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Living Well: A Guide to Anti-Aging
by Earl Mindell

Excerpted with permission from Earl Mindell's Anti-Aging Bible

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Of all the spectacular advances in medicine, science, and technology that have occurred during the past century, the ones that have had the most profound impact on our lives are those that have increased human life span. In 1900, the average life expectancy for an American citizen was 47 years of age. Today, as we approach the dawn of a new century, the average life span has increased by more than 50% to 76 years. The fastest growing segment of the U.S. population consists of men and women aged 65 and older, a group referred to by gerontologists as the "old old." The number of octogenarians among us continues to grow, and some scientists say that humans may routinely achieve a life span of about 115 years; still others contend that biological engineering will extend our life span to 150 years. A few scientists insist that humans could live to be as old as 400 years!

The increase in life span that we have experienced during this century is primarily due to improved sanitation, the elimination of many lethal childhood diseases through vaccinations, and other medical advances such as the development of antibiotics. Rare today, death from infection during childbirth was a leading cause of mortality among women at the turn of the century. Thanks to penicillin and its "wonder drug" offspring, bacterial infections such as pneumonia and strep are no longer life threatening.

Members of the medical establishment readily acknowledge that although we have managed to extend the length of life, in many cases we have done little to improve the quality of life. A recent editorial in a medical magazine lamented the fact that "the ratio of active life to disabled or functionally compromised life has not increased and may actually have diminished during the last quarter of a century" (Patient Care, February, 1994). In other words, people may be living longer, but they're not living better.

Despite the increase in life span, the perception of aging as a depressing downward spiral of growing wrinkled, growing senile, growing ill, and growing old persists. Indeed, for many of today's elderly, growing older is synonymous with illness. About half of all people over 65 are taking multiple medications for a wide variety of ailments. The average older person takes 12 doses of medication daily! For many older people, life is punctuated by visits to the doctor and the hospital.

This does not have to be the case. Sadly, and ironically, too many people suffer from ailments that are easily prevented or controlled through diet and lifestyle. According to the National Cancer Institute, as many as 35% of all cancers may be due to poor diet. Experts estimate that as many as 50% of all cases of heart disease might be averted by changes in diet and lifestyle, which themselves would greatly enhance both the quantity and quality of life.

Until recently, there was a fatalistic attitude about aging that was shared by both experts and lay people alike. They believed that there was little they could do to prevent the ravages of aging. Today we know better. There is strong evidence that the downward spiral is not inevitable. For one thing, although they are still in the minority, there is a growing population of "old old" people who are aging well, and who have managed to stay active and healthy. We see them on tennis courts, in adult education classes, in the gym, and sometimes still on the job.

There is a growing body of research that suggest that with appropriate and timely intervention the downward spiral associated with aging need not happen. Researchers throughout the world are finding new and exciting ways to maintain health and vitality well into old age and innovative ways to prevent some of the common ailments associated with aging. Scientists all over the U.S. are engaged in research that has generated important information on why and how we age. Here are some of their fascinating findings:

--Vitamins and supplements (antioxidants) may help to protect the body against compounds that may speed up the aging process.

--A handful of foods and supplements may substantially reduce the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among the elderly.

--An ancient herb and other supplements may help to prevent memory loss and keep us smart and sharp.

--Vitamins and supplements may help to rejuvenate a "tired" immune system.

--Contrary to the popular belief that our muscles grow weaker as we age, it's actually possible, with the right kind of exercise, to build muscle and maintain strength well into our nineties and beyond.

--A supplement widely used in Japan as a treatment for heart disease (and available at natural food stores in the U.S.) may help to keep an aging heart pumping as strong as a younger one.

--Prostate problems (common among men over 50) may be prevented or reversed by a combination of diet and supplements.

--The right combination of herbs and supplements can relieve the discomfort of menopause for many women.

Here is more good news: these tools are readily available to anyone who wants to use them. With few exceptions, the vitamins, supplements, herbs and foodstuffs in the anti-aging arsenal are available in pharmacies and grocery and health food stores everywhere.

I want to stress that the techniques I have described are not a fountain of youth, although they can help us retain our youthfulness. An 80 year old who follows my suggestions is not going to look or feel the same as a 20 year old. But an 80 year old can be vigorous, strong, attractive and full of life. My goal is not turn back the clock, but to help you be the best 60, 70, 80, and even 100 year old you can be. For the first time, we have the power and the knowledge to change our fate and make a real difference in both the quality and quantity of our lives. Although the sooner we start the better, positive changes can produce positive results at any stage of life.

Dr. Earl Mindell is the world's leading expert on vitamins, dietary supplements and nutrition. He is the author of Earl Mindell's Anti-Aging Bible, Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible and many other bestselling nutrition books, which are available at book stores and health food stores everywhere.


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