and laboratory results) that breast cancer is associated with high levels of damage to DNA caused by free radicals (including hydrogen peroxide, etc.).
Normal cellular metabolic processes, and exposure to toxins, pollution, preservatives, smoking, alcohol, etc., all produce harmful derivatives of oxygen called “Oxidants of Reactive Oxygen Species” (ROS). Oxidants play an important cause-and-effect role in “carcinogenesis.” Oxidative stress initiates some cancers, because ROS clearly causes DNA damage and unnatural malignant cellular DNA mutations.
Recent investigations have demonstrated that breast tissues contain large amounts of the enzymes “dehydrogenase” and “xanthine oxidase” that try to protect us by degrading alcohol and some other environmental toxins. This partial protective process forms several byproducts, perhaps most importantly hydrogen peroxide, which can subsequently damage DNA and produce deadly breast cancer, if not eliminated by our natural-or-ingested antioxidants (certain fruits and vegetables).
Several additional factors have been discovered that influence the effect on breast cancer. Specifically, breast cancer strikes women more frequently after age 40. Coincidentally, the level of the natural human protective antioxidant enzyme (catalase) that removes oxidative hydrogen peroxide from our body also declines after age 40. Thus, as normal protective metabolic processes take place, and hydrogen peroxide free radical molecules are produced, our natural antioxidant enzyme (designed to protect our cells from alcohol, etc.) declines.
Our rate of aging accelerates, due to: (a) increased oxidative stress, and (b) reduced antioxidant protection, which causes ever-increasing levels of cancerous DNA mutations, lengthy pain, suffering, surgical disfigurement, and eventually death.
Even a casual observation will make it clear that the skin of heavy drinkers seems to age more rapidly than those who never consume alcohol. Harvard research scientists have documented one multi-step metabolic mechanism which links alcohol, pollution and free radicals to breast cancer (and most likely to many other destructive diseases).
The simple essence of this new knowledge is this: When we are younger (and our naturally-produced antioxidant levels are higher) we can defend against the byproducts and cancers produced by our metabolic defense mechanisms. As we age, the concentration of non-scavenged damaging free radicals increases. Cellular DNA is mutated, resulting in malignant cells with abnormal genes that can reproduce themselves and metastasize in a variety of devastating ways throughout many of our sensitive internal tissues and organs.
Important Lessons Learned About Aging From Diabetes – Elevated Blood Glucose Levels
Even if you do not know anyone with diabetes, there is significant information in this section for everyone who would like to reduce their personal rate of aging.
Type 1 “Juvenile” Diabetes is sometimes linked to inherited genetic factors, although juvenile diabetes is often caused by childhood diseases, toxins, failure to nurse an infant with mother’s milk and drinking cows milk at too early of and age (which contains bovine growth hormone that should NOT be consumed by infants with immature digestive systems).
Type 2 “Age Onset” Diabetes is far more common. More than half of diabetics are over age 60, mostly Type 2. Almost 1 in 5 people over 65 have diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is sometimes triggered by inherited genetic characteristics. Almost 1 in 3 older Hispanics and African Americans have diabetes and a surprising 3 out of 4 older Pima Indians have diabetes. But, the largest cause of Type II diabetes is poor nutrition and insufficient exercise. The production of insulin decreases with age, while the need for insulin increase with weight. People with excess body fat can develop a resistance to the insulin that the produce. Insulin is required to metabolize the sugars and fats that we eat. The problem is made more complex by improper mental conditioning that does not deal well with stress. Type 2 diabetes can often be greatly reduced or totally controlled by significant changes in diet and exercise.
All forms of diabetes are improved by improving nutrition and daily exercise.
People with elevated blood sugar age roughly 30% faster than people with lower serum glucose levels. It is a double-barreled shotgun – Age often triggers diabetes, AND diabetes causes people to age much faster than normal – a long-term downhill accelerating snowball effect.
The same biochemical processes that toughen and discolor food in storage also take place inside the human body, at different rates in different individuals. This is just like the way stored food ages at different rates, depending on nature and its environment. The accelerated aging process of diabetics can lead to devastating: kidney failure, neuropathy, cataracts, macular degeneration, blindness, heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and even neurodegenerative dementia diseases such as Alzheimer's (which Ronald Reagan and many others have suffered from).
When glucose (the most abundant form of sugar in the body) attaches itself to proteins without the aid of proper biochemical enzymes, a series of cascading reactions results in the formation of irreversible chemical cross links between proteins, known as Advanced Glycosylation End-product (A.G.E.). This causes normally flexible bodybuilding proteins to become rigid, making cells, tissues and entire organs increasingly less functional. In healthy individuals, this process occurs naturally (although very slowly) as the body ages. In diabetic patients, the rate of A.G.E accumulation and the extent of protein cross-linking is accelerated, which plays a role in many medical disorders.
