WF: Published studies document that people who do not sleep well put on more pounds than those who get their eight hours.
SS: Of course! Once you understand that, then going to sleep becomes a pleasure. The science supporting the value of getting eight to nine hours of sleep a night blew my mind. For example, it takes three hours before midnight for your body to get into its nighttime cycle. Once you're asleep for three hours, if you can sleep another five or six hours following those three hours, your cortisol will go down, your insulin will go down, and it triggers the production of melatonin. And that healing and protective hormone works during the night throughout the body, and you wake up the next morning rested and refreshed.
WF: That's very true. This is something we try to emphasize to our members: people who are sleep-deprived have elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines. If they have any kind of underlying health disorder, it's going to be made worse by not sleeping well, because their inflammatory cytokine levels will be much, much higher.
SS: Yes. But if you can't sleep because your hormones are out of whack, then it is crucial that you work with a cutting-edge doctor, like the ones I interviewed for my new book. Barring some kind of catastrophe, technology will keep you, I, and everyone else around until we're 90 or 100 years old. And yet mainstream medicine has not thought about the quality of those remaining years.
When I was interviewing Dr. Herbert Slavin for my book, he said that at the turn of the twentieth century, medicine was naturopathic, osteopathic, homeopathic, and chiropractic. You went to your doctor and he knew a little about everything. Then the Carnegies and Rockefellers, who owned pharmaceutical companies, hired a guy by the name of Abraham Flexner to go around to medical schools and offer them huge financial incentives to teach allopathic medicine and to make all the other accepted forms of medicine "alternative."
And that's how we got into this "here's my symptom, here's your drug" kind of medicine. It was all a business decision. You can see its effects on the health of Americans. Even though we can do more and more phenomenal things with surgery, our health has deteriorated such that Americans may be the unhealthiest people on the planet and American women may be the sickest women on the planet.
In my interview with Dr. Larry Webster, he said he was doing some volunteer work in Africa. He was In the Republic of Gambia, working at a clinic with the Minister of Health. Dr. Webster said to the Minister of Health, "I can't help but notice that your women have a much softer menopause here, that cancer and heart disease are virtually nonexistent." And the Minister of Health said, "Ah, but we're a very poor country. We can't afford your chemicals."
WF: You mentioned that you've had difficulty convincing people of the value of bioidentical hormone replacement. Through Life Extension, I've been able to encourage thousands, maybe tens of thousands of men to get on testosterone replacement. You've reached out and maybe gotten millions of women and men to consider this.
SS: I've always been very open about my age, as you are. I often hear people say, "Well, I'm getting close to 60 and I don't feel like I've got the energy Suzanne has. I want what she's having." That's been very rewarding. I don't feel that I'm leading anybody down any path I wouldn't take myself. I never tell anyone what to do. I just say, "This is what I'm doing. If what I'm doing appeals to you, look into it. Try it." I feel great. I wake up happy, I have energy, I love my life, my husband, and my children, and I wouldn't change a thing. And it's because I'm hormonally balanced.
In my fifties, when I didn't have the answers to the health problems I was encountering, I would wake up at night and think, "This just isn't fair. I've spent my whole life putting my family first and doing the best job I could. And this is the payoff, that I can't sleep, I'm gaining weight, and I feel bad all the time?"
WF: It makes no sense, which is one of the reasons we started the Life Extension Foundation. You spend all this time educating yourself and situating yourself in a comfortable environment, then all of a sudden, your body lets you down, and . . .
SS: You feel betrayed. By the way, Life Extension is my favorite magazine. Every month I read it cover to cover. I've learned so much and found a lot of my doctors through interviews that I've read in there.
WF: Thank you. We put an incredible amount of energy into providing our members with cutting-edge information that can improve and even save their lives.
SS: What I'm finding in anti-aging medicine is an amazing willingness of doctors to share information. One of the common threads through Ageless is that every single doctor, at some point in the interview, said, "This is the most rewarding work I've ever done. Every day I have patients thank me, hug me, give me flowers, tell me how much they appreciate the work that we're doing together." That's rewarding work for doctors, and how medicine should be practiced.
WF: It is rewarding, and I like what you wrote about bioidentical hormone replacement being an evolving science, where we literally learn each day about better ways to use it.
SS: Part of educating myself and my readers about hormones is understanding that you don't want too much or too little, you want balance. For females, you're not going to take too much estrogen, and you're going to know when you have enough. You're not going to take too much progesterone, and you're going to know when you have enough. Too much estrogen and we start gaining weight. Too much progesterone, we start bloating. Too much testosterone, we start getting pimples and rash. So our bodies adjust. That's why I really believe in bioidentical hormone replacement, because it's so individualized. Some women might need to talk to their doctors every day at first, because they're feeling so badly. But after a while, a woman who really does her homework is going to be able to dose herself based on blood work that the doctor gives her, the baseline. "This is what you need. But if you're feeling this, dose up a little bit. If you're feeling that, back off a little bit." But it takes a few years of replacing hormones to know your own body.
WF: Patient empowerment is absolutely critical here. For example, we refer members to some oncologists who will not even see new patients unless the patients themselves agree to self-educate. These oncologists expect patients to work with them as physicians to cure the disease.
SS: When I had cancer, I was told, "OK, here's what we're going to do. We're going to do surgery, then radiation, then chemotherapy, and then tamoxifen for five years. And by the way, you have to stop all your hormones."
And I remember sitting there with all this being thrown at me and saying, "We've got to back off a little. I'll do the surgery, but I'm not stopping my hormones."
"Not stopping your hormones? You have an estrogen-dominant tumor."
"I understand that. But I believe that it's an environment of balanced hormones that prevents disease. So if you take away the one thing that I really feel I have to fight a recurrence, you're taking away my strongest weapon, and I can't do that."
WF: You encountered a lot of resistance from your doctors by going against the conventional wisdom.
SS: My doctors were very upset, but going into this situation, I had more knowledge than the average woman. By that time, I'd written so many books about the hormone insulin relative to weight loss that I understood that if one hormone is off, they're all going to be off. I chose my own treatment—no chemotherapy and no tamoxifen. My doctors looked at me and said, "You're not taking tamoxifen?"
I said, "Tamoxifen gives me a 10% better chance that I won't have a recurrence, but a 40% increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary embolisms. That's the best you have to offer?" I believed that the best thing I could do for myself was to balance my hormones as close to perfection as I could.
WF: In your research, did you discuss with cardiologists just how critically important testosterone replacement is for protection against heart disease?
SS: The cardiologists I spoke to put their patients on statin drugs and are only focused on their one little area. I think this is where medicine has to change. You can't just treat one area of the body, you have to see the entire picture. When most doctors who are practicing today went to medical school 30 or 40 years ago, we weren't expected to live this long, so hormones were not given much importance—four hours of instruction in prescribing them. That just isn't enough.
I said to one cardiologist, "Testosterone is an anabolic steroid and the heart is the body's largest muscle. Anabolic steroids build bone and muscle, and there are more testosterone-receptor sites in the heart than any other part in the body. Doesn't it make sense to you that maybe this is how we maintain the pumping power of the heart, by keeping that testosterone up?" He just didn't get it.
A lot of the cutting-edge doctors I spoke with mentioned the negative aspects of statins. Most of them are taking their patients off statins and putting them on niacin.
WF: Interesting. In your book, Dr. Shipman said that if you inhibit the brain from making its own cholesterol, you‘re inhibiting it from making its own neuroprotective hormones that control Alzheimer's. Cholesterol forms the backbone of every single neurosteroid in the brain.
SS: I think cholesterol is something that we're eventually going to find is really misunderstood.