Can Human Aging Be Postponed?; December 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Rose; 6 Page(s)
Cultures throughout history have aspired to postpone aging, thereby prolonging vitality and life itself. Today macrobiotic diets, recycled Hindu health practices, the latest fashions in gray-market hormone therapy and other forms of chicanery continue to fan the flames of hope. All these attempts to restore or sustain youthful vigor have just one thing in common: failure to achieve their goal. People who survive past 65 these days are only slightly more likely to enjoy a robust old age than their counterparts were 2,000 years ago.
Medical researchers have devised useful therapies for disorders that become more common with advancing age, such as cancer and heart disease. And over the past 120 years, sanitation systems and drugs that combat infectious disease have increased life expectancy in the developed nations by reducing premature death. But nothing delays or slows the innate processes that cause adults to age, to suffer a decline in physiological functioning as they grow older. Consequently, successful treatment of one illness late in life often means that another age-related problem soon takes its place. Infirmity remains the lot of those older than 80, however much the media may dote on the 90-year-old marathon runner.