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(No. 142) A look inside my blood gives me a nice boost
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I am not intrigued by the idea of life extension, but the idea of being healthy for my remaining years is very appealing. In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten a number of blood, oxygen and other tests, with a few more to come, to establish my baseline health at age 65, so that in future months or years I can compare my progress.
To that end, I’ve had extensive bloodwork, a resting metabolism test, a DXA scan of my entire body’s bone density and fat deposits, and a test of my V02 Max, which is a measure of how well the body uses oxygen (and a predictor of how active a person will be in the future).
I’m sorting through all the data now, to figure out what I can do to have a good healthspan — a term I first read in Peter Attia’s interesting new book, Outlive. I’ve started by looking at one easy data point that was revealed by blood work done by an new company called Modern Age, near my home in Manhattan.
At first, I was skeptical of Modern Age. From the website, it seemed kind of slick, maybe superficial, and definitely oriented towards selling products and services (but what business isn’t?). Still, I signed up for the $500 evaluation and consultation for the sake of my research.
Arriving at the storefront on lower Fifth Avenue, an area that some people are calling The Wellness District, because of the number of spas and health treatment startups opening there, I was both fascinated and repelled. The massive front windows were carefully lettered with anti-aging slogans. Inside, the dramatic reception area had 25-foot high ceilings held up by ornate 19th century columns, with free cardboard boxes of water and soothing paint colors. The adjacent rooms had light fixtures resembling James Turrell sculptures (see photograph, above). My alarms went off — I do not like being ripped off, and often, stylish, expensive interiors predict outrageous prices.
But, in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Everyone at Modern Age was friendly, helpful, restrained and seemed highly competent, from the women at the front desk to the women technicians and physicians. And I actually enjoyed sitting in their beautiful waiting room. I did not see another man during either of my visits, neither patient or employee.
My blood test showed a lot of things, but today I’m focusing on one: my vitamin D level was subpar, as illustrated by this screenshot from my Modern Age dashboard.
I’m a highly competitive person, and I don’t like to be on the lower end of measurements like this. Plus, I was quite surprised because, even though I live in Manhattan, get a lot of sun and had recently started ingesting vitamin D drops, as I do most winters. But here I am. My clinician suggested that I get a series of weekly 50,000 IU/mL Vitamin D injections until my blood levels stabilize somewhere in the middle of the green line, above. Then I can maintain it with daily OTC supplements. She said that while its possible to overdose on vitamin D supplements (read the label carefully if you use them) high-dose intramuscular injections are metabolized differently and are not risky.
Yesterday, I returned to Modern Age for my shot, a seamless experience from the moment I walked in until the moment I paid and walked out. Headed home, I felt happy to be doing something good for myself. I had been told I might feel the effects of the vitamin the same day, but more likely wouldn’t notice anything until I’d had another shot.
A few hours later, I thought I felt more energy, but I tried not to make too much of it, as it seemed like it must be a placebo effect. Then I went to bed at 10:30 and slept through the night until 7. Wow. I have not slept 8.5 hours in months. I’m always awake, with a jolt, 6 hours (or less) after I go to sleep. I found myself singing to our dog as I got ready to walk him. And out in the sun I felt buoyant. Then I came home and cleaned the kitchen thoroughly, whistling a bit while I scrubbed. At this moment I feel good. I feel energetic. I feel happy in a way I haven’t felt lately.
I know that correlation is not causation. I know that the placebo effect is real. And I know that maybe I was just really tired, and that a good night’s sleep gave me a lot of energy. Yet I believe this good feeling was related to the injection. I had very low vitamin D in my system yesterday morning. And then I had a lot. And now I feel great.
I’m looking forward to my next steps. While I’m happy to be focusing on my health at my age, I sure wish I’d visited a place like Modern Age when I was 55, which I now view as a crucial turning point in my life — the beginning of the decade that determines how our healthspan will unfold as we age.