In the early 1980s, researchers observed that large amounts of A.G.E.s occur in diabetic patients, as a result of their elevated blood sugar. A.G.E.s appear to be a missing link in our understanding of the cause-and-effect relationship between diabetes and the serious complications that occur after years of high blood sugar. Research conducted at more than 40 institutions worldwide now supports this discovery. This new medical information offers exciting encouragement that severe diabetic complications such as kidney failure, blindness, nerve death, hypertension, brain stroke, heart attack, skin ulcers and lower extremity amputations CAN be either delayed or prevented.
The effect of diabetes on numerous organs and tissues has been described by many research scientists as accelerated aging, because of the similarity between diabetic complications like cataracts, joint stiffness, arteriosclerosis (a build-up of plaque and hardening of the artery walls) and disorders commonly observed in those that are much older. Roughly half of Americans have cataracts by age 65. Cataracts can be cause by the build of sugar (sorbitol) in the lens. Diabetics statistically get cataracts earlier than non-diabetics who have their blood sugar under control.
Blood glucose is absolutely essential for human life. Regardless of what we eat (even a zero carbohydrate diet), at least part of our digestible food MUST be metabolized into glucose. Humans are omnivores - Some of our ancestors lived well on a diet of pure meat, while others were vegetarians. Our internal organs and micro flora can convert various foods into what we need, store and release excess energy, etc., so long as ALL of the necessary organic building blocks are available.
Our muscles need glucose to do work. Our brains function almost entirely off of glucose (plus a few trace elements). If our blood glucose level drops, our mood changes and we become less active and less productive.
Recent research has raised the question: If excess glucose clearly hastens the onset of complications in diabetics over a relatively short period of time, then do even normal glucose levels play a role in a wide range of age-related disorders? For example, studies document that non-enzymatic glycosylation of the eye's lens proteins contribute to the formation of cataracts. More recent studies implicate A.G.E.s in age-related disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke.
Some medical research scientists now believe that glucose encourages plaque formation (which is characteristic of arteriosclerosis) by causing A.G.E.s to develop on the collagen in blood vessel walls. Circulating low-density lipoproteins (LDL’s – the “bad” form of cholesterol) are also influenced by A.G.E. biochemistry, and may be trapped from the blood and accumulate to form deadly cholesterol-deposit heart disease, leading to heart attacks and stroke.
Lifestyle Choices That Can Dramatically Change The Normal Rate Of Aging
In this section, we will discuss lifestyle choices that impact many mechanisms of aging. We will begin with a continuation of our previous discussion about diabetes, and the damage caused by elevated blood sugar levels.
No medical research scientist knows everything that there is to know about the relationship between blood glucose levels and the complex processes of aging. BUT, we now know far more than medical science understood only a few years ago.. Our individual genetic blueprint is clearly part of the reason that some people get diabetes (and then begin to age more rapidly than people without diabetes). However, there can be no doubt that modern lifestyle choices (like nutrition, sugar intake, alcohol, types of food, method of food preparation, essential enzymes, exercise and our related metabolism) have a dramatic impact on age-onset diabetes and in turn on the lasting impact that elevated blood sugar has on our individual unique rate of aging.
Diabetes is linked to problems with insulin production and insulin absorption / metabolism. In the late 1920’s, insulin was the first hormone ever identified. Its discovery won the doctor and his medical student who discovered it (Banting and Best) the Nobel Prize.
Insulin is a hormone, (and therefore, a protein). Insulin is secreted by “islet cells” in the pancreas (a metabolism control organ behind our stomach). The pancreas also produces digestive enzymes and other hormones (glucagon, somatostatin, etc.). Stem cell research is looking the possibility of replacing dead islet cells in diabetics, but there is much work yet to be done.
Digested carbohydrates (sugars) are absorbed through the intestines into the bloodstream after eating. Our pancreas senses increased blood sugar levels and then secretes insulin. Most body cells have “insulin receptors.” When a cell has insulin attached to its surface, the cell activates other receptors that absorb glucose (energy necessary for cell life and biochemical life functions) from the blood stream into each cell’s unique cellular chemical factories (the mitochondria).
