You know those pervasive TV commercials for prescription drugs that are designed to treat one illness, but put you at risk for developing ailments that are more debilitating and life-threatening than the illness for which they were prescribed? Do they fill you with confidence that the medicine your doctor has just recommended for you will restore you to health? I didn’t think so.
Although there seems to be no immediate alternative to this conundrum, a new theory — which proposes that most serious illnesses are primarily a factor of age — may contain a solution. Here is the thinking: the more your body ages, the more susceptible you are to contracting a serious illness. So, the theory goes, if we could find one drug or supplement or force that would slow down the aging process, we would close the door on a whole slew of illnesses that now require a “cure is worse than the disease” regimen.
An article in the New York Times explains this theory: “Aging is by far the best predictor of whether people will develop a chronic disease like atherosclerotic heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia or osteoarthritis,” Dr. James L. Kirkland, director of the Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic, said in an interview. “Aging way outstrips all other risk factors.”
The plan is to study single substances like metformin — an inexpensive diabetes drug which has already shown the capability of protecting against cardiovascular disease, cancer and perhaps cognitive impairment for short periods of time — to see if their effectiveness can be extended. If metformin is not the answer, researchers have identified a number of other substances that might work.
Green tea, apparently, does not. And the researchers cautioned against self-treatment with substances like resevratol and human growth hormone until they are more completely evaluated.
As Dr. Kirkland wrote in a new book, Aging: The Longevity Dividend: “By targeting fundamental aging processes, it may be possible to delay, prevent, alleviate or treat the major age-related chronic disorders as a group instead of one at a time.
That sounds a lot better than having a medicine cabinet full of potentially dangerous drugs. So, hurry.