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Pharmacy Times: Longevity Science Does Not Only Focus on Living Longer

Read the full interview by Pharmacy Times here.

PT: Foremost, I would like to ask what you will be presenting at this year's conference?

Lisa Ireland: I am focused on a panel discussion around the ethics related to the work that's being done in longevity. And I am excited to be, I would call it the “nonscientist conversational” in this space, because I am not the scientist but the one that's working in this field, really focused on bringing all of this amazing work and longevity out of the lab and into life— out of the classroom and into the conversations.

PT: Can you tell me just one or two of the biggest ethical dilemmas that are happening in the field?

Lisa Ireland: I think what's important in this space is that we're always talking about making sure that the work that we're doing helps the masses. And one of the issues that we've had in the conversations in longevity is that it's [only] been accessible to those that can pay for it. A longer healthier lifespan is a right to all humans, so we're really working hard to make sure that all of this research we're funding, how can it help the mass populations?

PT: Onthat note, then what are some of the newest innovations and medications that are being studied for longevity?

Lisa Ireland: There's a lot of conversation around different supplements and medications. I like to leave those specific answers to those with medical degrees, because then again, is what they study.

One of the things that I think is important is the conversation around wearables and your biological (bio) age. Have you heard about aging clocks? So aging clocks is fascinating. So, I know that I'm 54. I just recently had a birthday. I know when I was born [and] I can do the math, but what is my bio age? So if we do a biomarker testing and my age is 54 but my body's age says I'm 58, we've got some work to do. And how do we take those 2 numbers and how do we work with our medical professionals [to] bring those numbers together? It's individualized, personalized medicine that helps us all get to a longer lifespan and health span.

PT: What are some of the biomarkers that can determine how old your biological age is? And can you explain a little further what this actual biological age is? Do you mean the age of your genetics?

Lisa Ireland: It really is a blood test that will tell you… think about your body as a puzzle, and how are each of those puzzle pieces fitting together? So, look at your heart. If your heart is functioning well but your lungs aren't functioning well, then those 2 don't fit together because all the pieces of your body must fit together in form in order for it to work.

One of the other pieces that we're speaking a lot about which I'm excited to have had the opportunity recently to speak at the Library of Congress [and we] led a panel discussion around the importance of brain health, and the neuro-arts. There's so much work being done, in that we must take care of our bodies but we have to take care of our brains.

Again, going back to my first statement of it being a puzzle. If you get to the end of a puzzle, and you're missing one piece, the puzzle is not complete. The same has to be true with your body.

PT: Along a similar vein, if you're trying to have a good biological age or trying to be younger (biologically) while you continue to get older, [can you explain] the idea of treating someone along that entire lifetime?

Lisa Ireland: I think it goes back to the initial “everything is personalized.” It's almost look at your life like a journey. People are getting out and about and they're paying attention to drinking more water than, let's say, soda. They're talking to their doctor, they're really having engaged conversations and making time to have those follow-ups instead of saying, “Oh, I’ve got to go for my yearly physical, I better find my doctor.” It’s really engaging with their primary care physicians [and] opening up that conversation where the continuous journey of health care is an ongoing instead of a stamp in your calendar of “every January you get a physical.”

PT: Soyou're noticing that patients are taking their health more into their own hands now? That's a big difference, and that is also impacting the way healthcare must interact with these patients.

Lisa Ireland: Absolutely. And longevity, while it's not new, is a newer conversation in a lot of these medical schools and planning because this is going to be it already is life changing. So we need to make sure we're aggressively talking about that and getting this information out.

PT: Even though longevity has been studied for a long time, we've understood [and] obviously wanted to prolong life, it's more of an extension of a practice rather than it is like an entirely new practice- it’s teaching patients and providers “Okay. Here's what else you need to do to, not only take care of patients in the moment, but help them to promote longevity as well.”

Lisa Ireland: You hear all about lifespan and health span. And those are 2 different words, In that, yes, we would love to increase lifespan, but really the focus of the foundation and the work a lot of us in the field are doing is on health span.

So if we can change the age and increase the age that we're able to live— let's just throw out round numbers. Let's say we can go from 75 is the average age of a life to 90— we want to make sure those extra 15 [years] are quality years.

And a lot of times the conversations I'm also having is a new word that's come up, which is wealth span. And we're really talking to investors and wealth management professionals that as we are working to live a longer life. We're working at the same time to make sure their work is aligned, to make sure the wealth that they're investing for their clients also extends. You don't want to say, “Oh, you know, I planned for you to live till 80 and then science is helping us and we're living to 85, but oops! I didn't plan for that.”

PT: I can imagine it might be hard to know how to save correctly-

Lisa Ireland: Right. And so we're encompassing all of these conversations as we plan to live our longest best life. We're really focused on all aspects of what that looks like. I'm lucky enough to be the non-scientist that's talking to everyone, which is what's exciting about this summit, is that it's geared towards everybody. It's geared toward people that want to live better, that want to get information on the changing information in the space of longevity, and really kind of opening it up to the to the masses, which I think is where we're going to find this in years to come.

PT: You said that it's still very siloed. So I was wondering if you had any other ideas on how are like even any creative ways that we can start bringing these clinical findings to providers and pharmacists and the people who are actually knowledgeable about medicine.

Lisa Ireland: It’s really taking the opportunity to talk and talk and talk. Th[is] is important, [seeing] the fact that the United States Congress just announced a bipartisan caucus on longevity. So the government is aware that this is something that is going to be top of mind that we have to pay attention to.

The more people that are talking about it, from the scientific or the medical community or the patient advocacy space, then they can take it back and they have these conversations that break down these barriers. When patients go in and say “I read this article in longevity, I want to talk about this,” that opens those conversations.

PT: I hear so much about personalized medicine, but I feel like it's still a bit gray area. How do you figure out the things that are should be personalized for you?

Lisa Ireland: With personalized medicine, it is that everything that we do in the research, we do will help the masses— but [it’s important to] figure out how that particular medicine or that particular therapy works with individual people.

One is not for all, it all is not for 1, so we have to figure out what that means and why that matters. So you know, I had a doctor's appointment today and I took my notes ahead of time and I went in and I was like, “Let's make sure we talk about this, this, this and this.”

That was an extra 10 or 15 minutes but it was such a great conversation. I left feeling like I had a personalized medicine appointment. I was advocating for myself, I had all my questions answered, and I left going “Okay, I got that.”

PT: Getting to know your own body getting to know yourself and getting curious.

Lisa Ireland: Yes and reading the research and following up on it. And if you have a question about something, trusting yourself to say, “You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to read about this. And maybe I'm going to read another article so that I don't necessarily take the one I read as like the only one I read.”

PT: Is there anything else you'd like to add about the conference or longevity science?

Lisa Ireland: The conference is an amazing opportunity to bring a wide variety of people together from the medical experts all the way down to foundation leaders such as myself, and really having an opportunity to talk with a bunch of people that are interested.

I always worry that the greatest answer to a big medical question lives in this black hole the where there's not enough funding, and so we need to get more dollars into this research so that we don't have to worry that the right answer to something didn't get funded because we just couldn't get enough money to it. I'm really focused on that and I am always, always available if anybody ever wants to talk or you know have conversations with somebody that's new-ish in this space that is learning along with them. I laugh all the time, I'm like, “Come learn about longevity with Lisa. So come with me. Come on, we're going to figure it out together!”
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