How often, in discussion of serious personal illness, have we heard the advice: “If only you had known, 20 or more years ago, you would not be sick today.”
It was then a cause for regret that medicine had not learned enough about predicting the future.
New technologies are changing that. Recent developments now enable medical technicians to warn individuals that they are predisposed to developing particular diseases later in life, even when they are young children.
The increasing importance of the ultra-technical world of preventable medicine has created a bond of collaboration between two of Thailand’s cutting-edge medical institutions: Bumrungrad International Hospital and VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center as an affiliated company of Bumrungrad.
While Bumrungrad is a world-class provider of conventional medical care, VitalLife is the first center in Southeast Asia to achieve accreditation in wellness medicine. It is dedicated to preventable medicine: genetic investigation through which people can learn of their predispositions to various diseases and make appropriate lifestyle changes to prevent them occurring.
This information is obtained by revealing the secrets of deoxyribonucleic acid – better known as DNA – the genetic material that determines all of a person’s characteristics, from physical appearance, like skin, hair and eye color, to predispositions to certain health conditions.
DNA influences how the body utilizes and metabolizes sugars, fats and other nutrients and how it responds to exercise and medications. While people are unable to change their genes, they can take active steps to reduce the risk of certain diseases and optimize their health.
Personalized genetic information allows people to focus on lifestyle factors that can be modified, such as healthy diets, exercise regimes and appropriate use of dietary supplements.
VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center’s International Medical Director, Dr. Terry Grossman, said his center was moving into an age of personalized medicine. Genetic testing could identify risks associated with specific conditions such as osteoporosis, obesity, food intolerances, cardiovascular diseases, type-two diabetes, and a person’s innate ability to detoxify.
He said treatment options and lifestyle recommendations based on such testing could enable patients to minimize the risk of developing conditions to which they were uniquely susceptible.
Under its DNA Scientific Wellness Package, VitalLife offers to identify those who are genetically predisposed to non-communicable diseases and their causes, including lactose and gluten intolerance, vitamin D deficiency, rheumatoid, obesity, arthritis, hormone replacement, detoxification, type-two diabetes, brain health, heart health, and bone health (osteoporosis).
If a predisposition is found, healthcare providers target the genetic risk factors with preventative interventions and appropriate surveillance in order to maintain the highest possible quality of life.
For example, Alzheimer’s disease afflicts mostly people over 65 years of age, and accounts for 60 per cent of all dementia cases in the world. Yet early signs of Alzheimer’s can be detected eight years before it is diagnosed, and good brain health is essential in an aging population, enabling older people to focus, pay attention, make the right decisions, communicate, and much more.
Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.
Alzheimer’s disease is also called 'Type-three Diabetes’ because of the recent discovery that high-carbohydrate diets increase the risk of dementia by 89 per cent, while high-fat diets lower that risk by 44 per cent. Even structural changes occur in the brain with increased glucose levels.
The VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center is able to search for the gene variants that play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Some genetic variants suggest a 15-times higher risk of the disease, while others are linked to a 30-per-cent reduction in Alzheimer’s risk.
Another brain-health problem, known as “brain fog”, is common at all ages in the general population. It has many causes, such as poor sleep, stress, micronutrient and hormone imbalance, heavy metals, and improper gut bacteria.
According to a cognitive and behavioral neurologist, Dr. Ketchai Suavansri, who is Medical Director at VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center, the symptoms are like having a fog around one’s mental functions, leading to lack of attention, slow thinking processes and forgetfulness. Mental fatigue, an easily changeable mind and even depression may occur.
The most common causes are lifestyle ones: poor sleep, stress, mental exhaustion and lack of exercise. However, dehydration, some chronic diseases, psychiatric conditions such as depression, hormonal imbalances and even some medications can be important contributors to brain fog.
There are many treatment options for these causative factors, but finding the causes is the key to treatment. Lifestyle modifications, together with scientific interventions, can successfully treat brain fog and restore a patient’s quality of life. “Our Brain-health Package includes heavy-metal screening, because this can impact brain health or cause brain fog, and it is not included in conventional brain-screening programs,” Dr. Terry said. “We have also launched a 'Brain Refreshing IV Formula’ to enhance brain function. This is administered every couple of weeks or months.”
As well as brain health, gut health and digestion can also influence quality of life. People are often surprised to learn that there are more bacteria living in the intestinal tract (39 trillion) than in the entire rest of the body (30 trillion).
These bacteria, together with fungi, protozoa and viruses, make up what is known as the microbiome. These microbes have multiple functions with far-ranging health effects. For example, thin people have different bacteria than heavy individuals. Introducing bacteria from thin people to heavy people causes them to lose weight. Doctors are just beginning to learn the many ways in which the microbiome in our gut affects our health.
In expressing a number of general rules, Dr. Terry said people were only as healthy as the least-healthy part of their body; it was not possible to claim to be healthy while a part of them was sick. Therefore, to achieve optimal wellness, it was necessary to be healthy throughout their bodies.
Conventional medicine, he said, was really a form of sickness care, in which patients were treated, often very effectively, for diseases once they occurred. Wellness medicine, on the other hand, was devoted to preventive care so that patients did not get sick in the first place.
People were living longer, and they wanted to spend the latter part of their lives in the same state of wellness they enjoyed when they were younger. By taking an aggressive approach, utilizing preventive strategies and early detection of diseases, it was possible for people to achieve this goal.
Bumrungrad International Hospital’s Chief Business Development Officer, Tanee Maneenut, said that doctors at both Bumrungrad and VitalLife had joined forces to offer programs providing the best of conventional and wellness medicine at the same time. Combined Bumrungrad-VitalLife programs currently included brain health, gut health, sexual health, genetics testing and regenerative medicine.
Tanee said a recent conference in Bangkok of Bumrungrad’s 60 overseas referral offices had enabled the hospital and VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center to gather the latest knowledge on evolving medical trends, in order to keep both organizations abreast of international developments.
Additionally, VitalLife says it has enhanced its 18 years of leadership in the preventive medicine industry be assembling a team of international experts that offers the best and most advanced medical services from world-class longevity experts.
“We are a connected and thought-leading global player, accumulating new knowledge on a continuous basis,” Dr. Terry said. “Our patients trust our doctors and their proven track record as part of one of the world’s most renowned hospitals - Bumrungrad International. We can communicate complex medical issues in an understandable and motivating way, providing clear recommendations for our patients to make their own decisions.”