Do you want to live a longer life in good health? Simple practices can make some difference, such as exercise or calorie restriction. But over the long haul all that really matters is medical biotechnology: progress towards therapies that can repair and reverse the known root causes of aging. The sooner these treatments arrive the more lives will be saved, perhaps including yours. So here at Fight Aging! you'll read about healthy life extension, engineered longevity, and the development of rejuvenation biotechnology - but what do these terms mean? Put simply, they refer to the use of new medical technologies to both increase healthy life span and reduce the risk of suffering age-related conditions in later life. It is doing the best we can with proven but limited present day methods, while supporting the research needed to develop far more effective methods for tomorrow. There is much more to living longer than simply looking after your health here and now.
Aging is an Enemy, So Fight It!
Aging saps our strength and ability to enjoy life, cripples us, and eventually kills us. Tens of millions die from medical conditions caused by aging each and every year. Yet the risk of suffering these conditions in later life can be greatly reduced for most people through diet and exercise. Furthermore, serious scientific efforts are presently underway to understand and intervene in the aging process - not just to prevent frailty and disease, but to also repair and reverse the root causes of aging.
In future decades researchers will assemble new biotechnologies that can defeat aging, restore the old to health and vigor, and prevent the young from ever suffering the ravages of age. Some of these future therapies are already understood and envisioned in some detail, but yet remain in the early stages of research. We would like these breakthroughs to happen while we are still alive and in good health to benefit: we miss out on so much as things stand today, pressed by the lack of time and our increasing frailty with age. Imagine instead a world in which everyone has the option of another tomorrow, and the health and vigor to enjoy it, each and every day. But how can we achieve this goal?
Present day medical technologies are far advanced over those available to our ancestors - and as a result we suffer far less than they did. Yet modern medicine can achieve little in comparison to what scientists know is possible for the future. Despite amazing advances in understanding and treating age-related conditions (such as cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and many others), and despite the cries of the anti-aging marketplace, it is still the case that, for basically healthy people, no presently available therapy or tool can produce even a fraction of the long-term benefits to health and life expectancy provided by regular exercise or a calorie restricted diet.
No existing and available medical technology can improve on these lifestyle choices here and now, today. But if you look to the laboratories, you will see that some researchers can greatly extend the healthy lives of many species, while others put forward clear plans to either slow aging through the manipulation of human metabolism or reverse aging by repairing the biological damage that causes age-related degeneration.
This future awaits, as time ticks away and for now we continue to age just like our ancestors. Yet this is an era of rapid progress in biotechnology and medicine. As the years pass, the remaining span of healthy life that you and I will likely live to enjoy is ever more determined by the ability of clinical medicine to revert and repair the causes of aging, and ever less determined by lifestyle choices. Thus when we reach for longer, healthier lives, it is vital that we lend our support to the research and development of therapies capable of treating the causes of aging. We must ensure that the public is educated, the fundamental longevity science is funded, the clinical applications of that research fully developed, and the resulting rejuvenation biotechnologies made available - and all this as soon as possible. The clock is ticking, after all, and this is the only approach that will allow us live for significantly longer than our ancestors.
The following three steps outline a starting point for living longer, a sketch of a framework for thinking about healthy life extension:
- Step 1: Stop Damaging Your Health
- Step 2: Adopt a Better Diet and Lifestyle
- Step 3: Support Progress in Longevity Science
At its most basic level, aging is nothing more than an accumulation of damage; breakages in the molecular machinery of your cells, a build up of metabolic waste products that your body cannot break down, the flailing of biological systems that are increasingly unable to cope. Ask yourself this: are you damaging yourself more rapidly than you might otherwise be, perhaps more than you realize? Do you smoke? Do recreational drugs occupy a central position in your life? Do you eat nothing but junk food or are overweight? Do you exercise little or not at all? Do you have a poor relationship with your physician, or haven't seen a doctor in years? If so, you have a clear starting point. These things can hurt you far more than any presently available strategy for healthy living can help. There is little point in insulating the windows if the door is jammed open.
Find a physician you can trust and talk to about improving your health. You might be surprised at how easy, low-cost, and downright pleasant it is to lead a healthier and thereby longer life.
The body is a complex, resilient machine. Unlike our cars, however, we can't replace it when it breaks down. Given that, it's scandalous that most people know more about the long-term care of a car than they do about the long-term care of the human body. Fortunately, it's neither difficult nor expensive to use diet and lifestyle to raise the odds of living a longer and healthier life.
