More Hurdles and Caltrops, On a Personal Level

The lifestyle choices most likely to dimish your health, shorten your life and leave you more frail and suffering in old age - not to mention poor, broken by the cost of therapies - are no big secret.

High grip strength and avoidance of overweight, hyperglycemia, hypertension, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption were associated with both overall and exceptional survival. In addition, high education and avoidance of hypertriglyceridemia were associated with exceptional survival, and lack of a marital partner was associated with mortality before age 85 years. ... probability of survival to oldest age is as high as 69% with no risk factors and as low as 22% with 6 or more risk factors. The probability of exceptional survival to age 85 years was 55% with no risk factors but decreased to 9% with 6 or more risk factors. ... avoidance of certain risk factors in midlife is associated with the probability of a long and healthy life among men.

Yet still, the majority of the population in more comfortable, wealthy locations in the world persists in indulging. Such is the power of choice, and the consequence of that primate-scale level of time preference we humans have inherited. We've all stolen quality and years of life from the person we will be in future decades - and some of us just keep on doing it right up until we're living (and dying) in the pocket we once picked.

In the Epicurian world of the past, in which there was no possibility of extending the maximum human life span through science, there was little to said in criticism of those who chose to burn their candle faster. But we don't live in that world anymore; science is advancing so rapidly that modest differences in your expected healthy life span today could lead to enormous consequences for your future. Will you miss the advent of the first therapies capable of repairing age-related damage and restoring a degree of youth? Or will you make it with a few years to spare? We are fortunate to be in the midst of the early stages of a transformative revolution in science and medicine; to those cutting their lives short, I feel we have some obligation to ask "are you sure you know what you are doing?"

Basic good health is not rocket science; talk to your physician if you're unsure about any of it. Most people are well aware of the trade-offs they make in terms of present bad habits versus future health consequences - but too few realize that what looks like a 10 year reduction in life span under the healthcare available today might mean they'll miss the boat on the introduction of working anti-aging medicine. Missing the boat means possibly missing out on centuries or more of healthy life if medical science moves forward at a fast enough pace.

Hurdles and caltrops strewn in the path ahead; this we do on a personal level, as well as in society at large and its institutions.

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Comments

Great post!

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Posted by: April at November 15th, 2006 8:25 AM

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