Life Expectancy Could Rise a Lot. Heres What it Means. – The New York Times
S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois Chicago, has helped define aging as “the accumulation of random damage to the building blocks of life — particularly to DNA, particular proteins, proteins and lipids (fats) — that starts early in life and finally exceeds the body’s self-repair capacities. ”
The question becomes, Can we intervene to slow down the aging process? This week Olshansky emailed me : “While there are no documented interventions which have been proven safe and effective in slowing aging in people now, we are on the verge of a breakthrough. ”
That ’s a view shared by Andrew Steele, writer of “Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old. ” He describes a set of experimental interventions designed to slow biological processes which are a part of aging.
By way of example, as we age, we build up more and more “senescent” cells, which secrete inflammatory molecules which can effectively accelerate aging. In 2011, researchers removed these cells from mice and extended their life spans. Clinical trials on people began in 2018.
Treating aging seems like science fiction until youve heard about the latest improvements in aging biology, Steele writes. He adds, “The vital moment comes if we can begin developing and rolling out remedies for aging which mean life expectancy rises by one year per year. That would mean, on average, our date of death could be receding into the future as quickly as we were all chasing it. ”
An era of slow aging could present some real challenges. There are already vast health inequalities. A 25-year-old white guy with fewer than 12 years of schooling has a 61 percent chance of making it to 65. A 25-year-old white man with 16 years or more of schooling has a 91 percent chance. Given who gets quality health care in this country, I wonder if the college-educated class would jump even further ahead.
Yet despite the disparities, it’s possible that all Americans might be living longer, healthier lives. I imagine an 80-year-old bounding from bed, biking in the morning and playing softball in the day.
We’re all on borrowed time. More time is more life, and more of it will be sweet.