How to die young — at an old age

Longevity requires maintenance, like keeping the rust off a classic car

Written by Lauren Glendenning
For the Summit Daily
Functional medicine and longevity Find out more at Colorado Center for Functional Medicine,, or call 303-500-3038.

Editor’s Note: This sponsored contest is brought to you by Colorado Center for Functional Medicine.

Diseases of aging occur because we accumulate injury and neglect repair. Staying young is the same process as keeping the rust off a classic car.
Photos courtesy of the Colorado Center for Functional Medicine

We are growing old before our time. Diseases of aging — including heart disease, cancer, and dementia — are on the rise and occurring at earlier ages.

Life expectancy has gone up along with reduction in deaths to infectious diseases and trauma. Now, our lifespan is compromised by the rise of diseases of aging. Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death.

Healthspan is also reduced by diseases of aging. Chronic diseases are now common even in middle age. The prevalence of heart disease rises to above 40 percent for people in their 40s, and in January of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that one-half of all American adults have heart disease.

Dr. Thomas Svinarich, board-certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology, reveals below some of the ways that functional medicine can combat the aging process.

What are the main diseases of aging?

Dr. Thomas Svinarich: The main diseases of aging include heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, and osteoporosis. These problems diminish our prospects of a healthy old age. Fearful of the development of dementia, many of us no longer want to live into our 80s.

Diseases of aging rob us of mobility, sexuality, comfort, productivity, independence and agency. Diseases of aging are also bankrupting us. We spent more than 17 percent of GDP on health care in 2017.

Diseases of aging are not inevitable. Diseases of aging occur because we accumulate injury and neglect repair. Staying young is the same process as keeping the rust off a classic car.

Dr. Thomas Svinarich
Photos courtesy of the Colorado Center for Functional Medicine

How can we age more gracefully?

TS: What we know now about the process of aging has revolutionized biology. What we have learned is that our bodies have the capacity for constant renewal. We do not do well when we are constantly stimulated to have cell growth and division.

Times when the processes of growth are favored need to be balanced by times when the processes of repair are favored. Healthy changes in growth hormone, insulin, IGF-1, and mTor are rust-busters. Autophagy is the process of cleaning out damaged proteins, stem cell activation grows new artery linings and rebalances the immune system. The power-generating capability of our bodies is restored when mitochondria are rejuvenated. The life of our DNA is protected by telomere lengthening. These are the processes of repair.

Can we combat aging?

TS: Combatting aging is also about reducing the initiation of damage. You need to cool down the processes simmering inside you at the root with functional medicine.

Functional medicine is the holistic, person-centered discipline that focuses on identifying and eliminating the root causes of chronic disease and enhancing repair processes. Where conventional medicine treats the symptoms of disease with medications and procedures, functional medicine addresses diseases of aging at the source.

How can you detect the source of age-related diseases?

TS: The Colorado Center for Functional Medicine will help you find the hidden heart disease that is present long before heart disease is detected by conventional tests, and help you unlock the body’s power to heal injury and clean out the rust from aging.

The metabolic, vascular, genetic, inflammatory, and immunologic changes that lead to heart disease are the same for other diseases of aging. Diagnosis and treatment for one problem becomes treatment for all when you treat the root causes of disease and support the processes of repair.

Please describe Colorado Center for Functional Medicine’s Life Span Program and its benefits.

TS: The Life Span Program is a different approach to testing. It was developed to preempt aging. It is the most innovative and comprehensive evaluation available. If you care about protecting your health span, or if you are developing diseases of aging, the Life Span Program is for you.

There is no meaningful investment in the future that doesn’t include an investment in your health.

What are some examples of these tests?

TS: Cardio-pulmonary exercise testing (CPET) is an example of testing to for hidden heart disease. CPET is the only accurate and reproducible way to measure fitness, which is one of the best predictors of health. CPET measures the health of the heart, lungs, and muscles to provide a complete evaluation of any exercise limitations.

A functional medicine evaluation is holistic. For example, problems in the gut can be identified that are the cause of problems in the heart or immune system. Correcting imbalances in nutrition, diet and lifestyle are the most important tools used to restore health, even when heart disease is already present.

Why are you so passionate about functional medicine?

TS: I spent decades practicing in Denver and Frisco treating patients with the use of interventional cardiac procedures including stents and ablations. While these procedures can be immediately lifesaving or significantly reduce symptoms, they do not cure heart disease and the problems recur. By the time I developed atrial fibrillation, I realized that changes in diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on the course of chronic disease. This prompted my study of functional medicine and the formation of the Colorado Center for Functional Medicine with Dr. Chris Bantock.

How does this translate into longevity?TS: By living well we can have a quality life that keeps us young as we grow old. The good news is that the lifestyle behaviors that support health are really the ones that give us the most joy in life.

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