About the Author
Jeffry S. Life, M.D., Ph.D., is the bestselling author of The Life Plan and Mastering the Life Plan. At a vibrant seventy-five years old, he is in great shape, still practicing medicine, and at the top of the healthy aging field. In 2012 Men’s Fitness magazine chose him as one of the top twenty-five fittest men in the world. He has been featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Esquire magazine, as well as national TV shows, including The Doctors, Steve Harvey, and The Dr. Phil Show. His private practice is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he lives. His website is DrLife.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Mastering the Life PLan CHAPTER 1
The Life Plan Philosophy
As a doctor, I know that the second half of your life can—and should—be the best half of your life. I’m confident saying that even though every day, we are aging. But the truth is, we don’t have to feel old. To me, getting “old” means the deterioration of your health accompanied by declining energy levels, loss of sexual function, and loss of your zest for life. I don’t want any part of that for myself or my patients, and I bet that you don’t, either.
It has now been fifteen years since I began my complete physical transformation. What’s so exciting to me is that what I accomplished in just a few months has lasted. Today, not only do I feel great, I’ve been able to maintain my physique and my good health over all these years. In fact, in many ways, I’m stronger, healthier, and more fit than I was when I first got into shape.
I’ve been able to stay strong and lean, reduce my cholesterol levels, reduce internal or “silent” inflammation, reduce blood sugar levels, eliminate biomarkers for heart attack and stroke, and avoid diabetes. I have actually stopped the progression of heart disease that, unknown to me, had started when I was in my twenties. I have the mental focus, clarity, and sharpness necessary to keep me more productive and creative than ever. At 74 I’m in love with my wife, working every day building my medical practice, writing best-selling books, training with elite athletes, riding my Harley, playing with my grandkids, and learning more about exercise, nutrition, and preventive medicine. I love my life!
But back in 1998, my future did not look as bright. When I discovered that my own hormone levels were deficient, traditional medicine said that andropause, or declining testosterone, is not a disease but a fact of life, so it shouldn’t be treated. When I was losing muscle tissue and strength to sarcopenia, conventional doctors once again said to just accept that I was getting older, and basically, just get over it. But even 15 years ago, I knew that they were wrong. The sad part is, most men continue to hear this same message from their doctors even today.
What most docs still don’t get is that aging is not the enemy, and it’s not a disease. In fact, by its very definition, aging is a gradual change in your body that doesn’t result from disease. Disease is the deviation or interruption of the normal function of any part or system of your body. Each of us has a unique set of inherited predispositions for certain health issues: That’s your DNA code. On top of that, your lifestyle choices contribute to whether these tendencies will materialize. Lifestyle can definitely trump genetics. So instead of accepting disease or waiting for it to appear, you can learn how to use my health strategies to keep your body metabolically and physiologically in balance. That’s the Life Plan.
The Philosophy Behind the Medicine
I do not accept as fact traditional medicine’s proclamation that there’s nothing we can do about “natural declines” that occur as we get older, when in fact there’s everything we can do about them. When I was on The Doctors Show in 2012, the producers cleverly built the segment not only around my book, but around my name. I think the acronym they created really sums up my philosophy (and I wish I’d thought of it myself). This book teaches you how to master these four core areas as we age:
■ L—Levels of hormones: Reversing hormone deficiencies keeps you energized, vibrant, and healthy. Declining hormone levels are the result of a disease process, not aging, and should be treated. In my opinion it’s malpractice for doctors to ignore declining hormone levels and write them off as an acceptable part of aging. Study after study has shown that increasing testosterone and other critical hormone levels in deficient adults greatly affects health in many positive ways, from improving bone mineral density, sexual function, libido, and body composition to reducing risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. An optimal level of testosterone can actually decrease or eliminate Metabolic Syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure and cholesterol. And testosterone is not the only hormone you need to be concerned with: Later in the book you’ll learn about all of the hormones that you need to be tested for, and how to enhance existing levels if necessary.
