I have posted blog notes in the past about the anti-aging phenomenon and its relationship to the clinical labs. A Google search using the term "anti-aging" yielded approximately 2,570,000 hits, so one can infer that this is a trend with broad interest and support. A recent article in the New York Times (see: Publications on Fitness and Health Head to Web) provides evidence about how this phenomenon, as well as the web as a channel for health information, is going main-stream. Below is an excerpt from it:
Hearst Magazines has decided to buy as well as build internally with the purchase of RealAge Inc., a consumer health Web site....[I]ndustry analysts estimate that the price is somewhat under $100 million, based on the volume of traffic on the RealAge site and its yearly revenue....
A Harris poll, published in July, found that 52 percent of adults sometimes or frequently went to the Web for health information, up from 29 percent in 2001....Aging baby boomers will develop more health issues and want to stay young as long as possible. And employers’ efforts to limit health care costs mean that workers will steadily pay more of their medical bills themselves....RealAge, according to Hearst executives, is a valuable property in this environment. Founded in 1999 by Charlie Silver, an entrepreneur, and Michael F. Roizen, a physician and medical researcher, RealAge refers to a test that weighs 125 factors — as diverse as diet and tobacco use, pet ownership and a spouse’s level of education — to determine someone’s “real age.” Afterward, users are given a list of things that are making them younger or older, and suggested steps to lower their effective age. In the first half of this year, the RealAge Web site had 2.1 million unique visitors a month, and more than 8 million registered users have taken the Real Age test. Most are female and their average age is 45....
Dr. Roizen, with Dr. Mehmet Oz, are two of the most well known practitioners and advocates for anti-aging medicine. They appear frequently on television with Oprah Winfrey. Although the RealAge questionnaire that is used to assess one's biologic age, as opposed to one chronologic age, utilizes only common lab results such as total cholesterol and HDL, physician-directed assessments of one's "true age" commonly measure a complex sets of biomarkers. I believe that anti-aging evaluations will be one of the major drivers for clinical lab utilization in the future in the "wellness and fitness" arm of healthcare. The other arm is disease diagnosis/prognosis/assessment.
What lessons can be drawn from this information that will be relevant for lab professionals? Here are some of my current ideas:
- The anti-aging phenomenon is real and will not go away, at least in the near future. It will constitute a major component of healthcare delivery.
- Every lab should now begin to develop sets of anti-aging biomarker panels based on current and future research in this field.
- For now, many of the therapeutic "interventions" to promote long life are, appropriately, based on lifestyle improvements or relatively innocuous vitamin and herbal remedies. However, I envision that more powerful drugs will be coming to market in the near future that will interact with some of our basic genetically-driven aging processes.