Without New Medical Technologies Your Odds of Living to 100 are Extremely Poor

Very few people become centenarians, making it to the old age of 100 years. As you pass 80 and 90 years of age your past and current lifestyle choices start to diminish in significance, while genetic variations gain a growing influence on your survival as an increasingly damaged and frail individual. At age 90 something like 75% of your age-matched peers are dead, and that includes a majority of everyone who made the best choices throughout life in health and lifestyle. You can't reliably exercise your way to living to 100, as illustrated by the numbers quoted below: between age 90 and age 100 there is a precipitous fall in survival.

Becoming Centenarians: Disease and Functioning Trajectories of Older U.S. Adults as They Survive to 100

Little is known about the health and functioning of individuals who become centenarians in the years prior to reaching age 100. We examined long-term trajectories of disease, disability, and cognitive function in a sample of U.S. centenarians to determine how their aging experience differs from their nonsurviving cohort counterparts, and if there is heterogeneity in the aging experience of centenarians.

Data are from the 1993-2010 waves of the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. Among those who had the potential to become centenarians, we identified 1,045 respondents who died before reaching age 100 and 96 who survived to their 100th birthday. Respondents, or their proxies, reported on diagnosis of six major diseases (hypertension, heart disease, lung disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes), limitations in activities of daily living, and cognitive function.

As they age to 100, centenarians are generally healthier than nonsurviving members of their cohort, and a number of individuals who become centenarians reach 100 with no self-reported diseases or functional impairments. About 23% of centenarians reached age 100 with no major chronic disease and approximately the same number had no disability (18%). Over half (55%) reached 100 without cognitive impairment. Disease and functioning trajectories of centenarians differ by sex, education, and marital status.

It's a great idea to exercise regularly and practice calorie restriction. Research demonstrates that it will make your later life much more tolerable, healthy, and likely a few years longer besides. But don't think that this will produce enormous changes in the end result in and of itself: don't buy into that story. If medical technology fails to advance significantly by the time you are old, then regardless of what you do and have done then you will die on roughly the same schedule as your parents and grandparents. Similarly, your later life will see you much reduced: sick, frail, and in pain, no matter what path you took to get there. You can tilt the scales to make it less terrible, but it is still going to be terrible.

There is only one way to break out of this box, and that is for today's body of medicine to expand and progress to include rejuvenation treatments. The nature of these treatments can presently be envisaged in great detail, such as in the SENS research programs or the noted Hallmarks of Aging paper. There is a short laundry list of forms of damage that accumulate in and around cells, and to reverse and prevent the ravages of age-related disease and frailty all that has to be accomplished is to repair this damage.

I say "all" and of course it is a tall order, but this goal is nonetheless a lot less challenging than continuing along the present path in which researchers try to intervene in the enormously complex late stages of aging. Aging is like rust: simple root causes spiral out into very complex patterns based on the details of random chance and because their surroundings are very complex. Yet much of the research community focuses on proximate causes in age-related disease, trying to decipher details of a process at the very point at which it is most complicated and hardest to understand. The treatments they produce ignoring root causes, and are in essence attempts to adapt a very complicated system to work less poorly when it is damaged. Can you imagine doing this with a car? Rebuilding it to work slightly less poorly while dangerously rusted rather than fixing the rust problem at the source? This approach guarantees that the work of most medical researchers will produce at best marginal, expensive results that do little more than delay the inevitable.

We want to do better than that, and produce meaningful cures for aging - to bring aging under medical control by directly and effectively addressing its causes. That is the only way that most of us will see a hundredth birthday. But if it does happen, if sufficient funding and support arrives, then we will be in far better health at age 100 than any centenarian in history has been, as the causes of aging will be stripped from us, leaving vigor and health in their place.


Thank you for all your effort,
Kindest regards,

Posted by: peter at September 9th, 2014 11:07 PM

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