If the islet cells are damaged (through traumatic accident, aging, disease, drugs, alcohol, toxic substances, drinking cow’s milk as an infant, high blood iron count, etc.), or if they are not present due to a flawed DNA genetic blueprint, the body simply cannot absorb or regulate blood sugar. Similarly, if insulin receptors are not functioning correctly (clogged with body fat, etc.), the presence of insulin is ineffective. Either problem results in high blood sugar, which in turn accelerates many processes of aging, and damage to cells, tissues and organs.
Without insulin PLUS effective insulin receptors, a diabetic person can eat large amounts of food and be in a state of continual starvation, since many cells cannot access the energy contained in the blood glucose. Over time, many cells simply starve to death. This is why Type 1 diabetics who do not make enough insulin can become quite ill and will die without insulin injections. Insulin is an absolutely necessary hormone. Those who do not produce enough insulin MUST have it added with shots or pumps. Insulin cannot be ingested orally, since it is destroyed by stomach acid.
More commonly, older people develop insulin resistance, rather than a deficiency of insulin. In this case, the levels of insulin in the blood are similar (or even a little higher than in normal) for non-diabetic individuals.
One problem for many Type 2 diabetics is that most of their cells respond poorly to the insulin that is released by their own pancreas, and therefore these cells cannot absorb the available sugar molecules properly. This leads to blood sugar levels that are higher than in non-diabetics. Cells with ineffective insulin receptors can starve to death, even when abundant insulin and glucose are present.
Type 2, age-onset diabetics sometimes become “insulin dependent,” but most of the time, “compliant” patients (who follow their doctor’s instructions and change their eating habits and exercise) can resolve or reduce the problem with lifestyle changes, and sometimes oral (non-insulin) medications, or with partially-effective food supplements like alpha lipoic acid or chromium picolinate.
Significant diet and exercise changes are a superior solution to prescription medications that can have serious documented undesirable side effects. It should be noted that INSULIN MAKES YOU FAT. The higher your insulin levels, the more efficient you become at metabolizing dietary sugar and fat and turning it into stored body fat. It is far more important to keep your blood sugar low by eating less carbohydrate and exercising more, rather than wrongly injecting large amounts of insulin, because you eat too much and are lazy.
INSULIN IS NOT AN ANTIDOTE FOR OVEREATING AND LAZINESS, just like caffeine is not an antidote for being drunk. If you measure your serum glucose and it is way too high, you ate too much (of the wrong kinds of food) and exercised too little. If you inject a large quantity of insulin and sit down in front of the TV, your blood sugar will come down, but you will probably be even fatter tomorrow morning and your need for insulin will be even greater than before. This is a deadly, age-accelerating trend, based on bad habits of non-compliance. It will lead to severe irreversible damage to your body and mind. You MUST take control of your life and replace your deadly habits with superior nutrition, exercise and thought processes.
One of the most valuable tools in controlling blood sugar is daily use of a personal blood glucose monitor. The immediate feedback quickly tells the user if what they have done recently was adequate, or if more lifestyle changes are very necessary. Ignoring elevated blood sugar levels can be extremely harmful and greatly impact quality and length of life. It is no fun to go blind or have your feet amputated due to vascular damage that results in poor circulation.
Spending a small amount of time to take daily tests and significantly change lifestyle based on quantitative biofeedback is a small price to pay to avoid many age accelerating diabetic complications. Non-compliant diabetics who do not pay attention to what they eat and compensate by taking large quantities of insulin simply do NOT realize the long-term damage that they are doing to themselves.
High blood sugar levels, plus abundant insulin can accelerate the conversion of excess sugar into stored body fat, which can make insulin receptors even less effective and make the diabetes much worse. In addition to daily use of a personal blood glucose monitor, an accurate balance-type weight scale provides valuable biofeedback – if you are diabetic and overweight, you MUST make ever-increasing lifestyle changes until blood sugar is under control, AND your weight is going down, while making sure that you are getting enough proper nutrition (like natural antioxidants, avoiding know toxins, etc.).
Insulin is required for proper metabolism of sugar AND fat. This is true whether the fat is ingested, or the body needs to convert its own stored fat back into glucose when insufficient food is ingested. If excess body fat is present, insulin receptors often do not function well. This results in cell starvation and early problems like diabetic neuropathy (permanent, irreversible nerve death usually beginning in the toes, vascular failures, internal organ failures, amputations, strokes, heart attacks, etc.).
Since America started requiring food products to publish their fat content in the 1980’s, many “experts” have incorrectly suggested that a low-fat diet is desirable. People who paid attention to this naïve, overly simplistic advice usually compensated by increasing their intake of carbohydrates. When excess carbohydrates (sugars) are present in the blood, insulin is released and most cells absorb more sugar (up to their limited capacity). When glucose storage capacity is (quickly) exceeded, the excess sugar will be converted into body fat, which is the most efficient way for the body to store excess energy.