■ I—Insulin control: Maintaining low insulin levels keeps you from getting fat and cascading into poor health, so it’s critical to learn how to manage it through diet. Many researchers believe that high levels of insulin cause the other components of Metabolic Syndrome to develop—obesity, high triglycerides, elevated blood pressures, and inflammation. Excess levels of insulin are also thought to be the single most important factor that accelerates the aging process. High insulin levels affect your percent body fat, blood lipid levels, glucose tolerance, aerobic capacity, muscle mass, strength, and immune function. However, when you structure a nutrition program around keeping blood sugars and insulin levels in check as I have, you will get a huge benefit beyond improved health—increased muscle size. In just four to seven days of eating “clean” you can move your blood sugar and insulin levels toward their ideal range, and by two weeks you will no longer be plagued by feelings of hunger, depravation, and cravings. You’ll experience a marked improvement in your mental focus, exercise endurance, strength, optimal health, muscularity, and leanness. These are the reasons why my diet plans are all structured to lower insulin levels.
■ F—Food as fuel: The foods we eat can change our lives by providing constant energy and promoting good health. Your current diet may be filled with processed foods, unhealthy proteins, and sugar-laden simple carbohydrates that all taste great but really accelerate aging. All these bad foods are quickly stored as body fat and arterial plaque. They also suck the energy right out of you, add weight, and create the perfect conditions for stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Always remember, what you put into your mouth can either hurt you or help you. I’ll teach you how to change the way you eat so that you can begin to lose weight and reverse your potential for illness.
■ E—Exercise: A comprehensive exercise program can not only transform our bodies, but improve our thinking and even our sex lives with just one hour of working out a day. One goal of the Life Plan is preserving bone density and enhancing muscle tissue growth. Without it, the average American male can expect to gain approximately one pound of body fat every year between ages 30 and 60 and lose about a half pound of muscle mass each year over the same period. At age 60 and onward it gets even worse as the rise in body fat replaces muscle mass. The largest loss of muscle mass occurs between ages 50 and 75, averaging 25 to 30 percent.
The 10 Biggest Myths Surrounding Men’s Health
Healthy aging specialists like me are dedicated to the science of healthy aging. We emphasize the enhancement of health over the treatment of illness, focusing on disease prevention, wellness, and quality of life. This approach is based on the fact that today, the majority of men already possess a genetic makeup that will allow us to live well beyond age 85. The key is to make the best of the genes we have so that we can live better, longer. By incorporating these practices into our daily lives we can reverse illness and compress the time we are sick. As I like to tell my patients, we can’t stop the aging process, but we can definitely manage it.
Even still, there are many misconceptions that surround men’s health, and particularly healthy aging. These myths do nothing but hold men back, and frankly, we need to get rid of them. Another aspect of my philosophy is being completely up to date with the medical literature and backing up all my recommendations with peer-reviewed, evidence-based research studies.
1. Growth hormone therapy and testosterone therapy are the same as steroid abuse by athletes: Completely false. Bodybuilders and athletes who use testosterone replacement therapy to enhance their performance are illegally (and dangerously) using hormone therapy in a manner not intended, because they are taking too much and are most probably not deficient. In fact, I’ll bet the illegal users aren’t getting tested for hormonal deficiencies, but are merely using the drug to ramp up their testosterone levels to as much as 10 to 20 times higher than the upper limits of the healthy range.
Testosterone replacement therapy needs clinical supervision. Because illegal users’ levels aren’t monitored via periodic blood work, the concentration of testosterone in their system can reach hazardous levels. However, clinically supervised testosterone replacement therapy for the purpose of counteracting hormone deficiencies and promoting good health is safe and effective, with minimal side effects.
It’s also important to remember that growth hormone and testosterone therapies are prescribed to prevent disease and reverse disease; they will not help you grow muscles and get ripped. I look the way I do because I spend hours at the gym each week working out. This is the most common misconception: that by taking these hormones men can build muscle and get rid of body fat. However, I will say that what hormone replacement therapy has done for me typifies what it has done for my patients. It has helped me create an optimal environment within my body, a healthy environment of hormones that are at healthy levels, which has enabled me to maximize all the training that I do, all the cardio and resistance training and flexibility training, so that I can look like I do at age 74. If I just did all the training and had low hormone levels, I wouldn’t look anything like I do now. If I did no training and just took hormones, I wouldn’t look anything like I do now.
