There is lot of confusion about antiaging. Have you ever tried to type the word “antiaging” on google? It’s all about over the counter skincare products, botox and plastic surgery. And what if you instead look for “Antiaging Medicine”? Even more confusion! A number of products, including diets, drugs and supplements are promoted to have anti-aging properties. Often companies and journalists like to tout whatever-anti-aging-product-is-currently-in-the-news as the “fountain of youth” or the “holy grail”. And what if you ask friends? Everybody’s got a different opinion on what “antiaging” is. Some of them find it “brilliant”, others find it “scaring”! Most people just assume antiaging has a sort of built-in connotation of vanity or the quest to live forever. But antiaging is not aesthetic or a longer life, it’s much more!
To start, I’d like to dispel those myths about Antiaging Medicine and clear up the confusion. Aging is a natural process that happens to us all. So let’s be real about this. How can we be “anti” something that’s inevitable? This outdated concept creates unwarranted fear and distress around the aging process. It’s vital then, that we update our perception and start to think about aging in a healthy light, so that we remain comfortable and confident, as we grow older instead of struggling to fight a battle we can never win. So “Antiaging Medicine” or better “Age Management Medicine” is not about living to be 200 years old or getting “work done” and completely transform your appearance.
Antiaging Medicine is about helping you look, feel, and function as good as possible for as long as possible. It’s about enjoying a very high quality of life as you age, continuing to do what you love without becoming increasingly reliant on the care of others – which most of us fear. The majority of older people live out their final years with at least one or two chronic ailments, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, dementia or stroke. The longer their body clock ticks, the more disabling conditions they face. Aging, in fact, is the biggest risk factor for human disease and results in a wide range of aging pathologies.
If you think it’s a revolutionary concept, I am about to disappoint you. Already during the second century before Christ, the famous latin writer Publius Terentius Afer (195/185–159 BC) used to write “senectus ipsa morbus est”: old age is itself a sickness. Physicians traditionally are good at keeping people alive with the various diseases of aging, but they rarely bring them back to full health. Over the last 30 years, scientists have championed a new approach. We think it is possible to stop or even rewind the body’s internal chronometer so that all these diseases will arrive later or not at all.
Studies of centenarians suggest the feat is achievable. Most of these individuals live that long because they have somehow avoided most of the diseases that burden other people in their 60s and 70s. Nor does a centenarian’s unusual longevity result in an end-of-life decline that lasts longer than anyone else’s. In fact, research on hundreds of “super agers” suggests exactly the opposite. For them, illness typically starts later and arrives closer to the end. They live, live, live and then die one day. Researchers have already developed various techniques to increase “healthy” lifespan.
Therefore, a better way of defining “antiaging” is “aging well” or what we call, as scientists, “successful aging”. The term “successful aging” was coined in 1987 by two researchers, John Wallis Rowe and Robert Kahn, through their influential book entitled, precisely, “Successful Aging”.
Rowe and Kahn stated that successful aging involved three main factors: (1) being free of disability or disease, (2) having high cognitive and physical abilities, and (3) continuing engagement in social and productive activities. It seems rather straightforward to say “you will be successful if you are healthy, high functioning, and socially engaged”; however, this original definition was important because it moved the conversation from “what is normal” to” what is optimal” in later life, and opened the door for researchers and others to think about what can we do, as individuals and as a society, to foster optimal or successful aging.
Their formulation aimed to eclipse prior thinking about disengagement and unavoidable senescence by focusing on activity and function. However, there was something missing in their model: what about people’s appearance? Successful aging enabled people to stay active and feel younger for much longer but this came out to be in conflict with the image they were seeing in the mirror of themselves. And this is true whatever age they were. It didn’t take long before the circle of successful aging was closed though. In fact, 10 years later, the fourth missing but important factor was added to the list.
In 1999 world-renowned scientist, Zein Obagi, pioneered, in his book “Obagi Skin Health Restoration and Rejuvenation”, the science of skin rejuvenation, a new, safe, effective and scientifically based skin rejuvenation program. The prevention and treatment of skin aging has been a hot topic for many years, but no one before him was able to establish a scientific, evidenced-based, safe, well documented therapeutic program.
He launched a paramount movement which advocates the search of healthy, youthful skin, through safe and effective medical treatments, no matter what the age of a person is. Through is therapies he was able, not only to prevent skin aging by keeping people looking young indefinitely, but also to rejuvenate already aged skin, making 70-years old people looking 20 or more years younger. No plastic surgery was involved.
Maintaining or even enhancing our physical appearance as we age is very important. Nowdays we are able to find a plethora of role models who present a sexy, youthful image and seem to enjoy themselves and the way they look, no matter their age. These people can be celebrities such as Richard Gere (age 70), Sean Connery (age 88), Jane Fonda (age 80), Raquel Welch (age 78), etc. but also people we meet in our everyday life.
We need to embrace a positive self-image and attractiveness as time goes by too. Wanting to look our best is not a dirty thing, there is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s healthy instead. What is unhealthy is the youth-oriented culture that tend to consider aging as something shameful. This can be especially true for men and women who have relied on their looks to navigate the world. Many of them experience an identity crisis as they get older. In extreme case they may resort to inappropriate coping mechanisms such as excessive dieting, alcohol or drug abuse, sexually acting out, and repeated plastic surgery.
They might fear they are going to disappear, become irrelevant, or lose their options and opportunities as they age. Many of us have internalized this same cultural bias, and we respond by giving up on ourselves prematurely. Nothing can be more wrong! Our challenge is to eliminate the pervasive idea that aging equates to loss. While we age we aren’t losing something. We’re simply transitioning into something else but something equally fabulous.
WE EITHER MAKE OURSELVES MISERABLE, OR WE MAKE OURSELVES HAPPY. THE AMOUNT OF WORK IS THE SAME. EMBRACE AGING, EMBRACE SUCCESSFUL AGING!
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Valeria Acampora