It’s time to take a holistic approach to ageing

Since 1881, life expectancy in Australia has increased by 34 years. While the benefits of living longer are substantial, illness now threatens to inhibit the way we spend our golden years.

The definition of anti-ageing medicine is to delay, stop or retard the ageing process. Its goal is to reduce the development of chronic and age-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer and osteoporosis.

By and large the healthcare system is a ‘disease care system’ – important if you are sick and in need of treatment. While life expectancy is increasing, the gap between actual and healthy life expectancy is also increasing – roughly 11 years for men and 13 years for women. There is also the increasing burden of chronic disease beginning at ever-younger ages in most developed countries. Who wants to spend their last decade or so suffering the pain and loss of independence associated with chronic disease?

Anti-ageing medicine is not a quick fix that will make you thin, fit or healthy, nor is it a dietary supplement to substitute for eating well and exercising regularly. It is the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. The prize is optimal health and longevity.

So, what is the benefit of good health?

It’s living the life you want and deserve, for feeling good and looking good and functioning at your best. It’s the reward and return on investing in you.

What we are learning in this field is that while genes increase the risk of developing some diseases, the environment has a much larger influence. Health promoting habits can even influence the expression of our genes in positive ways. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s truly dependent on the decisions we make daily. It is we who control our journey towards health and wellness, or disease.

In the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Potsdam study published in 2009, researchers followed 23,153 individuals aged 35 to 65 years. A variety of healthy lifestyle factors were tracked over their lifespans, such as never having smoked, having a body mass index lower than 30, engaging in at least three and a half hours of physical exercise a week, and eating a nutritious diet. The results were astounding. Changing just one bad lifestyle habit to a healthy one was associated with a 50 per cent reduction in developing chronic disease. Those who had followed all four healthy habits had an 80 per cent reduced risk of developing any major chronic disease, and a staggering 93 per cent reduction in the development of diabetes, the 21st century epidemic. There is no drug to rival that.

Statistically, cardiovascular disease is still the biggest killer of men and women in Australia. The four major causes of cardiovascular disease are sugar, stress, inflammation and oxidation. Sugar in the diet, and that includes white bread and pasta, contributes to advanced ageing by binding to important proteins in the body. This process is called glycation and it causes damage to many vital organs. Glycation in the skin damages elastin, causing it to become rigid and less elastic. When glycation occurs in arteries, it makes them rigid too. Glycation can also damage the eyes, nerves, brain and kidneys.

An experienced anti-ageing doctor, after fully assessing you, your family history and the results of your tests (which may include gene tests), can customise a programme to include more specific lifestyle, exercise and dietary advice. There should be regular assessments too to monitor progress as your years advance and your body changes. They will also work with you to help you achieve your goals.

Internal health has a huge impact on our looks too. There was a time when beauty and nutrition were two very separate entities.

So use lifestyle as your medicine. Rewrite your future – no prescription required.

About the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA)

The CPCA, which formed in 2014, is the leading representative body for medical practitioners practicing non- or minimally-invasive cosmetic medical treatments in Australasia. The College provides education, training and ethical practice standards for its Fellows and Members who are required to have relevant training and experience as prerequisites for admission to the College. Members are also required to keep abreast of the most up-to-date, relevant information and latest medical and scientific advances.

Overall, the key role of the CPCA is to develop and maintain the highest standards in cosmetic medicine, which helps safeguard the public.

This article was written by Dr Julie Bradford (MBBS, FABAAARM, FAAAM, FACNEM, FMMI, FFMACCS, FCPCA, Fellow Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia).