LE Magazine August 1999
Back On Track!
One Man's Commitment To The Cause
A typical day for Dave Kekich begins as he heads into his home office to check the financial markets for his venture capital firm, work the phones for his many fund-raising endeavors, and get a new not-for-profit organization off the ground that will be devoted to controlling aging. He'll top off his work day in his home gym, with a good 45 minutes of rigorous exercise. The fact that the 56-year-old Kekich does all this from a wheelchair doesn't slow him down at all.
Kekich says he's been a life extensionist almost without knowing it since his mid 20s. That's when Kekich, a Pennsylvania native, picked up and moved to California. There he quickly embraced a fitness lifestyle that included long distance running, weight lifting, popping an assortment of vitamins, and reading books by natural food pioneer, Adele Davis. Though he now describes those years as a time of trial and error in which he did plenty of things right and a few wrong, he realized that the fundamental health benefits he derived from this routine became an essential part of his very being. "Once you get into shape, there's no going back," he says. "It wasn't that I felt so much better [because of the health regime]. It was that if I missed a few workouts or didn't eat right, I'd feel worse. Diet, nutrition and exercise became as routine to me as brushing my teeth."
But that routine was dramatically interrupted one day in the summer of 1978, when he felt a stab of excruciating pain while he was working out and was rushed to the hospital. By the next day he was paralyzed from the chest down, the result of a hematoma in his spinal canal. "That kind of set me back a bit," he says, with some understatement. After a long stint in a rehab center where he learned to get around in a wheelchair, Kekich embarked on an overseas odyssey to find a cure for his paralysis. He ended up spending 15 months in Japan, Taiwan and India where he experimented with whatever herbs and alternative treatments he could find before returning home to Pennsylvania, out of shape, emaciated, with dysentery, and morbidly depressed. "I spent a few years feeling sorry for myself," he remembers.
It was a routine survey, sent to him by a newsletter that he subscribed to at the time, that got Kekich interested in living again. One of the survey questions was, "Do you exercise regularly?" To which Kekich answered yes, even though he had long since abandoned his workouts. "I couldn't say no, because in my mind and heart I was a fitness fanatic," he says. "So right away I put on wrist weights and starting waving my arms around in different configurations. It wasn't a lot but it was more than I had been doing." And it was enough to renew his commitment to fitness. Kekich soon stepped up the length of his workouts and began varying and intensifying his routine. He became so dedicated that he set a new personal record - six years straight without missing a single day of exercise.
His recommitment to weight lifting led to a second experience that further put him "back on track in life." He decided to put together the Eastern U.S. Powerlifting Championships - a fund-raising event whose proceeds would benefit the new local chapter of the Spinal Cord Society, which he also founded. Kekich went to work renting a field house, getting radio ads and press coverage, rounding up participants and sponsors alike, and staged a huge success, raising thousands of dollars for spinal cord research. "It made me realize that I still had my brain left," he says. "And that woke me up."
Indeed, these days he hardly has time to relax. Not only does he put on four or five fundraising events every year to benefit the Spinal Cord Society, but he and three partners also founded First Security Capital, a financial services company that makes stock loans through several offices around the country. And, in an effort to combine his passions for entrepreneurialism, fundraising, and life extension, he is forming a new not-for-profit entity, Never Say Die Foundation, dedicated to helping solve the problem of aging. He's now assembling and disseminating the latest research on aging.
His plans primarily include funding life extension technologies. Never Say Die is also creating a website that will serve as a complete data base on the subject, including the most recent findings, research institutions, theories on aging, diet and exercise plans, and reviews of books on aging. He hopes to soon have a biomarker kit available to help individuals track their own progress in delaying the aging process.
"When I got hurt I was lying around waiting for something to happen, for someone to do something. But I finally realized that I had to do something myself - and I have the same attitude now toward life extension," he says of his motivation for this latest project. "I'm committing most of my life to speeding up the day when we can control aging. And, in the meantime I hope to show people how to add five, 10 or 15 good healthy years to their lives."
Kekich's own life extension regime begins with Life Extension Foundation products. He takes three tablets of Life Extension Mix with breakfast, lunch and dinner, uses Life Extension Booster with dinner and Life Extension Herbal Mix each day at mid-morning. Super Coenzyme Q10 is also a daily must, which he takes for its antioxidant properties, and Cognitex helps prevent brain aging. Kekich also takes two softgels of Perilla Oil with each meal and plans to start on CLA soon as a source of essential fatty acids. Before bed he takes 3 mgs of Melatonin, not as a sleep aid, but as an antioxidant. And he takes two tablets of Hydergine twice a day for longevity and brain function, the hormone DHEA three times a day (25 mgs at a time), and Deprenyl twice a week. Mega Soy capsules are also on the list, as are SAMe, 250 mgs of Lucidril and plenty of calcium capsules in order to maintain bone density. Then there's cranberry extract twice daily to keep his bladder healthy and extra Vitamin C as an immune system booster. He recently added Saw Palmetto to this regime to protect his prostate. "I wish I'd started sooner," he admits. "But I finally got around to it."
He also recently changed his diet to increase his protein intake and went from having two large meals a day to having five small ones, describing himself now as "more of a grazer." Breakfast is either an egg white and oatmeal pancake, with fresh fruit and a little low-fat yogurt, or egg whites and cereal with fruit and soy milk. Lunch and dinner usually consist of a helping of chicken or turkey breast or fish-red meat is a rare occurrence-a balanced amount of carbohydrates, such as a baked potato or rice, and a salad of fresh vegetables. He finds spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, and one with considerably fewer carbohydrates. Mid-afternoon and nighttime meals are apt to be a powdered meal replacement drink that is high in protein, carbohydrates and nutrients and low in fat. Besides enjoying the taste, Kekich has a glass of red wine with dinner to guard against cardiovascular problems and Alzheimer's disease (Recent studies found that red wine can greatly reduce the chance of senile dementia.) He also takes one baby aspirin with dinner.
Though Kekich is quick to admit that he doesn't have a "lot of time for fun," he does occasionally join friends for dinner or an evening spent listening to music or watching a film. "But," he adds. "I enjoy my work more than I used to enjoy goofing off."
"Time," he says, "is like money. A little invested now pays off in spades in the future.
"Time spent now on life extension ventures might buy us more extra years than most people would ever believe. What better investment could anyone make?"
Kekich also likes to relax and work on his back deck, which faces the thick woods of Western Pennsylvania. "I used to be a run-around type, but these days I'm kind of a stay-at-home guy," he says-almost sounding like he isn't busy.