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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Jeffrey R. Gladden on Cracking the Code of Longevity

May 30, 2024 06:29AM ● By Sandra Yeyati
Dr. Jeffrey R. Gladden

Courtesy of Dr. Jeffrey R. Gladden

Jeffrey R. Gladden is the founder and medical director of Gladden Longevity, in Dallas, Texas, a clinic that helps people “live young for a lifetime”. He is the author of 100 Is the New 30, which provides an easy-to-understand blueprint, identifying four target areas to be optimized: life energy; longevity, which includes the hallmarks of aging; health; and performance.

A board-certified cardiologist, Gladden earned his medical degree with multiple honors from Temple University and practiced for 25 years as an interventional cardiologist. He co-founded the Baylor Scott & White Heart Hospital, in Plano, as well as several cardiac catheterization programs around Dallas.    

 

What is longevity medicine? 

The best way to understand longevity medicine is to put it in context with what we currently are familiar with. Traditional medicine is called health care, but it’s actually reactionary, sick care that focuses on relieving symptoms with a sprinkle of preventive advice but offers no real health optimization. Functional medicine and integrative medicine pull from different schools of thought, integrating ancient wisdom, Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine and allopathic medicine to look at the root cause of an issue and create a more complete and durable answer.

Longevity medicine goes beyond these. Imagine that you’re floating on the Niagara River. As we age, we’re getting closer to the falls and the current of aging is increasing. Aging isn’t a linear process; it’s an exponential problem that requires an exponential solution. Treating symptoms or even getting at the root cause of disease isn’t necessarily going to have an effect on the aging process. 

Longevity medicine goes after the drivers of aging. So far, we’ve identified 16 hallmarks of aging that contribute to and accelerate the aging process. This is how we’re going to enable people to live young for a lifetime, thereby creating the most durable, most comprehensive answer to the symptoms they are experiencing and the aging process itself.

 

Why do you say that every decade of life requires a different approach?

Because of the aging river that you’re in. Every decade, the current in the water is stronger. What you did in your 20s to be youthful will need to be modified in your 30s, and then you’re going to need something different in your 40s and in your 50s and so on. If you’re not adapting to the increasing current of aging, then you have what I call a linear response to an exponential problem, and that’s never going to enable you to live young for a lifetime.

 

Is longevity medicine out of reach for people with limited resources?

Everybody who has ever lived has gotten old and died. If you’re going to do something completely different and live young for a lifetime, that’s analogous to going to Mars, which is inherently expensive. Nobody has ever done it before; it’s going to take an investment of time, attention and resources. 

When people first come to us to make them young again, we do extensive genetic testing and measure many biological ages for them. By knowing what cards they're holding and where they are in the game, we know where to start. And then, many of the reversal-type interventions like stem cells, young plasma, peptides or custom-made medications may be important but require a financial investment.

The flip side is that there are many things people can do that are not costly. If you’re smoking, drinking or eating excessive amounts of processed foods, stop doing that. If you’re not exercising, start exercising every day. 

The other thing that’s massively important and doesn’t cost much, if anything at all, is working on your mindset. People stop asking the questions that drive progress, and they get married to their current answers. They think: I’m going to get older, retire at 65, take Social Security, play golf, visit my grandkids, travel and then wind down. This picture of the future is make-believe, quite honestly, even though society reinforces it. The beauty of being human is that you can create your own reality. What if you paint a different picture by asking, “What does it take to make my life better?” or “How can we make 100 the new 30?”

Don’t forget that aging, itself, is very expensive. You’re paying a price not only financially but physically and mentally when you retire, lose your income, lose your mobility. Paying for long-term care or a nursing home is expensive. Some cancer drugs cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. Even though the consumer is shielded from it because they have sick-care insurance, somebody is paying for it. 

What if you can live young and not retire? You get to keep building on your wisdom and your success. Why would you want to retire if you’re functioning like you’re 30 years old?

 

What is the mental health impact on longevity?

So many of us have been plagued with anxiety and depression, and all of us have had traumatic experiences. Because of the way our brains are wired, we live in reaction to that trauma, either consciously or unconsciously. The problem is that if we are confronted with something again, it triggers a stress response or maybe a post-traumatic response that we’re carrying with us from the trauma that we incurred, and now our nervous system is on high alert. Our stress levels are on high alert. Our cortisol, insulin, adrenaline and dopamine and the whole sympathetic nervous system is activated in a way that is accelerating disease, aging and decline. 

You can never live young for a lifetime if you’re carrying all that burden. When you solve the mental health piece, you crack the code of anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction and all the self-sabotaging behaviors.

 

What is your personal goal in your longevity quest? 

The target I’ve settled on right now is when I’m 100, I want to have a 30-year-old body and a 300-year-old mind. I just completed 70 laps around the sun, and yet I wake up 27 every morning. I can do literally anything that I want: surf, go for a four-mile run, mountain bike. I can do anything I want intellectually and business-wise, too. 

This is free, by the way: you can wake up every morning and claim your age. Say, “I’m going to be 30 for the rest of my life.” Pick whatever age you were at your physical peak, and then say okay, I want that physicality going forward; now, what do I have to do to get back there? Then you can start dissecting that, which leads to more questions and finding out. 

I want a 300-year-old mind, also, where I’ve solved, healed and transcended all of the mental health issues and past trauma, enabling me to have more wisdom and empathy, and freeing me to bring all of my gifts forward—my enthusiasm, artistry, intellect, compassion and my ability to help others and make the world a better place. If you have a clear target like that, all of a sudden you have a longevity mindset. You can never crack the code on aging if you don’t have a longevity mindset. 

 

Are fear of death or disease motivators in your longevity quest?

That’s a great question. Ernest Becker wrote The Denial of Death, where he relates all of human behavior to the fear of death. Although it’s a thought-provoking book, I’m at a point in my spiritual growth that I don’t fear death. As far as I’m concerned, death is just stepping into the next adventure.

But I do fear going down the path of aging that I saw my grandparents, dad, mom and sister go down, where these gifted, talented, loving people were stripped of their ability to do anything except try to hang on and survive. That’s the tragedy. If there’s a fear for me, it’s the understanding that if I’m not proactive, if I don’t devote my time, attention and resources to creating a new reality, I will end up going down that path of aging.

 

Do you have specific advice for men? 

Many men will sacrifice their health for the sake of building their business or taking care of their family. When they’re youthful and health is easy, they might take health for granted, but then they get to a point where their health wanes and they can’t perform like they want anymore. They start to wonder, “How do I get out of this rat race?” 

I think that stepping into this longevity conversation becomes the way to transition into a new life and a new way of thinking that’s very powerful for men. Sure, having financial resources is important, but I want to win the game of living young for a lifetime because if I’m young, I can continue to create new opportunities for myself and the people around me. 

 

How do we stay the course and avoid falling back to old, unhealthy habits?

I think you have to be motivated by joy. If you’re motivated by fear you will definitely tap out. It has to come from this understanding that for me to bring all of my gifts to bear for the planet or for me to have my best life, I need to step into this concept of having a young body and a very mature, expanded, spiritual, intellectual, emotionally replete mind. That’s my goal, and there’s so much joy in doing that, so every day I’m motivated by joy, not by obligation, and I think that’s what makes it sustainable.

Sandra Yeyati is national editor of Natural Awakenings.

This article appears in the June 2024 issue of Natural Awakenings. 

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