Dr Michael Roizen calls for fundamental societal changes to ensure the benefits of longevity and healthy aging are realised.
Later this year, best-selling author Michael F Roizen, MD will release his next book, The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow. Co-authored with acclaimed economist Peter Linneman and demographer builder Albert Ratner, the book aims to “illuminate the prevention, treatment, and technology that will reshape how we think about old age – and help us plan for an audacious future.”
Covering a wide range of areas, from reengineering aging cells and DNA manipulation to therapeutic plasma exchange and bionic body parts, the book will inform how increased longevity will change our lives and our culture, while also providing an action plan for healthy aging, a youthful appearance, mental vigour and strong finances.
Longevity.Technology: When Mike Roizen speaks, the world listens. He is a four-time #1 New York Times bestselling author and in 1999 was one of the first people to bring the concept of biological age to a mass audience via his RealAge method. At the age of 76, he recently went part time at his academic job, stepping down as Chief Wellness Officer and chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. He was also Chief Medical Consultant to the Dr Oz TV show, until Dr Oz’s recent switch to politics and a run for the US Senate. We caught up with Roizen recently to find out more about his latest writing project.
“The only reason I write books,” he tells us, “is to share new information with people. And one reason I think the books have done well is that they also include action steps on what you can do to improve your own situation.”
When Roizen, a self-professed “science nerd”, wrote RealAge more than twenty years ago, he highlighted 157 choices that people could make that affected their rate of healthy aging. The book covered areas such as physical activity, food choices, stress management, sleep, toxin removal and much more, including whether individual supplement choices were beneficial in randomised outcome studies.
“When we did RealAge, we knew that you could get to be, at calendar age 60, the equivalent of physiological age 40,” he says. “Well, I think there’s now at least an 80% probability that, at age 80 or 90, you’re going to be able to have a biological age of 35 or 40.
“And you’re going to have many more prime years – when you’re 90, you’re going to be a kick ass producer, not a drooling person who can’t remember whether the green stuff is pistachios or peas.”
Roizen’s certainty on this colourful point is based on the evidence he sees coming from research in the longevity field.
“The new book looks at several different areas that have all shown in at least two animal species that they could reverse aging,” he says. “There are 14 areas we see advancing – everything from fasting and hyperbaric oxygen, to therapeutic plasma exchange, epigenetic reprogramming, bionic body parts, immune decreases in inflammation and more.”
And not everything in The Great Age Reboot is a future development. In terms of practical actions covered in the book that people can adopt today for healthy aging, Roizen gives the example of brain health.
“We know that there are 33 things that you can do to keep your brain younger, which have been shown in at least two randomised control studies in humans,” he says. “For example, speed of processing games are something that everyone should practise. Studies have shown that these games, not memory games or crossword puzzles, can reduce dementia risk by about 30%. So if you do nothing else, do speed of processing games.”
Longevity is the solution, not the problem
Beyond informing everyday people about the benefits of healthy aging and the changes they can make to improve their own longevity, Roizen also has a very different audience that he is also targeting with the book.
“In America, the Congressional Budget Office seems to believe that everyone over the age of 65 is a drain on society, and that they have no value to the economy and GDP,” he says.
“We actually testified in front of Congress about how, at the Cleveland Clinic, we delivered a wellness programme that, together with our own coaches yet with no major benefit change, reduced our healthcare costs for our employees and dependents compared to our competitors by 38% over 11 years.”
Roizen explains that there are around 101,000 employees and dependents at the Cleveland Clinic, and the organisation spent $1.3 billion less compared with what it would have expected to spend over those 11 years.
“In addition, the employees, because they are incentivized with reduced premiums and avoid co-pays by gaining healthy outcomes, have themselves paid at least $300 million less over the period, probably more like $500 million,” he adds. “So we testified in Congress about this. But the CBO said that, even if they save on Medicare, there’s still a cost in the early years of such an incentive plan, so they can’t even contemplate that people living longer equates to savings.”
Roizen quoted CBO data, saying that trust funds in the US relating to Medicare, social security and hospitals, will all go bust within the next 15 years, unless there is significant change.
“And so we decided to write this book, to influence policy in the United States, as well as to give people the idea that longevity is not the problem – it’s actually the solution to our budget and pension and even healthcare costs problem. And we think this calls for a lot of change in our society.”
Eliminating wealth inequality is key
Key to successful longevity and healthy aging at a societal level, says Roizen, is policy change, particularly from a financial equality perspective. He points to the benefit of mandatory early saving initiatives of around three percent of income, already seen in countries like Australia and several others.
“Governments must aim to eliminate or reduce wealth inequality over time. And there needs to be a lot of education about the value of compounding, not only in money, but in terms of your health, and the value of your choices in compounding.”
The work conducted by Roizen and his co-authors on The Great Age Reboot echoes that of professors Andrew Scott of London Business School, David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School, and Martin Ellison of the University of Oxford, who predicted a multi-trillion dollar benefit to healthy aging in the United States.
“They got a pretty big number!” says Roizen. “We didn’t come up with quite as large a number, but whether it’s $100 trillion, or $10 trillion or $1 trillion a year, it’s still such a large benefit to society that you’d want to promote it. What this really shows us is that we shouldn’t fear longevity as a society, but that we should encourage it.”