Drugs and Anti-Aging

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Sometimes patients come to me with what they call “symptoms of old age.” But often they’re not symptoms at all. They’re side effects.

Here’s what I mean: Prescription drugs cause side effects that look a lot like “aging.”

Research shows some drugs cause major cellular damage. They attack the mitochondria, the tiny energy generators in each cell of your body.

Why is that important?

Damage to the mitochondria is related to many diseases we think of as occurring in the elderly. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, coronary artery disease … even strokes and diabetes.

One of the reasons these synthetic, man-made molecules cause aging is that mitochondrial damage shortens telomeres.

Telomere shortening causes cells to go into repair mode to fix the shortened DNA. All that repair activity going on while your body tries to fix your DNA and damaged mitochondria generates a lot of free radicals. They cause oxidation, which can shorten telomeres more. And the cycle continues.

You can trace mitochondrial damage back to statins, pain medications like acetaminophen, and a long list of psychoactive drugs. These cross the blood–brain barrier and can age brain cells.1

Other drugs directly shorten telomeres. Especially chemotherapy drugs. They also slow down the activity of telomerase, the enzyme that repairs telomeres.2

Most doctors wouldn’t think to blame premature aging as a side effect of medical drugs. They are taught that becoming older and more feeble is normal. They might even prescribe another drug to treat your new “symptoms.”

How can you protect yourself?

Here are a few of the drugs that age your body the most, and what you can do as an alternative:

1) Corticosteroids: Worse than arthritis pain. Some of my least favorite drugs are corticosteroids, like the hydrocortisone cream your doctor might prescribe. This is a family of anti-inflammatory medicines many doctors use to treat arthritis, asthma or a skin rash.

These drugs turn off your body’s natural repair and rejuvenation mechanisms, causing you to age more quickly. Fortunately, there are alternatives.

  • For Asthma: Try daily breathing exercises, massage therapy, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • For Arthritis: Guggul and meadowsweet relieve osteoarthritis. Guggul is a Southeast Asian remedy which studies showed to be highly effective in reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.3 Meadowsweet is a great example of why no matter how many times we think we’re smarter than nature, nature is better. Meadowsweet stores its active anti-inflammatories as inactive compounds. So when you ingest them, they go past your stomach intact. Then your liver safely converts them into the healing inflammation-dousing compounds that really work.
  • For Eczema or Skin Rash: My patients report great results with vitamin D oil while others prefer chamomile oil. Both are very effective.

2) Beta blockers: Shortcut to old age. Lopressor, Tenormin, Inderal, Corgard, or Normodyne and other beta-blockers age your heart more than almost any other drug. And in a recent study people who received beta blockers after having surgery that wasn’t even heart-related were at higher risk of dying or having a stroke.4

Here’s what you need instead:

  • CoQ10: This is my go-to supplement for my heart patients. It is the most important heart nutrient. Half of my patients have their blood pressure return to normal with CoQ10 alone. And it cures congestive heart failure.5
  • Garlic: This herb not only reduces triglycerides, which protects your heart, but it can also significantly reduce diastolic blood pressure.6
  • Hawthorn: This is the heart tonic of the ancients and it really works to relax the blood vessels.

3) Bisphosphonates: Perfect way to create old brittle bones. The bone drugs like Fosamax, Actonel and Reclast work by poisoning the cells that remove old bone. This disrupts natural bone remodeling so you get bones that are denser, but have weaker cells. If you take these drugs, your bones get more brittle and more prone to fracture, not stronger.

Before you take a bone drug, consider these natural alternatives that will harden your bones:

  • Natural D: The D3 form of vitamin D is the hormone that directs bone building in your body. Vitamin D also increases telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres.7 Get 5,000 IU a day, preferably from direct sunlight.
  • Vitamin K2: This forgotten vitamin aids with your bones’ absorption of calcium to help make them stronger. The other benefit of vitamin K2 is that it rescues damaged mitochondria and cures mitochondrial dysfunction.8 This helps prevent telomere shortening. You can find K2 in a variety of different foods including egg yolks, organ meat, and organic milk. I recommend 90 mcg a day if you supplement.

To Your Good Health

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD

1. Neustadt J, Pieczenik SR. “Medication-induced mitochondrial damage and disease.” Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Jul;52(7):780-8. 2. Li P, Hou M, Lou F, Björkholm M, Xu D, “Telomere dysfunction induced by chemotherapeutic agents and radiation in normal human cells.” Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2012;44(9):1531-40. 3. Singh B. et al., The effectiveness of Commiphora mukul for the osteoarthritis of the knee: an outcomes study. Alternative Therapies 2003 May/Jun; 9(3): 74-79. 4. Devereaux PJ, Yusuf S, Yang H, Choi PT-L, Guyatt GH. “Are the recommendations to use perioperative b-blocker therapy in patients undergoing noncardiac surgery based on reliable evidence?” Canadian Medical Association Journal 2004; 171: 245–7 5. Langsjoen H., et al. “Usefulness of Coenzyme Q10 in clinical cardiology: a long-term study.” Mol Aspect Med 1004; 15 Suppl: s165-75 6. Andrianova I., et al. Hypotensive effect of long-acting garlic tablets allicor (a double-blind placebo-controlled trial).Ter Arkh 2002; 74(3): 76-78. 7. Zhu H, Guo D, Li K, Pedersen-White J, Stallmann-Jorgensen I, Huang Y, Parikh S, Liu K, Dong Y. “Increased telomerase activity and vitamin D supplementation …” Int J Obes. 2012;36(6):805-9. 8. Vos M, et. al. “Vitamin K2 is a mitochondrial electron carrier that rescues pink1 deficiency.” Science. 2012;336(6086):1306-10.


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