It’s amazing to think that how much our lifespans have improved over the past 100 years. Those additional years we keep getting, however, should be treated with the utmost respect. Staying young is now a realistic perspective, and a necessity at that as well. Our daily lives should be filled with physical activities, active social lives, and more. Aging brings certain risks with it, but the majority of those risks can be prevented if we take care of our minds and bodies. As medicine and technology progress, it’s becoming more and more up to us if we’ll take advantage of that!
If you want to learn more, keep reading the article by Prof. Jacques Proust.
Our life expectancy as a human species has almost doubled in just under a century. If we keep on playing for time, are we not in danger of suffering more and more from the ravages of time?
It is a fact that we are living longer and longer. Our life expectancy is still increasing steadily by 3 months every year, with no sign of abating. Every little girl born today has a 50/50 chance of becoming a centenarian. It is therefore imperative, both individually and socio-economically, that these additional years of life are years of active life, in full health, and in full possession of our physical and intellectual capacities. Numerous studies show that maintaining health is not incompatible with advancing age. However, certain preventive measures must be taken so that this increase in life expectancy is not accompanied by a physiological decline that would make it difficult to bear. It is up to us to ensure that this privilege that we have been granted is not a poisoned gift!
As life extension continues, is there a better understanding of why and how we age?
Human life extension is a unique event in the evolution of species. This exceptional scientific phenomenon and its socio-economic consequences have obviously aroused considerable interest among physicians, biologists, geneticists, biochemists, and many other specialists. In recent years, considerable progress has been made in understanding the biological mechanisms behind the aging phenomenon. One of the major findings of research in this field is that aging and its associated diseases are not as inevitable as previously thought. There are now many ways of influencing the speed of the senescence process and avoiding some of its pathological consequences, rather than making us younger.
In our environment, it is common to observe that some people age faster than others: does this observation correspond to a scientific reality?
Our organisms and their components all age in different ways and at different rates. Some people seem to have relative resistance to aging, which is partly hereditary; there are families in which the majority of individuals end their lives at a very advanced age, without any prior deterioration in their state of health. Conversely, other people age more rapidly and see their lives cut short early, perhaps because of genetic predispositions to certain ailments, but also and above all because of lifestyles and individual behaviors that will squander their health capital.
For example, high blood pressure, excess weight, excessive smoking and abnormal cholesterol are all risk factors that act synergistically to induce premature ageing of the cardiovascular system. The progressive accumulation of damage to the arterial walls will eventually lead to an acute complication such as a myocardial infarction, a stroke, or an arterial occlusion…and eventually to premature death or major disability!
Since we all age differently, is it possible to predict what lies ahead and can we increase our chances of ageing “well”?
We can indeed increase our chances of aging ‘well’ by trying to detect as early as possible the physiological changes that will negatively influence our state of health as we age. To this end, we have increasingly precise biological markers that make it possible to assess the degree of aging of a particular organ or system and to identify the risk factors that are likely to cause an alteration in our organism and/or disease in the long term. Once such risk factors have been identified, everything possible must be done to eliminate them or put them out of action. It is important to know that two-thirds of the diseases that cause premature death can be prevented!
Since age itself is a major risk factor, is it possible to slow down ageing?
We are still far from having completely elucidated the biological basis of the aging phenomenon. Nevertheless, considerable progress has been made in this field in recent years and the pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fall into place. Several fundamental molecular mechanisms directly involved in the senescence process have already been identified. As our understanding of aging progress and new biochemical pathways are discovered, pharmacological means are being developed that allow us to partially block the inner workings of aging. Slowing down the biological process of senescence is therefore another important step in the fight against aging.
In practical terms, how can a prevention approach be initiated?
There are now centres for preventive medicine whose mission is to provide the public with the most recent information on the fight against ageing and a scientific approach to the treatment of senescence. A complete health check-up is offered, including a clinical examination by doctors specializing in aging, biological tests (biological markers of aging, hormonal tests), radiological examinations (in particular measuring bone density and determining body composition), and specialized consultations. The aim of these examinations is to assess the degree of physiological aging and to identify individual risk factors in order to prevent the subsequent occurrence of disabling degenerative conditions. Following this assessment, personalized anti-aging programs are offered in different disease areas. The participants make an informed choice of the program they wish to take part in. Medical follow-up is provided to monitor the effectiveness of these anti-senescence interventions. The long-term goal of this assessment and of the preventive programs is to maintain health as we age.
How do you see the future in the field of health and ageing?
The ageing of our society is not a possibility, it is a very real fact that we must already take into account. For this aging to be acceptable to the individual and to society, there is no alternative but to try to confine illness to the ultimate end of our biological existence. In other words, we must die like real cowboys, with our boots on! It is therefore essential to develop the tools of predictive and preventive medicine and to improve our scientific knowledge of the biological mechanisms of senescence. Equipped with these weapons, we must also become the actors responsible for our own health, encouraged and supported in this by a coherent medical insurance system.