The Longevity Vacation: Poolside Lounging With an IV Drip
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The Longevity Vacation: Poolside Lounging With an IV Drip

The latest trend in wellness travel is somewhere between a spa trip and a doctor’s appointment

By ALEX JANIN
Tue, Apr 16, 2024 3:01pmGrey Clock 4 min

For some vacationers, the ideal getaway involves $1,200 ozone therapy or an $1,800 early-detection cancer test.

Call it the longevity vacation. People who are fixated on optimising their personal health are pursuing travel activities that they hope will help them stay healthier for longer. It is part of a broader interest in longevity that often extends beyond traditional medicine . These costly trips and treatments are rising in popularity as money pours into the global wellness travel market.

At high-end resorts, guests can now find biological age testing, poolside vitamin IV drips, and stem-cell therapy. Prices can range from hundreds of dollars for shots and drips to tens of thousands for more invasive procedures, which go well beyond standard wellness offerings like yoga, massages or facials.

Some longevity-inspired trips focus on treatments, while others focus more on social and lifestyle changes. This includes programs that promise to teach travellers the secrets of centenarians .

Mark Blaskovich, 66 years old, spent $4,500 on a five-night trip last year centred on lessons from the world’s “Blue Zones,” places including Sardinia, Italy, and Okinawa, Japan, where a high number of people live for at least 100 years. Blaskovich says he wanted to get on a healthier path as he started to feel the effects of ageing.

He chose a retreat at Modern Elder Academy in Mexico, where he attended workshops detailing the power of supportive relationships, embracing a plant-based diet and incorporating natural movement into his daily life.

“I’ve been interested in longevity and trying to figure out how to live longer and live healthier,” says Blaskovich.

Vitamins and ozone

When Christy Menzies noticed nurses behind a curtained-off area at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Hawaii on a family vacation in 2022, she assumed it might be Covid-19 testing. They were actually injecting guests with vitamin B12.

Menzies, 40, who runs a travel agency, escaped to the longevity clinic between trips to the beach, pool and kids’ club, where she reclined in a leather chair, and received a 30-minute vitamin IV infusion.

“You’re making investments in your wellness, your health, your body,” says Menzies, who adds that she felt more energised afterward.

The resort has been expanding its offerings since opening a longevity centre in 2021. A multi-day treatment package including ozone therapy, stem-cell therapy and a “fountain of youth” infusion, costs $44,000. Roughly half a dozen guests have shelled out for that package since it made its debut last year, according to Pat Makozak, the resort’s senior spa director. Guests can also opt for an early-detection cancer blood test for $1,800.

The ozone therapy, which involves withdrawing blood, dissolving ozone gas into it, and reintroducing it into the body through an IV, is particularly popular, says Makozak. The procedure is typically administered by a registered nurse, takes upward of an hour and costs $1,200.

Longevity vacationers are helping to fuel the global wellness tourism market, which is expected to surpass $1 trillion in 2024, up from $439 billion in 2012, according to the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute. About 13% of U.S. travellers took part in spa or wellness activities while traveling in the past 12 months, according to a 2023 survey from market-research group Phocuswright.

Canyon Ranch, which has multiple wellness resorts across the country, earlier this year introduced a five-night “Longevity Life” program, starting at $6,750, that includes health-span coaching, bone-density scans and longevity-focused sessions on spirituality and nutrition.

The idea is that people will return for an evaluation regularly to monitor progress, says Mark Kovacs, the vice president of health and performance.

What doctors say

Doctors preach caution, noting many of these treatments are unlikely to have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, producing a placebo effect at best and carrying the potential for harm at worst. Procedures that involve puncturing the skin, such as ozone therapy or an IV drip, risk possible infection, contamination and drug interactions.

“Right now there isn’t a single proven treatment that would prolong the life of someone who’s already healthy,” says Dr. Mark Loafman, a family-medicine doctor in Chicago. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Some studies on certain noninvasive wellness treatments, like saunas or cold plunges do suggest they may help people feel less stressed, or provide some temporary pain relief or sleep improvement.

Linda True, a policy analyst in San Francisco, spent a day at RAKxa, a wellness retreat on a visit to family in Thailand in February. True, 46, declined the more medical-sounding offerings, like an IV drip, and opted for a traditional style of Thai massage that involved fire and is touted as a “detoxification therapy.”

“People want to spend money on things that they feel might be doing good,” says Dr. Tamsin Lewis, medical adviser at RoseBar Longevity at Six Senses Ibiza, a longevity club that opened last year, whose menu includes offerings such as cryotherapy, infrared sauna and a “Longevity Boost” IV.

RoseBar says there is good evidence that reducing stress contributes to longevity, and Lewis says she doesn’t offer false promises about treatments’ efficacy . Kovacs says Canyon Ranch uses the latest science and personal data to help make evidence-based recommendations.

Jaclyn Sienna India owns a membership-based, ultra luxury travel company that serves people whose net worth exceeds $100 million, many of whom give priority to longevity, she says. She has planned trips for clients to Blue Zones, where there are a large number of centenarians. On one in February, her company arranged a $250,000 weeklong stay for a family of three to Okinawa that included daily meditation, therapeutic massages and cooking classes, she says.

India says keeping up with a longevity-focused lifestyle requires more than one treatment and is cost-prohibitive for most people.

Doctors say travellers may be more likely to glean health benefits from focusing on a common vacation goal : just relaxing.

Dr. Karen Studer, a physician and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Loma Linda University Health says lowering your stress levels is linked to myriad short- and long-term health benefits.

“It may be what you’re getting from these expensive treatments is just a natural effect of going on vacation, decreasing stress, eating better and exercising more.”



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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS
Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).

Postmortem

People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.

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