Ageing is not a disease
…let's treat the cause, not the symptom
Presently, I have a friend living with a number of medical conditions, all of them known to her
medical practice. She is in her early 70’s and although healthy for most of her life, in recent years
she has accrued a number of health challenges which can, admittedly, be fairly typical for people
in her age group:
Chronic pain – back, hips and legs
Cognitive decline (diagnosed as early-stage dementia)
Coronary heart disease
Diabetes Type 2
Difficulty with balance / wobbles a bit when walking /recent falls
High blood pressure
High blood sugar
She has what is sometimes known as multiple morbidities or, as you can see above, several co-occurring conditions. Each time she visits with her general practitioner or a consultant specialist, she gets the same story. “You are not getting any younger. Just get used to it and look after yourself. And here’s another prescription.”
This sounds familiar to my own consultations.
I wonder if you can guess at my friend’s treatment: a total of eleven medications plus some over the counter recommended drugs. Now, like me, she did her research, especially on side effects, and had her general practitioner reluctantly agree to reduce the number to four.
A common tale
Alas, my friend's story is all too common. I hear it over and over again from elderly relatives, friends, and clients. Somehow there is an assumption in the medical ether that says we must just assume that these problems are part of aging. But they’re not. It’s simply that we’re not looking for the underlying causes of illness or dis-ease. They simply target symptoms.
If we do go seeking after causation as in the case of my friend who sought private medical help based on a more functional medicine approach, we discover she has
Issues with loss and grief – in the space of one year she has lost two close relatives and several friends
Increasing daily thoughts around her own mortality – one might say a form of acedia, a state of listlessness or torpor, of giving up or not being concerned with her position or condition in the world, even leading to a state of being unable to live life. Acedia’s spiritual overtones make it related to but arguably distinct from depression. The thing is - you cannot diagnose it through blood tests! A doctor can only discern it through discussion.
Severe B12 deficiency – B12 is crucial and a deficiency can cause a decreased ability to think, contribute to serious behavioural and emotional changes such as depression, irritability, and psychosis
Severe folate deficiency – which you need to make DNA, repair DNA and produce red blood cells. B12 and folate deficiency contribute to cognitive decline and issues with balance/falls?
Severe magnesium deficiency - which contributes to blood sugar abnormalities and is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. It is required for energy production and contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione. Magnesium plays a role in transporting calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm
Gut dysbiosis, fungal overgrowth, and SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth)
Mitochondrial dysfunction - the mitochondria in the cells throughout our bodies are responsible for creating 90% of the energy needed to sustain life and support organ function. When mitochondria malfunction, organs start to fail – people get sick, lack energy, and even die.
And guess what, gut issues and mitochondrial dysfunction contribute to virtually all of my friends symptom which are more or less labels to our present health paradigm.
Had my friend not heeded the counsel to go beyond conventional medicine, to try to get to the bottom of her real signs and symptoms and not just take a pill for every ill, she may have gone on assuming that her problems were just a “normal” part of aging.
They’re not—at least they don’t have to be. Ageing is not a disease.
The malady rather is that we have a health system that does
not look for the causes; it treats symptoms, at great and
ineffective cost, and trains doctors to too quickly issue
prescriptions for medication, some with serious side effects,
to treat the symptoms.
Most conventionally trained practitioners don't go looking
for the root causes of disease. They don’t have time to, or time
to talk with patients to find out what in their lifestyle may
also be contributing to medical conditions. They are of course,
for the main part, doing their best, with the limited tools and
time they’ve been given, to slow the progression of disease and
help patients manage the symptoms. But they seldom help
patients to do better than get their health back to where it was,
to shift and change patterns of living through which they can
create and optimise their potential for excellence in health.
That would require a while new paradigm of whole health
Surely we can do better than this? If we draw on functional
medicine, integrative medicine, whole health medicine, call it
what you will, we we could create a much needed new
paradigm; we need to change the medicine we do and the way
we do medicine. We simply must do better.
And patients need to be more radical and demanding of a new
Beauty has no age
If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself
Do you expect to live to a ripe old age?
And do you plan to make your elder years healthy ones?
Many tell me their worst nightmare is living older, longer, and with infirmity of body and mind.
What are the chances of living healthily into very senior years?
Life expectancy (LE) predicts the number of years that a person can expect to live, on average.
Healthy life expectancy (HLE) at birth is a general health quality outcome measure, which combines life expectancy (L.E) and self-assessed health from survey data.
In Scotland, according to the Scottish Government, underlying trends in both LE and HLE at birth show a general improvement with recent annual estimates for boys born in 2015 to live 76.9 years on average, 59.9 of these in a 'healthy' state. Girls born in 2015 are expected to live 81.0 years on average, 62.3 of these years being 'healthy'.
Put another way, when these boys and girls are elderly, 40% of men and 38% of women will NOT be living healthily.
That is quite a staggering statistic.
So is it time to wake up and change aspects of your lifestyle to ensure that in your senior years you will be able to live a life of optimal health and well-being?
Is it T-Factor Time?
Time for a change to owning responsibility for taking better care of you, your health, and well-being?