We are finding that “Age” is the most common risk factor for many diseases. So the older we get, the more likely we are to get heart disease, neurological conditions, diabetes and cancers. That puts us in a tough position. Of course we want to live a long life, but we want to do what we can to stay healthy and ideally avoid illness and disease.
So the question is, is aging a condition in itself that can be reset? Currently the oldest person on record is a French woman who died in 1997 at the age of 122! It is predicted that by 2040, Spain will have the longest-lived citizens reaching the average age of 86 years.
Scientists have used animal studies to better understand the cellular and molecular processes that cause the deteriorations of aging. There are 4 broad groups according to Tamara Tchkonia and Dr. James L. Kirkland of the Mayo Clinic. These groups include chronic inflammation, cell dysfunction, changes in stem cells that make them fail to regenerate disease, and cellular senescence, the accumulation in tissue of aging cells that accompanies disease.
Researchers have found that old cells secrete proteins, lipids and other substances that increase inflammation and cause destruction of tissues. Apparently, healthy young people have few of these aging cells, but after age 60, they begin to accumulate and their increasing quantity correlates with the disabilities of old age.
Could there be a remedy that removes these old cells while leaving young cells? Well, we’re getting closer.
In one study with mice, old cells were sensitive to a combination of 2 drugs; dasatinib, a cancer drug, and quercetin, a plant flavonoid. They improved cardiac function and exercise capacity in old mice delaying the symptoms of osteoporosis and prolonged healthy old age. I mean isn’t that what we all want?! Healthy quality years as we age.
Some drugs are now being tested to kill old cells called “senolytics”. For example a drug called Metformin which has been used for 60 years to treat diabetes has been shown to be effective against several age-related diseases. Maybe we can prevent a host of age-related diseases- cardiovascular, cancer, dementia- that can help us not only live longer but with fewer disabilities related to aging.
Of course healthy eating, exercise, inner and outer connection through friends, family, community, religion or spiritual practices are the foundation of health. But maybe certain medicines can optimize and prolong good health. There are trials underway in humans looking at drugs and nutrients that will tackle all of the difficult causes of aging to help extend our health span so we can live healthier in our older years.