Examining the “4D Health” process as an alternative for a sedentary life.
I knew a couple who lived in the Thousand Oaks area. When I met them, they were entering their 70s and had been happily married nearly 50 years. Both of them had long-term health problems: including arthritis and osteoporosis. He had the added pain of advanced degenerative disc disease. What surprised me was that despite their diagnosis, they remained very active. They took daily walks around their neighborhood that racked up three to four miles a day. They maintained a weekly habit of bowling with friends. They swam in their pool – the man told me that he kept up a goal of a half mile a day.
They maintained a very healthy nutritional plan that avoided salt and sugar, and yet they were able to take weekly trips to a favorite restaurant. Most of the expected outward signs of degenerative disc disease and arthritis were absent. My first impression was that they were happy and active adults who seemed to be enjoying life.
This couple and others like them – and I’m meeting more and more of them these days – are proof that aging management can help people maintain a very high quality of life.
Aging management medicine is a proactive preventative approach to a healthy, functional life. The focus is maintaining energy, movement, excellent bone, and muscle health as well as sharp mentation as we age. The goal is to modulate the process of aging before the body degenerates and conditions are irreversible. It’s through these observations that inspired a concept I call “4D Health”; four dimensions for managing our state of wellness as we age.
I begin with disease screening. You may not have any outward signs of disease, but what better time to scan for potential problems than when you’re healthy? We will also scan your body to give us a benchmark of your body mass (fat, water, bone, and muscle), and review your blood work. All of this will aid our evaluation of your exercise potential and nutritional needs. A full scan of your body will give us the intelligence we need to begin a comprehensive aging management program.
The next phase in the “4D” process is a plan for your nutrition. Nutrition experts and I agree that proper nutrition includes healthy choices of protein and low sugar-added foods. Sugar appears to be one of the main causes of illness, weight gain, lipid disorders, and early onset diabetes. An imbalance in sugar intake affects people of all ages. Children that we see have attention deficit diagnoses as well as poor health and obesity. I believe that the effect of sugar on older adults can be just as bad, or even worse.
Along with nutrition, of course, comes fitness. If we want to maintain mobility, we need to keep moving. Increase your muscular health and you will burn fat, build lean body muscle mass, and maintain excellent bone health. Stop now if you imagine endless hours on a treadmill. The best approach to fitness is one that optimizes exercise activity just enough to improve the basal metabolic rate so that you increase caloric burn hours after the workout. An optimized exercise program may also naturally raise growth hormone levels and testosterone levels. All which can lead to improved health.
Lastly, is a program of biologically intelligent supplements and possibly hormone replacement, if indicated, that give my patients an additional foundation for the body, to support their unique health goals. It is important to remember that supplements do not replace proper nutrition and fitness. They only augment the effects of other actions we’re taking. The aim is to boost our efforts to mitigate the process of aging and give the body additional resources to maintain a healthy, functional, mobile and active life.
The underlying strategy of 4D Health is to live life to our fullest and not reduce our activity level over time. I’ve seen so many patients who have been told not to do this or not do that. One man came to me with an early case of degenerative disc disease who was told to stop cycling. Permanently. That’s how it begins: we keep chipping away at the corners and eventually leave ourselves sitting in a chair, limited to going to the dinner table or lying in bed.
The point is, no one wants an inactive lifestyle thrust onto them. Most people want to be functionally active: we want to be able to do things for ourselves, have fun, and enjoy life. And to do that, we must be proactive. We must get after our fitness, and be smarter about our nutritional and medicinal and supplement intake. We may modify some activities to accommodate injury or disease, but we keep moving. We keep up our energy levels and build up our bodies, not tear them down.
Some people ask, “Why worry about aging? You can’t stop the clock.” True, you can’t stop chronological aging. But what’s the point of speeding up the aging process by giving up things in our lives because we have aches or pains? What’s the point if we’re going to allow ourselves to be pushed into a sedentary life?
Given the choice – between active and inactive – which would you want for yourself?