What is Health anyway?
There is an enormous disconnect in medicine and health sciences: We try to understand health by studying diseases. The current science of "prevention" gives us the impression that we are supporting health, when - for the most part - we are merely trying to control risk factors that have been loosely associated with certain health problems.
An example? High cholesterol is not always a health problem. Many people with chronically high cholesterol live long lives, while many people with low cholesterol levels die young ... yet people everywhere are worried about high cholesterol. This
is just one example of many, where we get worried about our health when we begin to have symptoms or show signs that we have been told indicate developing diseases. Regardless, there remains one undeniable fact:
Before becoming sick, everyone is healthy!
This may sound like a silly statement, but it puts into perspective the fact that we really never do much to maintain health when we have it. We essentially try to mitigate some risk factors associated with health problems that may be down the road, but the maintenance of optimal health per se is rarely the aim when it comes to "health care." All we seem to hope for is to avoid the problem we foresee.
So let me ask: What makes us "lose" health? How do we go from a state of health to a state characterized by cellular dysfunction?
If/When, we understand how this occurs, we become empowered with the ability to maintain or even optimize health.
Over the past five years or so, the field of stem cell research has been completely changing the old paradigm of what is and what is not "health care." While the natural reparative role of stem cells in the body has been well described in cases of injuries and overall tissue repair, stem cells are now also being linked more and more to the day≠to-day process of tissue renewal. Science has shown that the number of circulating stem cells available to migrate into tissues is a key determinant in the process of tissue repair. More circulating stem cells support a greater ability to repair tissues; on the other hand, a regression in the number of circulating stem cells has now been linked to the gradual process of health decline associated with aging.
The truth is that we lose cells every day, of course. Health is maintained when there is a balance between cellular loss and tissue renewal. The problem as we age is that we have fewer and fewer stem cells available to participate in the process of tissue renewal; so as we age, we lose that healthy balance between cellular loss and tissue renewal. The result is the slow development of health problems.
This situation has been put into evidence by a growing number of studies that document the link between the declining number of circulating stem cells and the development of some unhealthy conditions. For example, when scientists counted the number of circulating stem cells in the blood of people with different levels of a pre-diabetic condition, they found a clear relationship between the level of the subject's condition and the number of circulating stem cells in the subject's blood. Subjects with impaired glucose tolerance (a pre-diabetic condition) showed a 22 % reduction in the number of circulating stem cells when compared to the healthy subjects and subjects with insulin dependent diabetes showed a 41 reduction in stem cells circulating in their blood.
A similar relationship has been documented with erectile dysfunction. When the number of circulating stem cells was plotted against the International Index of Erectile Function in men complaining of poor erectile function, a clear relationship was revealed: The lower the Index score, the lower were the number of circulating stem cells, clearly showing that men with fewer stem cells experienced a greater decline in erectile function.
In a similar way, a relationship has been documented with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), with indications that vascular diseases like atherosclerosis may be caused by a decline in the ability of circulating stem cells to perform the day-to-day repair or maintenance of arteries. Other studies are showing results indicating that the decline in the number of circulating stem cells may be associated with the development of a number of degenerative problems. These studies are showing great promise for the future.
But, again, the problem today is that we continue to study disease, not health. While our studies show that diseases are often linked to lower levels of circulating stem cells, we may be missing the point: The fact is that health is slowly lost - often over long periods of time - because our ability to renew tissues and compensate for daily cellular loss diminishes as we age. It is clear that supporting the natural role of stem cells in our bodies on a daily basis is one of the best strategies to maintain health.
The time to support the work of our stem cells is now ... before the decline in their numbers "gets away from us." Make the maintenance of an optimal number of circulating stem cells your own personal "daily health care regimen." Your body will thank you for it!