I recently noticed this scientific commentary, published in a journal not specifically focused on aging. The author is far from the only person to have noticed that priorities in medical research and development do not seem to match up with the major causes of death all that well. It can't hurt to keep on pointing out that research into the most harmful biological processes in the world, meaning the mechanisms that cause aging, is very poorly funded and investigated in comparison to the vast and ongoing toll of death that results. Until aging is defeated, more funding for research into rejuvenation therapies will continue to be the most cost-effective way to improve the human condition.
Longevity means living a long life, nowadays often considered a life span over 85 to 100 years. More and more people reach this limit in modern welfare societies, and citizens aged 90 years and over are said to be the fastest increasing group of people. This is a reality, but what are the background factors for this development? Many scholars think that it is mostly due to societal factors like improved hygiene, proper diet and safer environment. These are important but have mainly established the sine qua non for reaching old age through living past dangerous childhood and earlier adult life and becoming old. In modern societies, reaching longevity is jeopardized more by chronic non-communicable diseases which have replaced infectious diseases as primary causes of morbidity and mortality. By the way, according to the latest Global Health Estimates by the World Health Organization, during the first half of 2020, non-communicable diseases killed approximately 25 times more people than the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Bible, 'The days of our years are threescore years and ten (70 years); and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years (80 years), yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off...'(Psalm 90:10). This well accords with the thoughts of biogerontologists: the warranty period of homo sapiens is 65 years, where after on the average 20 years can be attained, mainly depending on life-course factors. Whilst age 85 years is an upper limit to life expectancy at the population level, ca. 40% of the original birth cohort nevertheless can reach 90 years, 5-6% 100 years, few 100-115 years, and only a handful of individuals over that.
The most common non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, cancer, and degenerative diseases. Many risk factors for them have been identified. Overall, it seems feasible that health span - healthy years of life - extension and successful ageing can be promoted with better and long-term cardiovascular risk factor control. However, for reaching 100 years and over the role of genetic factors affecting longevity strengthens. For most of the population, extending life span and especially health span over 90 years requires new methods to control the biological ageing processes, currently investigated in the realms of Geroscience, the Longevity Dividend, and the Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity.