Leo is 82. He is a remarkable neighbor, and over the 25 years we have lived next to each other, I have greatly admired him. If I can be where he is when I am in my 80s, it will be incredible. He doesn’t use reading glasses, he is energetic and active. When he was in his mid-sixties he volunteered to be a Boy Scout leader, and took his troop on some remarkable backpacking trips into western wilderness areas.

I have been alarmed, then, to see him start to lose energy. Instead of the robust friend I am used to, he now walks bent over, more slowly, and his face looks weary and drawn. While he still goes to work at his woodshop where he makes highly specialized shipping containers for various government projects (rockets mostly), he says it is taking him longer to complete his contacts.

So last night I went over to see Leo and Anna. They were glad for the visit, wondering what brought me over. I pulled out three over-the-counter health products. I told them that as I have aged, I have been interested in what would reliably raise my energy level.

The three I offered, I explained, had worked for me. I do not know that they will work for Leo. The fact is that we are learning genetic variability means that what works well for one person may not work at all for another. Perhaps in twenty or thirty years, we will have the kind of genetic assays that predict which medication will work for which individual. But this is today, and we only have one method.

I suggested Leo rate his average level of energy for the past week. I explained he should use a 0 – 10 scale, in which 0 = the worst possible feeling, not able to get out of bed, and 10 = the best and highest level of energy.

Then take one of the three compounds I offered him, and use it for several days. Then re-rate his energy level. If it is definitely higher, that suggests it will work for him.

Now discontinue that. A couple of days later, take another one. Rate the energy before and after. Finally discontinue that and try the third.

Now try a combination of the first two. Then try all three together. I pointed out that his results might vary from mine, and if he didn’t find the preparations I offered of any help, then he should throw them away or give them back to me and I would use them. He smiled, and said, “How can I lose?”

Perhaps you want to know what three things I offered. First, ubiquinol is a Co-Q10 preparation that dissolves well and is easily assimilated. I take some twice a day.

Second, a combo of two amino acids, acetyl-l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid has done me some good

Finally, ginseng seems to be mildly helpful. I no longer take it because it does raise my blood pressure somewhat.

I do not recommend any of them. Your results may vary. Don’t take anything because I said you should. You must make your own decisions about what to take, and you should thoroughly research any preparation. There is a great deal of nonsense out there in the alternative medicine area, and lots of expensive preparations that are useless. I know because I have tried a lot of them.

Trust your own experience. You can only do that, though, if you first are conscientious about keeping data. I take my blood glucose every morning. I track my blood pressure and my weight. I track subjective ratings on my energy levels. I keep data on these. If I can figure out other things to track, I will do it. Evidence doesn’t eliminate argument, but it reduces it.

Leo will be experimenting with a few supplements. We’ll see in a couple of weeks whether they help him. When you start to exercise, when you keep a gratitude diary, track your results. When you exercise your strengths, notice what happens. Don’t take my word — or anyone’s word for it.