The net effect since the U.S. has been publishing fat content information and recommending low-fat diets, is that Americans have become significantly more overweight. An increasing percentage of children have become type 2 age-onset insulin dependent diabetics, who are aging more rapidly than previous generations. This problem is reaching epidemic proportions. Major lifestyle changes are long overdue.
There is excellent new scientific research that partially explains the recent dramatic increase in life-shortening morbid obesity, as related to increases in environmental toxins, pollution and the products fed to livestock to intentionally increase their rate of growth and their level of body fat (since there is more profit in selling a young fat animal than a lean one that takes longer to reach a lower maximum body weight).
In healthy individuals, the sympathetic nervous system is our bodies’ primary mechanism to control weight. This regulatory mechanism (and the monoamine hormones like noradrenaline, dopamine and adrenaline that it controls) play a key role in controlling our level of body fat. The sympathetic nervous system may do this by suppressing our appetite, enabling the body to burn fat stores when our glucose levels are low, and by powerfully stimulating our level of physical activity.
Abnormalities in the sympathetic nervous system are very common in most forms of obesity. Most of the drugs used to treat patients with eating disorders alter monoamine hormones levels (with a variety of negative side effects).
Many of the most common synthetic chemicals and toxins in our modern environment degrade our sympathetic nervous system, resulting in unhealthy obesity. Many of these chemicals and livestock growth promoters are stored in body fat. If we starve ourselves to try to lose weight, stored toxins and growth promoters are released, which further damage our natural ability to control our body weight, which accelerates our rate of aging.
In any case, (regardless of the reason for the presence of excess weight, diabetes, low insulin production, ineffective insulin receptors, genetics, poor nutrition or sedentary lifestyle), uncontrolled, elevated blood sugar levels sadly accelerate the rate of aging. The longer blood sugar levels are elevated, the worse the cumulative accelerated aging damage will be.
High blood sugar kills neurons (through a variety of mechanisms including reduce blood flow). Once a neuron is dead, it is dead forever. For the most part, neurons cannot be replaced or increase in number. The permanent damage to the central nervous system caused by unnecessary accelerated aging is cumulative, irreversible and devastating for individuals and for those around them.
There is yet another serious problem with elevated blood sugar levels – They cause destructive levels of inflammation. This is true in every individual, not just in diabetics.
“Glycated proteins” are formed when glucose attaches (glycates) to protein molecules. High levels of blood glucose lead to high levels of glycated proteins. Glycated proteins remain in the bloodstream, until they are metabolized and cleared out of the system. If they are created faster than they are cleared, they will increase in number and accumulate.
As more proteins become glycated, due to excess sugar levels common in most American’s diets, their structure and function are modified. The immune system attacks glycated proteins with an inflammatory state. Excess destructive free radicals are formed. Oxidative stress increases and biological aging accelerates. The function and life expectancy of cells, tissues and organs declines in the presence of inflammation.
In simple terms, high sugar levels make us get older much faster (for many different reasons). This process happens to most of the cells in our body, but it is clearly visible externally. Cosmetic changes and wrinkling of the skin become obvious, while other, more serious, changes are taking place internally.
Reaction of excess sugar with proteins results in a browning of the protein to form crusty skin and less-effective internal organs. Accumulation of this crusty protein compromises organ functional capacity. Like the crust on a loaf of bread, each of our cells, tissues and organs become hard, inflexible and less effective at their specialized functions. This damage expands and accumulates over time. We can see it on our aging skin, but we are aging everywhere, both inside and out.
Arteriosclerosis, renal failure, pancreatic dysfunction, gastrointestinal inflammatory conditions, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, connective tissue disorders, weak blood vessels (leading to hemorrhages and stroke), irreversible nerve-and-brain damage, sympathetic nervous system damage, carpal tunnel syndrome, some forms of deadly cancer and ugly skin wrinkles are all linked to the inflammatory response to excess sugars (carbohydrates) in the blood. The higher the sugar level, and the longer it remains high, the more significant the long-term cumulative damage becomes.
On the surface, you might think that anti-inflammatory drugs (non-steroidal over the counter drugs or adrenal steroid hormones) would help reduce inflammation and thus slow the accelerated aging caused by excess sugar. However, long-term use of even basic anti-inflammatory drugs (like aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, which are all blood thinners) is statistically linked to an increase incidence of vascular leakage, brain strokes, etc. (not a good thing). Just like insulin injections are not the antidote for overeating, anti-inflammatory drugs are NOT the antidote for age accelerating inflammation caused by eating too many carbohydrates. If you frequently need pain killers, STOP consuming pain amplifiers like sugar and caffeine. Stop treating only the symptoms and eliminate the underlying cause.
