‘I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. They wake up in the morning and that’s the best they’re going to feel all day.’ –Dean Martin


Older people may have always existed throughout history, but they were rare. Aging as we know it, and the diseases and disorders that accompany it, represent new phenomena—products of 20th century resourcefulness. When infectious diseases were largely vanquished in the developed world, few anticipated the extent to which chronic degenerative diseases would rise. We call them heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and many more, but we might as well collectively use one word to describe them all—aging.

Aging may be defined as the accumulation of random damage to the building blocks of life—especially to DNA, certain proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids (fats)—that begins early in life and eventually exceeds the body’s self-repair capabilities. This damage gradually impairs the functioning of cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems, thereby increasing vulnerability to disease and giving rise to the characteristic manifestations of aging, such as loss of muscle and bone mass, decline in reaction time, compromised hearing and vision, and reduced elasticity of the skin. (…)

Humanity is paying a heavy price for the privilege of living extended lives—a new and much more complicated relationship with disease.

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related { Some animals live for 400 years. What can they teach us about extending life? }

photo { Misha De Ridder }