Everyone wants to be young forever, and while that isn’t quite possible, hyperbaric oxygen therapy might be our closest attempt at preserving youth. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing in oxygen while in a pressurized chamber. It has been known to help with wound healing and decompression sickness for years, but research is now starting to find that it can do so much more. When we breath in a normal environment, we only get about 21% oxygen into our bloodstream via our red blood cells. By increasing the pressure around us, we can increase that amount of oxygen intake. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can actually increase the amount of oxygen we get into our body to about 300%. This is because the increase in pressure in the oxygen chamber allows oxygen to bypass our red blood cells and go directly into our plasma, giving our body more oxygen! This overtime will increase the saturation of oxygen in our bloodstream and also increase the perfusion rate in which the oxygen in our blood gets to our organs and tissues.
Obviously more oxygen in our body and blood is good thing, but how does it affect aging? Aging of our bodies is more than just “getting old.” As we age, our tissues in our bodies start to degenerate. This includes our skin tissue, but also our other organs like our heart, brain, liver, etc. In order to push back this inevitable demise, we need to increase the flow of nutrients to these areas so that they can continue to thrive. Recent research shows that HBOT fights aging and degenerative changes by facilitating tissue regeneration, new blood vessel formation, and collagen formation. Each of these actions promote anti-aging properties in different ways:
Tissue regeneration – helps heal damaged tissue
New blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) – more blood vessels means more oxygen will get to the damaged tissue
Collagen formation – decreases damage and preserves elasticity of skin to minimize the signs of aging
These are very effective and beneficial anti-aging factors, especially towards the outward physical attributes of aging. Now research is showing even more anti-aging effects from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Tel Aviv University and The Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Shamir Medical Center completed a study utilizing specific hyperbaric oxygen protocols on healthy aging adults. Each patient underwent 60 HBOT session within 3 months. The results revealed two main anti-aging components at the cellular level; shortening of telomere length and senescent cell accumulation. This new information not only confirms HBOT can prevent the physical signs of aging, but it can also prevent degenerative changes to our internal tissues and organs. This means HBOT can slow down and even reverse potential cognitive decline, neurodegenerative disease, cardiopulmonary disease, and more! These two cellular outcomes in the study produce anti-aging effects in the following ways:
Telomere shortening – prevents progression of severe, degenerative diseases
More senescent cells – prevents multiplying of unwanted cells, i.e. cells associated with severe, degenerative diseases
This new study includes protocols that not only emphasizes the core of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (increasing oxygen saturation in the blood and perfusion to the tissues), but also describes specific protocols that alternate between hyperoxia (a lot of oxygen) and hypoxia (lack of oxygen) environments. Switching between these two environments adds benefits to HBOT. After being in a short hypoxic state, our brain craves oxygen. So when we turn the oxygen back on, it is absorbed greater and quicker into our bodies.
Before these new studies showed us significant quantitative and qualitative results, exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes were our only hope at prolonging our body’s youth. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and given us new hope in protecting our brain and other organs from damage and aging. Doing your part to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle is still an important part to the aging puzzle, but we now know HBOT can greatly supplement and slow the process.
We currently have two hyperbaric oxygen chambers at our Spring Grove office ready for new patients! Treatment sessions last between 1-2 hours and dive to pressures ranging from 1.3 atmospheres (4.5 PSI) to 2.2 atmospheres (18 PSI). While some feel the effects of increasing your bodily oxygen content immediately, the long-term and more permanent effects are usually seen after 60-80 hours. We have already seen amazing results with our HBOT patients, including reducing tumor growth and spreading, improved memory and cognitive function, quicker post-stroke and post-concussion recovery, and more. We are excited to continue treating more patients with HBOT in the future!