“Learning and Fun Aboard the Sun”
As a long-time member of the Life Extension Foundation and writer for its magazine, one thing I have always appreciated is the creativity of the Foundation when it comes to looking after its members. A great example of this is the exciting new Life Extension cruise, which set sail for the Caribbean in October, 2007. By combining a conference with a great vacation destination as a single package, this inaugural cruise was a smashing success for the Life Extension members lucky enough to attend.
All Aboard the Sun
The cruise ship was the Norwegian Sun run by Norwegian Cruise Lines, a beautiful ship by all accounts. Between sunny destinations such as Roatan (an island off Honduras), Cozumel (an island off Mexico), Belize, and Key West, Florida, Life Extension delivered a range of informative lectures for the members on a wide variety of topics relating to health, disease prevention, and fitness, to name a few, as well as presenting the latest in integrative therapies and anti-aging research. This was also a unique opportunity for members to interact directly with medical doctors, researchers, advisors, and other Life Extension members.
The conference began with a talk by Life Extension’s Vice President of Scientific Affairs and Medical Development, Dr. Steven Joyal. His opening presentation was a general “welcome to the conference,” followed by an extensive look at the state of the Life Extension Foundation and the many areas of research it has both funded and focused on. His opening talk covered a wide range of topics, such as the latest research on anti-aging and disease prevention, new supplements and drugs, and strategies such as calorie restriction (CR) for preventing diseases associated with aging and extending life span.
Optimal Hormone Levels
Later that day, Scott Fogle, ND, Life Extension’s Director of Clinical Information, gave a presentation entitled “Hormones and Optimal Health,” which covered many issues surrounding the importance of optimizing various hormones. He explained in easy-to-follow terms how the many hormones in our bodies function, how they need to be properly balanced and monitored, and, a key area that is often ignored, the importance of regular blood work for accomplishing those goals.
Life Extension stresses constantly the importance of regular blood work, as do I, and I was surprised by the number of people on board who did not get regular blood work and did not know what their hormone levels were. For example, many men I spoke with did not know what their testosterone levels were and many women were unaware of their DHEA or estradiol (an estrogen) levels.
Suboptimal hormone levels are a fast way to lose muscle mass, bone mass, and general functionality as we age, which highlights the importance of regular blood work.
A number of talks also focused on the specific needs of aging men and women. Health advisor Alex Benitez gave a detailed presentation called “Prostate Cancer and Prostate Health,” which covered an important topic of concern to all aging men—maintaining a healthy prostate and avoiding prostate cancer. Specific to the concerns of many women, health advisor Dr. Sevda Akhundova gave a talk entitled “Breast Cancer/Breast Health,” which covered a variety of issues essential for avoiding a disease that kills thousands of women each year.
More notable lectures were given on the “Importance of Regular Blood Work” (presented by Dr. Akhundova), “Nutrition and Fitness for Life” and “Medication and Supplement Interactions” (both presented by Alex Benitez).
Dr. Joyal then delivered an in-depth presentation on a topic important to all aging adults, “Metabolic Syndrome and Weight Loss.”
Metabolic syndrome (also known as Syndrome X) is a cluster of conditions that often occur together as a result of a dysregulation in blood sugar metabolism via a decrease in insulin sensitivity. Metabolic syndrome has been estimated to affect approximately 25% of the US population. The condition often occurs as a cluster of abnormalities in one person, such as elevated levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, uric acid, and insulin, and excess body fat around the waist. Coupled together as metabolic syndrome, these factors greatly increase a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Dr. Joyal covered the issues surrounding metabolic syndrome, how to treat it with nutrition, supplements, exercise, weight loss, and pharmaceuticals, as well as ways to prevent it.
This is just a sample of the many lectures that were given on the first-ever Life Extension cruise. They were enjoyed by the members in attendance and provided hot topics of discussion at the group dinners we shared. Members were also able to meet one on one with the team of advisors, made up of Dr. Fogle, Dr. Akhundova, Alex Benitez, and myself.
I was tasked with the role of fitness advisor, which is one of my specialties, and I met one on one with the members to discuss their needs and concerns regarding all things fitness and health related, such as supplement intakes and altering their diets to suit their needs. Topics ranged from how to maintain one’s strength and functionality with aging using resistance training to what supplements are best for different goals, such as endurance, strength, or fat loss.
I met with all manner of people of different ages and backgrounds. For example, one couple was Robert and Rose. Robert is 92 and a retired physicist, and Rose might kill me for divulging her age in the magazine, so I will not do so! They were both clearly dedicated
Life Extension members and unlike so many people in their age bracket, they were sharp and quick-witted, which I found both inspirational and hopeful for those of us in early middle age. I went over their supplement regimen with them, discussed some changes in their exercise programs, and suggested that Rose needed to increase her protein intake (protein malnutrition is very common in older Americans).