It is very likely that the same young, professional athletes who are abusing hormone therapies are also working out at elite levels every day. These guys train at such intense levels that to some extent it’s questionable whether their athletic performance really benefits from growth hormone or testosterone replacement therapy. I do believe that these therapies make them feel psychologically better and probably allow them to train harder and have fewer injuries. At the same time I know that they are putting themselves at great risk for potentially serious medical problems.
One of the big complaints my patients share with me is that when they start the program, and are going to the gym after not working out for a very long while, it takes them a few days just to recover from just one workout session. Once I correct their hormone deficiencies, that all goes away and they can recover more rapidly, which allows them to work out more often and at a higher level.
2. Testosterone therapy causes cancer of the prostate and testicles, and other serious health concerns: Simply wrong! In fact, reversing testosterone deficiencies is one of the key ways to prevent these and other types of cancers. This unfortunate myth has steered the medical community in the wrong direction for 70 years. It started with a 1941 journal article that reported that testosterone injections increased the rate of prostate cancer growth, and that castration decreased it. Yet the problem wasn’t with testosterone, it was with the study: It was based on only one patient! Subsequent studies have failed to link elevated testosterone levels with increased risk of prostate cancer. In fact, one large longitudinal study found just the opposite to be true—low testosterone levels were a risk factor for prostate cancer.
Another frequently repeated myth is that testosterone replacement therapy increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Not so. Again, it’s just the opposite. The heart has the highest concentration of testosterone receptors in the body, so testosterone has a huge impact on heart health. Men with healthy testosterone levels have fewer cardiovascular issues and lower mortality rates than those with deficiencies. Other studies link optimal levels of testosterone to reduced risk of coronary artery disease and hypertension, as well as improved cardiac function for those with preexisting heart disease. Older men who undergo testosterone replacement therapy typically see a decrease in LDL and overall cholesterol levels. On the flip side, low testosterone levels have been associated with increased atherosclerosis.
3. Men don’t experience anything like menopause: While men don’t experience a precipitous fall in hormone levels that causes noticeable symptoms as women do, they absolutely do lose hormones as they age, and the results can be just as devastating. The male version of menopause, known as andropause or late-onset hypogonadism, is not yet universally recognized by the medical community, but its effects are all too real. Men begin to experience a gradual decline in testosterone and other hormones starting in our thirties. By our forties, we may start to feel the effects: decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased bone density, fatigue, weight gain, loss of muscle mass and strength, even anxiety or depression.
A traditional doctor may shrug off these complaints as the “normal” signs and symptoms of aging and leave it at that. Such medical practices are what perpetuate the myth that andropause isn’t real.
Or they may check your testosterone level and—finding it to be in the “normal” range—allow the problem to go untreated. However, the problem lies in the definition of “normal.” The reference range is between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl). A testosterone “deficiency” is characterized by levels below 200 ng/dl. So if your tested levels are above 200, the traditional physician may think your testosterone levels are fine. The reality is that a low borderline-“normal” test result is equivalent to a D-minus on your report card. Raising your testosterone level to the upper normal range of 700–1,100 is what I look to achieve for my patients, and you shouldn’t settle for less either. By reversing hormone loss, you’ll reverse the symptoms of andropause and the diseases that accompany it.
4. Men cannot increase muscle mass and strength as they get older: Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve gained 10 pounds of muscle in the last two years just by doing the right kind of exercise, eating clean, and making sure my hormone levels are at the top end of the normal range. The Life Plan is meant to make sure that we avoid losses of muscle tissue and strength as we age. You’ll first learn how to get back into exercise safely so that you can begin to build muscle and get stronger, which will help protect your health for years to come. Then, by following this program, you’ll quickly start to see results as you get leaner and more ripped, which will motivate you to make exercise an integral part of your life.
The truth is that men need to increase muscle mass in order to combat sarcopenia, a condition marked by muscle atrophy and loss that typically begins in your thirties and worsens as you age. If you don’t exercise properly, muscle loss will progress at the rate of 3 to 5 percent with each decade starting in your thirties and forties, then increase to 10 to 20 percent every decade after that.
5. Declining sexual function or interest (libido) is a normal part of aging: If you want to use this as your excuse, go ahead. But I’ll show you how to have ...
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