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Major V: Life Enhancing Drugs
Using drugs to defy age
Highlanders love life enhancing drugs.
Unlike in sports, there are no rules in the game of longevity that prohibit use of drugs. The only rules of the game are those determined by nature, which we are actively resisting by all means available.
Life enhancing drugs (LEDs) come in many forms. They include the “performance” category which includes hormones like testosterone or even anabolic agents. They also include the “necessary” category which includes things like statins to manage harmful lipid levels and. And they even include “longevity” drugs that include metformin and rapamycin.
The use of LEDs is earned through persistent effort in fitness, sleep, nutrition, and mental power. The goal for a Highlander using life enhancing drugs (LEDs) is to optimize physical or mental performance beyond that which can be achieved with the first four majors.
LEDs border on the transition from beginner to intermediate Highlander, so I’ll only offer a brief overview of the core LED categories here.
Performance drugs are primarily hormones that improve both physical and mental function. Testosterone is the most widely used and prescribed of the hormones with a relatively long understanding of clinical effect. Anabolic steroids can also be useful in improving performance in arthritic patients. Estrogen can have positive effects in reducing mortality in post-menopausal women.
The greatest challenge with performance enhancing drugs is associated stigmas. Many doctors do not fully appreciate modern studies on hormones, and many patients associate hormones with bodybuilders.
The Highlander should avoid these associations.
The need or ability to use performance drugs depends on blood levels of certain hormones. For testosterone as an example, the Highlander should focus on total and free levels of the hormone, free being the more important. For estrogen, the Highlander should focus on estrogen levels.
Sometimes hormone issues can be resolved with exercise, better sleep, and improved diet. Sometimes they can’t. In the latter case, performance enhancing drugs are one of the most powerful tools a Highlander has to fix deficiencies that can result in a handicap in the battle against age.
Two of the most popular drugs prescribed in the US are statins to control cholesterol and ACE inhibitors to control blood pressure. For many, these are necessary drugs to help avoid heart issues that could cause disease. The Highlander’s training program aims to address issues with cholesterol and blood pressure without drugs; however, some of us will still have elevated levels that need treatment.
In some cases, these necessary drugs may even be used in a longevity enhancing way. Even healthy individuals may be able to use drugs like PCSK-9 inhibitors to further lower harmful cholesterol levels. You may need to work with a longevity-focused doctor to get necessary drugs for a longevity capacity.
Longevity drugs are a domain for the advanced Highlander. Two of the most popular longevity drugs are metformin (a diabetes drug) and rapamycin (an immunosuppressant drug). Both are used off label in attempts by some to enhance longevity.
As we experiment more with these drugs, we sometimes learn that there are tradeoffs between the anti-aging effects we attempt to achieve with the drugs vs the other majors, especially exercise. Emerging studies suggest that metformin may blunt the positive effects of cardio exercise. If you train hard and diet appropriately, you may be able to get better longevity results by avoiding metformin.
We have yet to find a definitive free lunch in longevity drugs. The greater danger is the temptation of snake oil here. Many wonder drugs have come and gone. Exercise and diet still stand. Focus on getting the other majors right first. Find a good longevity doctor if you want to experiment with longevity drugs.
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