Our culture would like to imagine that science and technology can be aggressive in winning this epic battle against aging. A proliferation of glitzy television programs currently promotes this as an easy dream, compressing long surgeries and prolonged recovery times into 30-minute segments portraying the transformation of people through the wonders of cosmetic surgery. It is theatrics at its best — and worst: immediate beauty for an impatient society that wants instant gratification.
So what does our culture really desire? Age-reversal surgery after time has already taken its toll? Or true anti-aging medicine that works to delay or avoid age-reversal surgery (or at least maintain the benefits of age-renewal surgery)? While I believe our culture wants both, it seems that the play-now-and-pay-later attitude, for the most part, prevails.Our patients, the consumers who seek anti-aging solutions, need to become better educated about what is within their power to change. Environmental and lifestyle factors such as sunlight, tanning beds, smoking, pollution, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are primary contributors to aging.
The effects of heredity, once thought to be unalterable, are increasingly within our grasp to manipulate and modify through new scientific developments. More choices are on the horizon, and new developments in gene research hold the keys to the future for many of these patients.
We need to return to the basics by using full-spectrum sun protection, avoiding tanning bed use and smoking, and minimizing exposure to other known environmental factors that negatively impact people's health. This is the cornerstone of true anti-aging healthcare.
The saying "we are what we eat" is becoming even more relevant today as the role of diet and optimal nutrition becomes better defined. As personal genetic testing becomes more widely available (and this is really not that far down the road), our ability to custom-tailor diet and nutritional supplements should dramatically increase. Also, there will be increased awareness of the specific health problems to which a person is especially predisposed (or from which he or she is relatively protected). Our genetic heritage is key to our future health.
The need for scientifically sound research on which our patients can base their treatment plans will become even more critical. Consumers are already lost in a sea of data and tossed about by contradictory advice; they are like a rudderless ship in a storm, without a compass or a captain to guide them. If we as physicians and scientists do not step in, others will — to the likely detriment of all parties.
More than ever before, now is the time for us to rise to the task and assume a leadership role, not only in anti-aging medicine and age-reversal surgery, but in true, scientifically based, anti-aging preventive medicine. We need to improve both our educational and our research programs.
The anti-aging movement is growing rapidly. Will your patients turn to you for advice? Will science or the marketplace prevail? The followers are there, but who will lead? Will it be you?