You’re an active person, you eat healthily, you don’t have any known illnesses. You want to optimise your health but have been told you’re already healthy and there is nothing more out there for you in terms of conventional medicine. This is where longevity medicine comes in, and more specifically – longevity screening.
We’ve been conditioned to think that diet and exercise are the cornerstones of good health. Whilst these are wonderful habits that certainly do have an impact, unfortunately they don’t automatically guarantee that you will remain healthy as you age – there are many more pieces to the puzzle that is longevity.
We all know by now that we’re an ageing population. The average age of the UK population in 2020 was 39.9 years and ONS figures project that this will rise to 42.2 years by 2035. Staggeringly, the number of people aged 90 and above is estimated to more than triple by 2035. Living longer sounds great – if we are in good health and still able to enjoy life in our later years. But it just takes one look at our grandparents and parents to see that this is not necessarily the case. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. With life expectancy on the rise, and no signs of it slowing down, we’re actually living longer with a deteriorated quality of life.
Longevity medicine is about taking a proactive approach to improving your healthspan (the amount of time you remain healthy) and preserving quality of life. Healthspan is not just influenced by lifestyle, it’s also determined by genetics and our environment.
Screening is so vitally important to longevity medicine. It is a powerful tool for giving us precise information about your DNA and more, meaning that we can tailor a highly personalised proactive plan that will make a real difference to your health in the long term. This isn’t just any testing, either. We deep dive into your cellular makeup to discover things that could potentially cause issues later down the line so interventions can be put into place now.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons screening is so important for people who are already well.
When we carry out longevity screening, we are not just looking for ‘normal’ levels in regards to biomarkers, we are looking for optimal levels. Why is this important?
Dr Harpal Bains explains: “Who decides what’s normal? Normal may be suitable for some people but not for others. When it comes to vitamin D, for example, 50 ng/mL is considered normal, but I prefer my patients to be above 100 ng/mL. At the moment, conventional medicine aims for ‘normal’ range (that allows your GP to tell if something is ‘normal’), whereas functional medicine aims for an ‘optimal’ range – these are really quite different from conventional ranges. It is my opinion that many of the ‘normal’ ranges need to be reviewed – for example, the ‘normal’ cholesterol range is very narrow which means that a person’s cholesterol quite frequently is ‘abnormal’ as it does not fit into the normal range, hence necessitating treatment with statins. These ranges were much wider years ago.”
Cancers, health conditions and diseases don’t usually appear overnight – they develop quietly in the background for years before they display any symptoms (if at all). Conventional screening is unlikely to detect the early development of these conditions because the ‘normal’ ranges are too broad. Deep dive screening narrows these ranges, opening up the scope to identify conditions you wouldn’t normally think to look for, so you can be aware of potential issues while they are easier to treat.
Dr Harpal Bains on screening of herself, and her children: “My daughters and myself were screened, and when I received the DNA test results it was so interesting! I’m lactose intolerant but my daughters are not. I can’t process fat properly, and my daughters can’t either. This tells me that a keto diet is a bad idea for me based on my DNA. None of us absorb B vitamins properly (necessary for detox) which means we are going to have issues getting rid of oestrogen metabolites. An excess of oestrogen metabolites in the body can stimulate breast cancer cells. Now we can put into place interventions that can help correct that before it ever gets a chance to develop into anything. Without being screened, I would have never known that. And my girls now get the advantage of having detailed information about their health early on.
“Longevity medicine and screening is all about the ability to be so precise that from the beginning you start to counter all the potential catalysts for health issues, allowing you to make decisions about your health. Now, I’m aware of important, potentially life changing concerns in my family’s health.”
Ultimately, the goal of longevity medicine is to help you live better for longer. By screening, we can get a really precise picture of where your health is right now. This allows us to put together a highly personalised plan with the goal of improving your healthspan. This plan can be reviewed regularly so that you can see the interventions are really making a difference to your health.
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