Forever Young

Wendy Lewis

by Wendy Lewis | August 10, 2010 @ 01:00PM

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The anti-aging industry, as reported by cosmetic surgery and beauty guru Wendy Lewis.

Anti-aging includes everything from vitamins to chemical interventions, hormone replacement, supplements, and cosmetic surgery, which are all geared at longevity and promoting health and vitality. Plastic surgeons and endocrinologists are emerging as just some of the medical specialties leading the charge in this lucrative field. Anti-aging medicine incorporates the science of biochemistry, biology, physiology, sports medicine, molecular genetics, good nutrition, and psychology. Anti-aging is not a recognized or highly regulated medical specialty, which leaves it open to a host of self-designated experts giving advice and making unsubstantiated claims.

Touted as the ultimate anti-aging solution, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is credited with rejuvenating every cell in the body, adding 30 years to your life, bringing organs back to health, having you remember things you might rather forget, and making studs out of grumpy old men. It should come as no surprise that HGH has taken off among celebs and affluent baby boomers as the newest nectar of the Gods. Estimates are that 250,000 Americans are injecting HGH on a regular basis.

The driving forces are memory loss, lack of energy, a desire to strengthen weakened immune functions, and America's obsession with looking young and fit for as long as possible. But when you strip away the sensationalism, it may be more than just a passing craze. At the heart of anti-aging medicine lie injections of HGH, first used by athletes to build up muscle. Growth hormone is produced and secreted in pulses by the pituitary gland that move throughout the body effecting tissues, bones, and muscles. Doctors began prescribing it 35 years ago for children in need of a growth boost, and later to treat wasting (loss of size and strength) in AIDS patients. Last year, the leader, Genotropin (Pharmacia & Upjohn), had sales of $461 million. The shots are given daily or weekly by a doctor or nurse or you can inject yourself. Specialists agree that it is only potent when prescribed by a doctor and injected, as opposed to pills or sprays offered on the Internet or through dodgy adverts in fitness magazines. You should be under a doctor's care so that hormone levels can be properly monitored at least every three months. Before you consider HGH therapy, be prepared to have every body function put under a microscope, literally.

A comprehensive evaluation of nutritional, metabolic, and hormonal levels, vision screenings, bone-density scans, treadmill stress tests, and brain assessments are done. Longevity does not come cheap. The complete work-up can run from $1,500 and up. Dr. Alan Mintz, Chief Medical Officer of Cenegenics, a ritzy Las Vegas anti-aging clinic, explains, "The goal is to return people to the healthiest level in life, which is age 30. After 30, things measurably start to decline." A clinical team of 9 takes care of only three pampered patients a day, or you can send your lab results to them and they will Federal Express you a one-month's supply and teach you how to inject yourself. The typical cost is $900 per month for just growth hormone, and a more comprehensive program is $1,300. "To say that growth hormone is a panacea is incorrect," says Dr. Mintz. "You can't look at growth hormone in a vacuum. Everything in the body has to work together." Once you have begun, you can start to see results in a few weeks. As Dr. Mintz describes, "Most patients are 40 and 70, but 35 is a good time to consider HGH if you're feeling tired."

Growth hormone also appeals to people suffering with chronic illness like asthma and diabetes where traditional methods have not succeeded. Cenegenics just opened a second Institute in Tokyo.

HIDDEN DANGERS

Many doctors consider HGH to be highly risky. Although the drug has few serious side effects that might be apparent to you, there are some that can show up in laboratory tests. The potential side effects include joint or muscle pain, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fluid retention, and pain at the injection site. You must stay off sugary foods while on HGH to avoid insulin fluctuations. The US Food and Drug Administration approved HGH for "deficient" adults in 1996, but conventional doctors feel that using HGH to become 25 again doesn't properly constitute the correction of a deficiency. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists does not recommend the use of HGH as an anti-aging treatment.

As for fears that it causes cancer, a 1999 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported no increased incidence of cancer or heart disease associated with HGH use. The Institute on Aging of the National Institute of Health urges caution in the use of "anti-aging" hormone supplements. John King, 52, of Hartford, Connecticut travels to Palm Springs three or 4 times a year for growth hormone and says he never felt or looked better, "It's amazing. I have more energy now than I did when I was 35, and I feel terrific." This is the tip of the iceberg in a futuristic field of medicine that promises biomedical breakthroughs that take the art and science of cosmetic surgery one step further.

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