It’s Not About Growing Old; It’s About How You Grow Old
By John Grimaldi
More Americans than ever are growing older and healthier these days. Consider the fact that on average we were lucky if we lived past 47 years of age at the beginning of the 20th century. Yet nowadays most men and women in the U.S. can look forward to celebrating birthdays well into their 70s. In fact, the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University tells us that the numbers of us who make it past our 100th birthday have just about doubled over the past two decades.
To be sure, the covid pandemic has taken its toll, causing an increased mortality rate in general among the elderly as well as a time out when it comes to expanded life spans. Not long ago, the Washington Post reported that “unlike flu, which impacts both the very young and the very old, the coronavirus appears to put mostly older people at higher risk of severe disease and death.”
Going forward the question is, will life expectancy in the U.S. resume its growth in the future. It most likely will, say the experts. But it is not because medical science is on a quest for immortality; rather, the goal is to alleviate the illnesses that come with aging. As the website, Lifespan.io, put it: “The immune system keeps us safe from the constant invasion of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, helping us to stay healthy and free from diseases. However, the immune system begins to break down as we get older and we become ever-more vulnerable to diseases and infections. To solve this problem, scientists are exploring therapies to regenerate the immune system so that it is better able to fight back against diseases as it did in youth.”
According to the National Library of Medicine, the risk factors of aging are the human pathologies such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. “Aging research has experienced an unprecedented advance over recent years, particularly with the discovery that the rate of aging is controlled, at least to some extent, by genetic pathways and biochemical processes conserved in evolution … the final goal [is] identifying pharmaceutical targets to improve human health during aging with minimal side-effects.”
What it all comes down to is what Abraham Lincoln allegedly said: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
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