Before you read on, ask yourself how you would characterize another kind of anti-aging. If you can’t quickly and easily describe the other kind including examples, just realize that this uncertainty will make you vulnerable to making some misguided choices for maximizing and extending your life. Then, read on, because this article will clear that up once and for all. It’s a very valuable distinction to have.
Before we talk about any kind of anti-aging, the most important thing to understand is just exactly what the aging is that we’re trying to be “anti”.
Most of us are at least aware that there is such a thing as a genetic version of aging, but it is largely absent in modern life. It’s clear that many of the physical signs of aging are coded into our DNA and that our individual life spans will play out on a predetermined schedule eventually (but never late enough). This version of aging can only be played out in a perfect environment and with ultimate attention paid to all lifestyle choices that contribute to delayed morbidity. This is the version that nature intended us all to live, and the one that equates to a fantastically vital life right up to the very end of that life. Short of genetic modification, this is the gold-standard of aging. We can never do any better than this, only worse by some degree.
Since we don’t live in “a perfect environment and with ultimate attention paid to all lifestyle choices that contribute to delayed morbidity”, none of us are actually experiencing the genetic version of aging. Our inability to enjoy the genetic version of aging is the price we all pay to take advantage of modern life’s many conveniences and expediencies, because it can really only occur in a natural environment. All of the mechanization and feel-good short-cuts that are so prevalent in modern life have removed us from that environment. It may be simple and convenient to blame genetics—something over which we have no control—for the experience of aging, but when you take an honest look at the catalysts for that experience, it’s a fairly easy process to connect the dots between actual aging and our modern lives. Even though our modern life ages us faster and more dramatically than the genetic version, the good news is that the degree of that aging is very much in our control.
Remember that when we talk about anti-aging, we’re no longer talking about living longer—although that is the ultimate goal. Living longer is about absolute length of life, or longevity. Instead, we’re talking about strategies for delaying the effects of aging. This is a valuable thing to address because it is a great way to call attention to the quality of any longer life. So then, if you proceed with any anti-aging strategy that is based on overcoming the genetics of aging—as is the case with most medical procedures, you’re barking up the wrong tree. That’s not typically the source of your experience. So what is the actual source of our experience?
The more commonly observed pattern of aging is the lifestyle version. This is the quality of life that is compromised to some degree based on our lifestyle choices. The degree of the lifestyle version of aging your choose depends on the number and type of toxic lifestyle elements that you allow into your life; they all matter and they all will result in something less than the what is ideally possible. When it comes to your daily choices, no corrective action will ever completely nullify the negative effects of these choices. Once the flaws are implemented, the damage is done. We all have lifestyle flaws to some extent; just living in the modern world insures that. But to believe that we’re either doing all we can, or that there is nothing we can do and it is all up to fate, are both folly with a tragic and unnecessary end.
It’s human nature to want to take the easy road, but never at the cost of an optimal life. Yet the medical approach to anti-aging promises you both. I’ll also include the subset of that approach I call the “cosmetic” version of anti-aging; this is fairly self-explanatory and involves the use of skin creams and other potions—some ingested or injected—to create an appearance of youth rather than the substance of it. For a quick glimpse into that world, simply Google “anti-aging” in the search box at “images.google.com”, and watch what comes up. In literally hundreds of images there’s not a mention of lifestyle modification or the experience of youthful health, just countless products with price tags hanging from them. Sadly, this is simply a true reflection of how most of us will address anti-aging. Some of these approaches may actually do what they promise, but the plain truth is that they are primarily used in place of, not in addition to, the natural approach.
The anti-aging story is a good microcosm for modern life in general. Unless we all pay the price of health (the same price there has always been) and make that the foundation (read: the thing that must be present before we even consider any other options), we will compromise not only the length but also the quality of our lives. That difference is never immediately discernable from the genetic version of our age, but any honest appraisal will acknowledge that it does exist. Also true that those who stand to profit from your purchase of the “easy road” options can only appeal to those who don’t know there are 2 kinds of anti-aging. You are no longer in that group.
So rather than make take the harder road of natural anti-aging through less convenient and expedient lifestyle choices, society turns to anti-aging clinics; doctors that, once again, promise to fix the effects of a toxic lifestyle with pills and other medical options. But it’s always just a coverup and a last-ditch effort. You have it within your control to be someone who never wants or needs that option. If what you are paying for is not designed to specifically address the experience of your life in a sustainable way, it is always doing the opposite to some degree.
By allowing a fuzzy distinction between natural and unnatural anti-aging, we also fail to discern when we are offered a medical substitute for a non-medical issue. And it’s an apt metaphor for other things we have abdicated to the medical community which we were all perfectly capable of doing for ourselves, but couldn’t find the will. Our example in nature is that nothing is free: every up has a down, every sunny day needs a rainy day, etc. So it is still with the quality of a human life.