We just spent the time to carefully summarize some of the underlying mechanisms of sugar-caused accelerated aging for a very important reason. We want the thoughtful intelligent reader to understand the importance of the significant lifestyle change that all of this scientific information implies.
We are going to ask you to break with incorrect traditional American sugar eating habits, and to do that; you MUST change your decision-making internal images about sugar and foods like flour that quickly turn into sugar as soon as they are eaten.
Small energetic children who play hard need a lot of glucose to power their muscles. Muscle growth requires protein. Bone growth requires calcium, but muscles and brain function require a certain level of glucose to function properly. The proper level of blood sugar is very necessary (not too high, not too low), but from a long-term perspective, excess blood sugar accelerates aging, pain and death.
About one fourth of the taste buds on our tongues respond well to anything “sweet.” For hundreds of years, mothers have “rewarded” children with sweet treats, which quickly metabolize into rapid blood sugar increases. If all of this energy is burned on the playground, everything is fine. When athletes prepare to run a marathon, they must load up on carbohydrates the night before.
One epidemic American nutrition problem is that many of us load up on carbs like we are going to run a marathon foot race, and then we sit in a classroom or in front of a computer, without burning the high glucose level that is pulsing through our vascular system and triggering the many aging problems and diseases that we just summarized.
The following sentence is a half-true exaggeration, in an attempt to make an important point: Rather than teaching innocent children that candy is a reward (which links powerful emotions to a very bad habit), perhaps we should make it a felony to feed sugar to an overweight, sedentary child. People have to get a license to have a dog, but most parents don’t have a clue about the great damaging their own bad lifestyle habits are doing to their children.
Most Americans grew up with a flawed cause-and-effect image about sugar. Sugar does give children a short term burst of energy and slightly elevated brain function, but when the sugar spike crashes downward, it can leave a child starved and depressed. The negative impact of the glucose roller coaster is further complicated by adding a “stimulant” like caffeine to a liquid carbohydrate. It is extremely sad to see fast food vendors marketing caffeinated sugar water, white bread and deep fat fried potatoes with a toy and a colorful package with cartoons targeted at innocent children.
Replacing the drink with a decaffeinated diet soda that contains an “excitotoxin” (like aspartame, Nutrasweet®, Equal®, etc.) is NOT an improvement. There is an excellent book Excitotoxins The Taste That Kills, by Dr. Russell L. Blaylock M.D., which explains in depth how aspartame and MSG permanently and irreversibly kill nerve cells.
If you are consuming or serving ANY form of sugar substitute, you can enter its name in a web search engine and quickly find thousands of references to the types of problems caused by the product. There is NO “safe” sugar substitute. There is NO evidence that anyone has ever lost weight by using sugar substitutes. In fact, many of them increase one’s craving for carbohydrates. Mature adults who are concerned about health, quality of life and longevity, MUST retrain their flawed mental lifestyle images and taste buds to honestly believe (for very good reason) that the “icky sweet” taste is for infants only and NOT for mature, intelligent adults.
Small infants must have sweet simple liquid carbohydrates, like their own mother’s milk, and eventually move on to simple fruit juices, but overweight older children and adults should essentially eliminate or greatly reduce all highly refined white carbohydrates like sugar and flour, and not replace them with any sugar substitute. This is especially important for anyone who is overweight or who has any type of diabetes or a family history of diabetes.
Some of the high carbohydrate foods that are important to avoid include anything with sugar or flour in them, such as: candy, soda, bread, pasta, starchy soups, sauces and gravy. Raw unprocessed sugars and natural fruit juices have almost the same impact on diabetes, inflammation, mood swings, depression and rate of aging that refined sugar and flour have.
Glucose Tablets Or Liquid
Plain Baked Potato
Cookies and Cakes
French Fried Potatoes
Alcohol Beverage (Sweet)
Green Pea Soup
Black Bean Soup
Sucrose (table sugar)
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Fruit Cocktail (depends
Durum Wheat Spaghetti
Baked Beans, Canned
Apple (tart, not sweet)
Yogurt (depends on
Lima Beans Broth
Soy Milk (depends on
Whole Milk, 4% Fat (bad
Peanuts (toxic molds)
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Nutrition, Exercise and Mental Attitude