Firstly: adopt a calorie restriction diet. Calorie restriction is currently the only proven way of extending healthy life in mammals. While the present scientific consensus is that it will not extend life in humans to the same degree as in mice, calorie restriction has been shown in human studies to provide a range of other beneficial effects on health, such as a greatly lowered risk of suffering all common age-related medical conditions - and it is highly praised by practitioners. You can learn out more about calorie restriction at the CR Society website, and here at Fight Aging! you'll find introduction to calorie restriction that provides helpful guidelines to getting started.
Secondly: exercise as recommended by your physician. The benefits of maintaining a modest regular level of exercise for most people are well known and well proven in many scientific studies. As is also true of calorie restriction, these benefits include a greatly reduced risk of suffering almost all of the common age-related diseases.
Thirdly: take a modest amount of supplements appropriate to your age and health. There is a wealth of supplement information available, but much of it is worthless, propagated by irresponsible sellers. This is perhaps the hardest topic to research, and in the end you will have to make a number of decisions yourself based on incomplete or contradictory scientific evidence. The bottom line here, however, is that no presently available supplement or combination of supplements has been shown to provide even a fraction of the benefits of either calorie restriction or exercise, for all that they are widely supposed to be beneficial.
Speaking out in favor of medical research aimed at extending the healthy human life span is just as important as taking care of your health today - even the best of present day practices will make only a comparatively small difference to your expected future life span. Most age-related conditions are still incurable, and no matter how well you live your life, you will become frail with old age and eventually die from the damage that is accumulating within your body. The aging process causes great suffering for hundreds of millions worldwide each and every day, and absent scientific breakthroughs you will be one of them. Yet that said, we are living in an era of rapid, seething progress in medicine, the life sciences, and biotechnology, far more so than at any time in the past - and we can envisage how aging should be repaired and reversed. Aging will one day be cured, just like any other medical condition, and our job is to ensure that this day arrives soon enough that we are still alive, healthy, and active to see it.
A revolution in biotechnology is presently underway, and the medicine of the near future holds great promise - see, for example, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) worked on by the SENS Research Foundation and other scientific groups. This promise is not a guarantee, however: it can only be realized if research and development is fully funded and widely supported. The young field of longevity science remains poorly funded, and most of the public neither understands nor appreciates the possibilities offered by this research. Further, many politicians, funding institutions, and bioethicists demonstrate considerable opposition to the most promising branches of longevity-enhancing medicine.
If we do not speak out in favor of rejuvenation biotechnology - the key to our future health and extended longevity - then research and investment will decline. Without vocal public support and understanding, scientists are reluctant to go out on a limb and fight for funding to intervene in the aging process. By failing to prevent legislation that slows or criminalizes vital medical research, such as happened for stem cell research for many years, we only hurt ourselves. Do you want to live a much longer, much healthier life? Do you want your friends, parents, and children to live long and in vigor? Do you want to see the development of biotechnology that can reverse the course of aging and frailty? Then you have to stand up and say so! There are many ways for you to make your voice heard on important issues relating to the future of human health and longevity - and a good starting point to learn more is to become a regular reader of Fight Aging!, explore the site, and sign up for the newsletter.
So there you go: three quick steps that provide a solid starting point for learning more about living longer and the near future of rejuvenation biotechnology. Ten or fifteen years ago, when the longevity science community was smaller and less organized, it required years of discussion and research to make the leap to understand the existence and importance of step 3 - the necessity of supporting research into human longevity, and the fact that there is legitimate research aimed at human rejuvenation to be supported in the first place. Back in the day, information on longevity science was harder to find, drowned out by irresponsible voices in the anti-aging marketplace, and only rarely discussed in public by scientists in the field.
The core of the Fight Aging! mindset is to recognize that step 3 exists, and that your future largely depends on the pace of progress in medical research aimed at producing human rejuvenation. Don't get seduced by the noise surrounding step 2, produced by the vast industry associated with lifestyle choices, diet, supplements, and exercise, because it's largely nothing but smoke and mirrors. You can't eat and exercise your way into a healthy life that is decades longer than it would otherwise be, and you can't eat and exercise your way to a certainty of reaching 100 years of age. Three quarters of the healthiest among us die before reaching 90 even supported by today's medicine, and most of what is sold to the lost and the gullible under the "anti-aging" banner is useless junk. Only new medical technologies produced by the research community can provide the option of living in good health for far longer than your great-grandparents did, and that can only happen if these technologies are funded and developed rapidly enough.
Fight Aging! is here as a resource. Make good use of it, but always remember that the bottom line is this: a tremendous opportunity exists in the research and development of rejuvenation biotechnology, far beyond anything that can be obtained through diet, exercise, and supplements. Don't squander that opportunity by ignoring it.Last updated: May 12th 2013