Age Is Just a Number | Part 2:

Taking Anti-Aging to the Next Level

Dr. Aaron Hartman

August 22, 2023

Taking Anti Aging to the Next Level

Last week we talked about the major markers associated with aging. Today, I’d like to dive into things you can do right now to slow and potentially even reverse some of these aging-related processes.

Is it really possible to slow the aging process and to add more life to our years?

The Foundations of Functional Medicine

The foundations of functional medicine are nutrition, exercise, sleep, relationships, and stress management. These are the most important factors that you can use to improve your health and vitality. They play a direct role in slowing the aging process.

For example, last week we talked about genetic instability, telomere attrition, and mitochondrial dysfunction. These are all affected by the foundations I mentioned above.

Eating a nutrient-dense, clean, whole-foods diet promotes optimal gene expression and mitochondrial health. Exercise actually stimulates stem cell production and combats stem cell alterations. Did you know that stress reduction can lower cortisol levels and inflammation, which can improve your gut health and help you better absorb nutrients?

Sleep is a major foundation of health and one that many people overlook or dismiss. But did you know that your stem cells go to work when you are asleep? Sleep is when your mitochondria clean themselves out and when the most detoxification occurs. While you sleep, your cells and your brain do a lot of hard work to clean up, repair, and get you ready for the next day.

Taking Anti-Aging to the Next Level

Once you have these foundations of quality nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and relationships dialed in, there are other things you can do that can make these foundational elements work even better. So that’s what I’d like to talk about now.

Nutrient Testing

A more advanced anti-aging strategy is the strategic use of personalized nutrition. In our practice, we do testing to determine which nutrients our patients need more of. We often use organic acid tests that can determine how the body is using the nutrients that are available to it. For example, while you might have normal blood levels of B12, folic acid, or vitamin C, your body might not be efficiently using those nutrients. We can see through an organic acid urine test that the body isn’t getting what it needs. This test actually measures a dysregulation or insensitivity to nutrients.

Through targeted supplementation and food strategies, we can increase the availability of these nutrients to ensure that the body is getting the nutrition it needs to function optimally. This personalized nutrition is a key intervention in the altered nutrient-sensing marker of aging that we discussed last week.

Heat Therapy

woman in sauna Saunas are the go-to tool for heat therapy, the goal of which is to increase your core body temperature. Saunas do promote detoxification through sweating, which is very helpful. But the increase in core body temperature is what improves cell function – which is key for anti-aging.

A sauna session can actually cause a low-grade fever, which can be a good thing! A low-grade fever is a cytokine response, which you probably remember hearing about during the pandemic. Interferons are a type of cytokine that causes low-grade temperature elevation. Interferons are even used in some medications. For example, alpha interferons are used in hepatitis C medications to cause a low-grade fever and treat the disease. Our body’s natural fever response is a powerful healing process that improves the body’s ability to fight cancer and other infected cells. So this increase in your body’s core temperature improves its ability to fight off infections and cancer.

Heat therapies also increase something called heat shock proteins, which promote healthy mitochondrial function. Heat shock proteins show promising longevity effects in animal models and also mimic the effects of exercise, which is called an “exercise mimetic.”

What is great about heat therapy is that almost all of us can access it, whether it’s in a gym sauna, a far infrared sauna, a hot tub, or simply a hot bath. It’s such a powerful therapy that has anti-cancer benefits, longevity effects, and can improve cell function.

Cold Therapy

man in ice bath
Cold therapy, whether from a plunge in cold water or a cryotherapy service, has been all the rage lately. We know that cold activation reduces inflammation in the body.

In the elite athlete world, cold therapy is being used to reduce recovery time after intense training. After strenuous exercise, muscles actually have many small tears, and the body is responding to stress, which causes a lot of inflammation. Generally, it takes hours to days for this inflammation to subside. However, a cold plunge for 8-10 minutes actually blocks that inflammation and allows your body to get back to healing quicker.

Another reason that cold therapy has become so popular with elite athletes and executives is because it promotes mitochondrial function and helps the body clear senescent cells. We’ve learned in the literature that, ironically, cold exposure also increases heat shock proteins. So this type of helpful stress in the body can promote the clearing of senescent cells and help cells function more efficiently.

It’s important to make sure that you’re healthy enough to use heat or cold exposure therapy, so clear it with your doctor before trying it.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

One intervention that has been really helpful for my daughter is hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT. This involves sessions in a pressurized chamber while breathing pure oxygen to help flood the body with higher concentrations of oxygen. It is used in conventional medicine to treat decompression sickness in scuba divers, carbon monoxide poisoning, crush injuries, severe wounds, and other injuries that do not respond to typical treatments. By forcing more oxygen into the blood, it speeds healing by getting more oxygen to all parts of the brain and body.

There are over 8000 genes that are activated with hyperbaric medicine, which can also increase stem cell numbers by about 800%. HBOT also promotes the turnover of senescent or “stuck” cells. You can see how hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be incredibly healing, and is a powerful intervention for people with chronic health issues. Of course it is also a powerfully effective anti-aging therapy.

What’s Next?

You won’t want to miss next week’s post where I will talk about more leading-edge strategies for anti-aging including the hot topic of peptide therapy. Be sure to keep an eye out for that final post in our anti-aging series.

Don’t Miss this New Docuseries!

Want to learn more about the aging process and how you can turn back the clock? I was recently honored to contribute to an exciting docuseries on the topic: Ageless. Check out the trailer here.

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