“I’m just getting old, Doc.”
by Ray Andrew, MD
I hear this from new patients all the time. The belief that humans are designed to fall apart with the mere passage of time is epidemic. Yet some of my patients in their 70s and 80s are more active than others in their 40s! It is true that some people’s genes make them more susceptible to certain diseases than others, but having a bad gene doesn’t mean that a person will develop the disease. Most of the decline and disease we attribute to aging actually have nothing to do with genes. Rather, aging as we know it stems from poor cellular oxygen utilization, which in turn stems from a variety of toxicities and deficiencies.
Your health is the sum total of the metabolic processes occurring in all the cells of your body—not merely the absence of identified disease states. Autopsies performed on 18-year-old soldiers killed in Vietnam demonstrated cholesterol plaques. These men were fit. By outward appearance and conventional measures, they should have been the healthiest of Americans. But disease states were already present in their young bodies, and would have manifested themselves in the coming decades in the form of heart attacks and strokes.
So how can you find out if you are truly healthy? Or what if you already know something isn’t right but you don’t know where to begin? Is it lack of iron? Hypothyroidism? Something wrong with your hormones? Blood sugar too high? Clogged blood vessels in your heart?
You might go to your doctor and have some lab tests and an EKG done. You might be put on a drug to lower your cholesterol, another to lower your blood pressure, and another to treat what sounds like depression. Even if you have the problems these drugs are supposed to treat, how do you know you are actually fixing problems and not just masking them? And how do you know you aren’t missing something important?
At Grand County Wellness Center, we utilize a powerful set of tools known as the Global Health Assessment. This protocol includes an extensive online health questionnaire, a simple yet comprehensive blood panel, a few vital signs, assessment of arterial health, and biofeedback.
The data from these assessments is analyzed through a sophisticated computer algorithm involving over 20,000 decision points. The result is an understanding of the body’s most serious underlying problems, in order of priority. This is followed by a road map to healing. Once the top priority—whether it is dysfunction of the HPA axis, pancreas, detoxification systems, gut, brain, or something else—has been addressed and repaired, one can then focus on the second, third, and fourth priorities.
The value of this approach is exemplified by a simple automotive analogy: Suppose your car isn’t running well, so you take it to the shop. Suppose the mechanic sees that your bumper is badly dented. So he fixes the dent in the bumper and sends you on your way. When the car continues to run poorly, you return and the mechanic replaces your broken tail light. Then he fixes your air conditioner. Then your carburetor. Finally, in desperation, you take your car to another shop for a second opinion. They hook the car up to their computer and discover that two of your spark plugs and your timing belt need replaced. You authorize the work and now you are humming down the highway!
Obviously, all of these things needed fixed, but the most serious problems had to do with the engine systems. Of course, mechanics are smarter than this, but hopefully you get the idea. In medicine, we can run a bunch of labs to identify and treat deficiencies of this and excesses of that without ever fixing your most critical underlying problems. Perhaps a problem in one system—maybe an excess of something—is actually caused by an imbalance in another system. Instead of taking a drug to lower this or raise that, perhaps you just need to repair a related system so the body can raise and lower these things on its own.
This approach can help you both restore your health and address imbalances that are still in their early stages, before disease develops. Rather than focusing on one-size-fits-all guidelines based on population data, this approach provides the ultimate in personalized medicine. Your dietary, hormonal, exercise, and other needs are going to be different than your next-door neighbor’s. The optometrist doesn’t give you a copy of your neighbor’s glasses. Why should your doctor give you the same health guidelines and prescriptions he gave the guy before you?
In recent decades, medical science has produced enormous advances in our understanding of disease processes. In medical school, we are taught to memorize so many facts and figures that our heads are left spinning. No doctor can learn it all, much less remember it all. Fortunately, we live in an era in which technology enables us to combine massive amounts of research findings with key health indicators from your own body to provide specific recommendations to help you get back on track.
With that, you can stop lamenting getting older and embrace vitality instead!