Here are three of the top health stories of 2017.
1. The World Health Organization unveiled a new vaccine that’s cheap and effective to end cholera – one of humanity’s greatest killers, according to The New York Times.
2. Cancer deaths dropped by 25 percent in the United States since 1991, saving more than 2 million lives. Breast cancer deaths have fallen by 39 percent, saving the lives of 322,600 people, according to Time magazine.
3. In July, UNAIDS revealed that for the first time, half of all people on the planet with HIV are receiving treatment. AIDS deaths dropped by half since 2005, according to Science magazine.
Most of you will live well beyond 100 with all your faculties intact. We’ve just begun the longevity revolution that I expect will be the next great disruptor. We’ve gone from a life expectancy of 47 in 1900, to 77 in 2000 to 83-plus today.
Prevention is critical, but it’s not the only way to approach aging. Your goal should be to nurture your body so it can repair itself expeditiously when it breaks. Accidents and illness happen. Stuff breaks. While it’s obviously important to keep your biological systems from breaking down, the real secret to longevity isn’t whether or not you break, it’s how well you recover when you do.
Aging is essentially a process in which your cells lose resilience. But it’s within your power to boost resilience and keep your body going an extra couple hundred thousand miles. There is an indication research is progressing fast enough that you may have adjuncts to help you repair your mitochondria, or energy factories in each cell, even before 2030. And you may get the energy you had when you were 20 or 30 back again.
You can think of ATP as tiny molecular batteries that fuel your body. And recently, the view of mitochondria’s role in biology has begun to increase in importance. When we are old, we lack at least one thing that mitochondria need to perform and communicate optimally: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. NAD is a coenzyme found in all living cells. Cellular NAD+ concentrations decrease during aging, and without sufficient NAD, mitochondria can’t make the ATP energy our cells need.
Aging researchers are talking seriously about boosting this NAD with its precursor, nicotinamide riboside. At an aging conference last year, two-thirds of researchers said they were taking NR already, although human trials just began.
In a Nature article this past month, Dr. Johan Auwerx and colleagues showed that animals with Alzheimer’s disease lack sufficient NAD. Knowing that NR increases NAD levels, they gave the vitamin (NR is a form of niacin, but without the itching or flushing) to animals. The result was reduced amyloid deposits, higher energy levels and improved memory. NR didn’t cause these improvements by directly attacking the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, but improved mitochondrial function that resulted in more efficient and healthier systems overall, which reduced Alzheimer’s disease in animals.
Also last month in the journal Circulation, an article, “Nicotinamide Riboside Preserves Cardiac Function in a Mouse Model of Dilated Cardiomyopathy,” indicated this benefit of NR on mitochondrial energy function may affect the energy to pump your heart muscle. This study showed that mice with heart problems have lower NAD levels. They also confirmed that low NAD levels are typical of humans with heart diseases.
We know NR can improve the health of mice with at least two age-related conditions – memory impairment and inability of the heart to pump adequately – presumably by restoring NAD levels to improve mitochondrial function. And we know that NR increases NAD levels in people.
We don’t have evidence that it increases human health and lifespan, or fights or prevents specific human diseases. But, several human trials are underway, which can be found by visiting clinicaltrials.gov and searching “nicotinamide riboside.” In the meantime, you’ll understand that restoration of mitochondrial function is just one of 14 areas where aging research is progressing quickly.
But you have to make it to 2030 or so to benefit from these aging research advances. I have no clue how individuals and society will handle these transformations. But that is one of the things I’m looking forward to finding out. Hope you choose to do the steps now that will help you live at the top of your curve until 2030.
Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.