Anti-Aging & The Future of Chiropractic
Americans are growing older.
Chiropractors are in a unique position to help them to age gracefully and live longer, more fulfilling lives.
The number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040.
DNA is the genetic material that determines our body’s physical makeup–every organ in our body (skin, liver, heart, etc.), the hormones they regulate, and how our bodies respond to its environment, both internally and externally. Our body’s cells replenish by copying themselves. This happens constantly throughout our lives. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of each strand of DNA keeping chromosomes intact through the replication process. Because telomeres are so vital to maintaining the integrity of our DNA, they are widely thought to be the key to how we age.¹
The Mechanics of Aging
Scientists have shown that telomeres get shorter each time a cell copies itself, while keeping the vital DNA intact. Over the course of our lives, telomeres eventually get too short to be effective, causing our cells to degrade and stop functioning properly.²
In effect, telomeres act as the real biological clock in every cell.
Fortunately, the pace and progression of this process is not set in stone, and so far the best means for slowing this process down has been shown to be the kind of preventative wellness strategies that chiropractors are already advocates for.
Telomeres Protect DNA
Because telomeres are so vital to maintaining the integrity of our DNA, they are widely thought to be the key to how we age.
Without the protection from telomeres, our cells age and die.
The State Of The Art
In 1984 Dr. Dean Ornish opened the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in San Francisco, CA. Since then, his institute has run a series of clinical trials looking closely at lifestyle–a person’s diet, exercise habits, even things like meditation and love; Can lifestyle be as powerful (or more) in treating disease as the standard approach using drugs, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and surgery?
In my 33 years, in everything we did, people thought we were crazy. People said the tests must be wrong or that this could only happen in California. But we have proven that lifestyle is treatment, not just prevention. –Dr. Dean Ornish, Preventative Medicine Research Institute
We know that telomeres are shortened as we age, but the PMRI has shown that telomeres can also be shortened by stress, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet. In 2008 Dr. Dean Ornish launched a descriptive pilot study with a group of men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer that showed that when his test subjects ate a plant-based diet for around three months, they showcased increased telomerase activity and length in their bodies.³ His hypothesis was that the fiber contained in plant foods could be the reason for the increased telomerase activity, indicating that a healthy and sustainable plant-based diet could be the key to a long and healthy life for all of us.
In 2013, Dr. Ornish published a five-year follow up of his pilot study in the journal The Lancet Oncology confirming that the comprehensive lifestyle changes were indeed positively correlated with telomere length. In addition to eating a diet rich in antioxidants and whole nutrients, Dr. Ornish recommends a multifaceted approach to anti-aging that involves the very same prescriptions for a long healthy life that chiropractors have been utilizing for ages–eating whole foods with an emphasis on fruit and vegetables, reducing stress and anxiety, and regular moderate exercise.
In the same year, the first randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study was published in Rejuvenation Research showing telomeres not just slowing their retreat, but actively getting longer in human patients.⁴
How To Integrate Anti-Aging Medicine Into Your Practice
As you might have guessed based on the information presented above, a lot of what constitutes the strategies for anti-aging is likely already a component of your practice. Holistic wellness strategies that prescribe eating well, exercising regularly, nutritional supplementation, and routine visits to get adjusted and help stay motivated.
For chiropractors looking to add anti-aging specifics to their well-equipped toolset, here are a few bullet points to help get started:
Educate Yourself & Your Staff
Right now there is a lot of research available on the topic of aging, telomeres, and how lifestyle changes can help. Here are a few great resources for further reading:
Knowledge Is Key
Educating patients will be a key component of anti-aging medicine.
Integrate Nutrition Services
Because diet is a critical component of anti-aging medicine, a great place to start strengthening your anti-aging offerings is The International & American Association of Clinical Nutritionists. The IAACN offers a number of excellent course options for learning more about nutrition and health, including a program to qualify as a Certified Clinical Nutritionist. It should be noted that the time and educational requirements involved in becoming a certified nutritionist in NC may make a partnership with a certified nutritionist more practical then actively pursuing the certification yourself. If you would like more information on NC’s nutritionist certification standards, visit the NC Board of Dietetics/Nutrition website. That said, there is a lot you can offer your patients even without additional advanced credentials.
With a strong, authoritative voice providing guidance on maintaining healthy diets, chiropractors can offer their patients high-quality nutrition supplements. This of course provides the additional benefit of helping to bolster your clinic’s bottom line. Sales of nutrition supplements can be a natural addition to most clinical environments, and were recently featured as one of Chiropractic Economics 5 Modern Tips To Maximize Revenue. While you are on Chiropractic Economics website, they have a few other great articles that can help in this arena:
Exercise & Strength Training
The other key component of anti-aging medicine is maintaining a regular exercise routine, with cardio and strength training to increase muscle tissue mass and regulate hormones. While a healthy diet goes a long way towards helping increasing telomerase activity and preserving telomeres, maintaining cellular health can only achieve so much. For healthy cellular replication to be an effective anti-aging mechanism, then patients need to keep their hearts beating and their bodies strong. Staying active and maintaining core strength will ensure that we not only live longer, but that we are fit enough to enjoy our longevity and to continue engaging in the activities we enjoy.
Showing patients simple exercise routines that they can use at home may be the most effective way to keep patients engaged, since they don’t require gym memberships or significant commitments that can be hard to maintain. The Mayo Clinic provides an excellent guide to a variety of core strength exercises that require no equipment. Self Magazine also has a great 15-minute core workout that can be done at home.
To make things easier for you, we put together a collection of more than a dozen core strength exercises recommended by The Mayo Clinic⁵, and formatted them so that they can be easily read and followed in a convenient PDF that we encourage you to print off as free literature for your patients.
- Oeseburg H, et al. Telomere biology in healthy aging and disease. Pflügers Archiv – European Journal of Physiology. 2010;459:259–268.
- Armanios M, Blackburn EH. The telomere syndromes. Nature Reviews Genetics. 2012;13:693–704.
- Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. The Lancet Oncology. 2013;14(11):1112–1120.
- Salvador L, Singaravelu G, Harley CB, Flom P, Suram A, Raffaele JM. A Natural Product Telomerase Activator Lengthens Telomeres in Humans: A Randomized, Double Blind, and Placebo Controlled Study. Rejuvenation Research. June 2013. 16(5).
- Mayo Clinic For Medical Education And Research. Exercises to improve your core strength. Retrieved November 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/multimedia/core-strength/sls-20076575