Mark Hyman on Staying Forever Young

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Most of what goes wrong as we age is a consequence of dysfunction said Mark Hyman, MD, senior advisor for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and author of the recent book Young Forever: The Secrets to Living Your Longest, Healthiest Life, at the 2023 Integrative Healthcare Symposium in New York City.

Hyman said that the medical community needs to rethink what we're doing and get away from whack-a-mole medicine when we're just treating each disease separately as if it were an independent entity like cancer or heart disease.

 “As we eliminate cancer and heart disease from the face of the planet, which are the number one or two killers, we might see a spike in a seven-year life extension," Hyman said. "But if we got rid of the underlying dysfunctions, what they call the hallmarks of aging if we understand and treat those, we might see a 30- or 40-year life extension.”

He said the so-called “hallmarks of aging” are essential concepts discussed in functional medicine for a long time, like inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and insulin resistance. He stressed the need to avoid thinking about aging in terms of diseases because they all have these common roots. 

Six to 10 Americans have a chronic disease which jumps to over 80 percent for people older than 65. The U.S. spends more than twice as any other nation on healthcare, and our life expectancy is still decreasing. 

"Metabolically poor health is the underlying driver of aging,” he said. “We want our lifespan to equal our health span, so we live up to the end and just stop.”

The hallmarks of aging are essential to understand, said Hyman, and more importantly, why they become dysfunctional.

“We have to go back upstream and think, “if hallmarks are the root cause of aging—what is causing deranged hallmark?” he said.  “It ultimately comes down to either dieting too much or too little.”

Hyman presented what he referred to as crucial health ingredients, including natural foods, getting the proper levels of nutrients, the balance of hormones, light, air, water, movement, rest, relaxation, purpose, connection, meaning, and love. In contrast, practitioners must consider impediments to health: toxins, microbes, and the microbiome, stress, a poor overall diet, sugar, a sedentary lifestyle, isolation, and loneliness. 

To address these impediments and deal with dysfunctional hallmarks of aging, Hyman presented a strategy to enhance longevity, which he succinctly summed up in five key points:

  1. Dramatically reduce intake of sugar, starch, and processed foods
  2. Consume at least 30 to 40 grams of protein for breakfast, followed by another 16 grams between lunch and dinner.
  3. Increase phytonutrient intake
  4. Incorporate resistance training
  5. Find a community

In essence, we have to start reimagining aging, Hyman said.

 “It’s not about some hedonistic pursuit of longevity,” said Hyman. “It’s about how we can create a society in a world where people are healthy and feel good and can show up and be in communication, collaboration, and connection with the things that matter to them and family and their friends, adding value to the world, their work, and add value.”