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Performance Enhancing Drugs Do Not Reverse Aging - In Fact They Accelerate It

Many SP readers several months ago may have come across a syndicated newspaper piece that in my local newspaper appeared in its "Living Well" section. Entitled "Fighting Time/Staying Young", this largely misleading piece correctly cited the proven benefits of regular exercise, proper nutrition, avoidance of excess sun exposure, and proper dental care. It also gave a fairly balanced, albeit truncated, review of generally NON-beneficial practices such as "Botox" injections and most plastic surgery procedures that are offered to reverse "aging". But, unfortunately, the article touted as beneficial the extremely dangerous and ill-advised uses the following so-called performance enhancing drugs: human growth hormone, testosterone, and DHEAA (another form of testosterone). The example subject of the piece, a particular "patient" in his late 40's, was, in reality, the unwitting victim of the medical malpractice and quackery of his "age management" physician. The article quoted the patient as saying that he wanted "to have as long an existence as possible", and that he did not want to be "stooped over and bedridden". Thus, he took these nostrums, prescribed by his "doctor", even though these will, in reality, guarantee for him the complete opposite effects of his expectations. For it will definitely come to pass that at some point-- likely soon if he does not end now his use of these substances-- this gentleman will actually become stooped over and bedridden, far removed from the joys of robust health and youthful appearance. Here are the facts why, based on the currently accepted princi ples of physiology and medical science: While it is true that injections (exogenous use) of human growth hormone (HGH) to supplement the minute amounts secreted by the normal adult pituitary gland do cause muscles and tissues to grow, this artificially stimulated growth is not physiological, and it is relatively disorganized. The temporarily enlarged muscles, including the HGH-induced enlarged heart (the heart is a muscle too), do NOT function as normal healthy muscles do. The heart's muscle weakens over time, becomes quite compromised, and starts to fail. It is obvious that heart failure is hardly a means to good health. The larger body muscles become disportionate to their tendons. This un-natural stress on the muscle tendons leads to pain, loss of function, and inflammation at the insertion sites of the tendons to bones. ( The medical term for this is "enthesopathies".) Partial or complete tendon ruptures then occur. Ligaments also begin to fail. Then the muscles themselves, as does the heart, start to weaken. In effect, this deterioration mimics the premature aging process, not the reversal of the aging process. HGH also causes bones to enlarge. Again, this enlargement is not physiologic, and is quite harmful. The HGH-induced enlarged bones of the lumbosacral spine becomes arthritic quickly. Spinal discs deteriorate. The inevitable result is low back pain, spinal stenosis (compression and distortion of the spinal canal), compression of nerves as they exit the spine, nerve root pain, possible loss of bowel and bladder control, and ultimately loss of strength and coordination in the lower extremities. Similar changes occur in the bones of the spine at the level of the neck. Other bones become enlarged too, including those of the jaw and face. Teeth may begin to loosen and fall out. Exogenous HGH also leads to diabetes, hypertension, poor cholesterol profile, and more. I think intelligent readers get the point by now. In reality, there is no such thing in adults as growth hormone "deficiency". In adults, physicians NEVER check for HGH deficiency. We DO, however, check for its excess. We do so when we see a patient with any of the changes described above, and suspect that the patient might have a pituitary tumor that secrets excess HGH. (Acromegaly or "giantism" is the term for the disease of growth hormone excess when it is florid or longstanding, but subtle HGH excess may not initially produce such dramatic body changes.) Even in adult patients who, because of destructive tumors or other causes, have no pituitary function at all, we physicans never give them HGH replacement, as there is no need for it. (We do replace other pituitary hormones, but never HGH). In summary, there is no place in medicine or health for adults to take HGH, at least not in the current realm of medical science and practice. There are ongoing studies that investigate the possible benefits of exogenous HGH in cer tain wasting diseases, such as AIDS and cancers; but almost all of these so far have demonstrated no significant benefit. (HGH IS necessary for children whose growth is impaired because of pituitary deficiency of HGH secretion-- a rare condition. But the physiology of hormones in children is quite different from that in adults.) Testosterone, DHEAA, and all other anabolic steroids cause essentially all of the same problems discussed above that does HGH-- in fact more intensely so. Exogenous testosterone and DHEAA are more exquisitely detrimental than is HGH to the physiology of the skin, cholesterol chemistry, the prostate, liver, and blood pressure control. They also promote the development and growth of multiple different cancers. They cause or enhance psychiatric disturbances, often severely so. These substances obviously have NO place in the treatment of healthy adults who are not otherwise truly deficient in testosterone. True testosterone deficiency in adults IS a disease state that requires careful physician analysis and treatment. Blood tests are helpful, but must be correlated to the clinical presentation of the individual patient, as a"low" testosterone level is not necessarily abnormal in a senior citizen. This is also an area of ongoing medical research. Much the same is true of other spurious health and nutrition "supplements". Among these are creatine, derivatives of amphetamines, large doses of vitamins or minerals, and other nostrums. NONE of these have been shown scientifically to promote health. All are worthless at best. Most are actually dangerous. In the aggregate, all of these so-called "performance enhancing drugs" are anything but performance enhancing. Rather, they are disease-enhancing agents. They actually ACCELERATE the aging process; they do not reverse it. On the other hand, proper regular exercise and proper diet truly ARE the keys to good health. These WILL slow down "aging", prevent disease, and often alleviate or even reverse disease. These will promote increased sense of physical and psychological well being and energy. These will make you look good too. (Other healthy habits include sufficient sleep, non-smoking, and moderation of alcohol.) All this is not only intuitively obvious, but also well documented by hundreds of properly done scientific studies Almost every community has excellent resources for health, fitness, and nutrition. These include health clubs, parks, nutritionists, personal trainers, physical therapists, physicians, and the multiple services available at hospital centers. All stand ready to help you achieve the best possible health, based on sound scientific and medical principles. Take advantage of them. Start now, and do it right! See you at the gym. (EG)

(This piece appeared several years ago on the senior citizens resource website:

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