How to Age Well in Delaware, According to Local Experts

While basics like a healthy diet and lifestyle are cornerstones of longevity, drugs and supplements also show promise for slowing the march of time.

For thousands of years, explorers such as Juan Ponce de León crossed oceans to search for the Fountain of Youth. According to legend, a dip or drink from the mythical spring would deter aging. “It’s a timeless quest, right?” notes Kim Furtado, N.D., a naturopathic doctor in Lewes. Today’s “explorers” aren’t traveling the globe. They’re seeking the solution in prescription drugs and supplements. The interest is understandable. An increase in the average life expectancy has led to a rise in age-related diseases such as diabetes, some cancers and dementia.

But before you start biohacking, or using drugs, supplements or technology to turn back the aging process, do your research.

Off-label options

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves drugs for specific purposes, but many times, doctors will prescribe a medication for a different reason than originally intended and approved by the FDA. This is called off-label drug use, and it is a common and legal practice in medicine. For instance, the FDA approved semaglutide for Type 2 diabetes, but people without diabetes use it to lose weight.

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Another potential example is metformin, which also lowers blood sugar. Studies published in 2022 indicate that the common drug may also delay aging on a cellular level. Researchers noted that those taking the drug had reduced risk of early death compared to nondiabetics not taking metformin.

But human data is limited and inconclusive, explains Jack Snitzer, M.D., director of endocrinology at TidalHealth. “However, metformin has much data showing that it does help protect the pancreas function over time; it helps—at least probably to some degree—fatty liver, and it likely lowers cardiovascular disease,” he says.

Users may experience side effects, including severe diarrhea. People with significant kidney disease should not use it, Snitzer adds.

Rapamycin is also making headlines. The FDA approved the immunosuppressant drug for transplant patients in 1999. Also known as sirolimus, researchers explored the drug’s cancer-combating properties as early as 2006, and Columbia University researchers recently announced plans to determine whether it can delay menopause. Further research on the drug’s anti-aging potential is needed.

Senolytics, meanwhile, is a drug class that targets senescent cells that stopped dividing. But as we age, our body doesn’t remove all the so-called “zombie cells,” which can congregate around organs or systems prone to age-related diseases.

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The FDA approved senolytic dasatinib (Sprycel) for chronic myelogenous leukemia. But it may address other medical conditions. For instance, in a 2023 issue of Nature Aging, a published study noted that senolytics can slow brain aging and COVID-19–related neurological complications.

All these drugs can have potentially serious side effects, says chiropractor Tamara Blossic, D.C., of Total Integrative Health in Greenville, a functional medicine practice. “None have been approved for anti-aging,” she notes. Always speak to a doctor about how such risks relate to your own medical history.

Supplementing natural functions

As we age, our body does not produce enough of certain amino acids, enzymes and antioxidants, so dietary supplements have been growing in popularity. Take, for instance, taurine, an amino acid that supports digestive, cardiovascular, skeletal, muscular and nervous system functions.

If taurine sounds familiar, it’s likely because you’ve seen it listed as an ingredient in some energy drinks. Taurine and caffeine might enhance mental performance and energy, but the evidence is inconclusive.

Recent research reveals a host of new supplements that may help prevent aging. But why wait for a miracle drug when we already know a healthy lifestyle—nutritious food, physical exercise, mindfulness, community—is associated with human longevity?
Recent research reveals a host of new supplements that may help prevent aging. But why wait for a miracle drug when we already know a healthy lifestyle—nutritious food, physical exercise, mindfulness, community—is associated with human longevity? Adobe Stock.

In June 2023, the journal Science published a study that showed a daily taurine supplement increased the life span of mice and worms by about 10%. Mice that received taurine lived 10% to 15% longer. Some doctors provide taurine supplements to help with congestive heart failure, anemia and cystic fibrosis. Beyond supplements, there are healthier taurine sources than energy drinks, which may cause dehydration, anxiety and heart complications. Taurine is found naturally in meat, eggs and shellfish.

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Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), an enzyme in all living cells, also wanes as we age. Some companies market NAD+ supplements and injections to delay or improve age-related physical and cognitive decline.

Glutathione is an antioxidant in cells that can protect the body from disease and stem the effects of aging. Unfortunately, environmental toxins and heavy metals affect our bodies’ production of it, Blossic says. A low level may lead to disease, so some doctors suggest supplementation.

Supplements also include “longevity activators” that claim to support telomeres, protective DNA segments at the end of chromosomes. Telomeres shorten each time a cell divides, and some say the length predicts a person’s biological age.

Longer telomeres, however, is not necessarily better, according to a paper published in a 2023 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that while short telomeres can lead to health problems, long ones may cause cancer and a blood disorder called clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential, known as CHIP, which increases the risk of blood cancers and heart disease.

Note that supplements are not strictly regulated and can interact with prescription medications. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking them.

Eat to live

Not all supplements compensate for an aging body’s reduced production. Consider medicinal mushrooms, which the Chinese have used for years to reduce inflammation and boost immunity. Experts recommend reishi—the “mushroom of immortality”—shiitake and maitake mushrooms for age-related issues.

Resveratrol, another antioxidant, is naturally found in peanuts, grapes, some berries and red wine, which is why some link the consumption of red wine with a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease. Others tout resveratrol’s anticancer properties and anti-inflammatory abilities.

Meanwhile, a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, beans and fish—the so-called Mediterranean diet—may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease, according to a National Institute on Aging study.

“If I were concerned about longevity, I would modify my diet to be more similar to the diet of people that live in blue zones—areas where humans, not lab animals, have significantly improved longevity compared to their neighbors,” says Tamara Giles, a registered dietitian with TidalHealth.

“The diets in these regions are high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains,” she continues. “They are limited in meat portion sizes/frequency and dairy products. Beverages are often unsweetened, and wine is included.”

Whole living

Indeed, for now, there isn’t a single magic bullet to prevent aging, Furtado concedes. However, a proper diet and lifestyle changes are drug-free ways to maintain good health.

“If you want to make changes, start now,” Giles says. “Don’t wait for studies on one specific amino acid when eating styles that include a day’s worth of nutrients and are associated with increased human longevity already exist.”

Restorative sleep is also essential, as is finding ways to lower stress, such as meditation, Furtado says. Avoid toxins and pay attention to gut health—the balance of microorganisms in your intestine, Blossic adds.

Furtado says the effort to age well needn’t be challenging. “Prioritize taking care of yourself and not running yourself into the ground.”

Related: 6 Common Health Issues Impacting Delaware’s 50-Plus Community

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