Here’s interesting news. Research that finds a way to delay the aging process is a “better investment” than addressing specific diseases like heart disease or cancer according to a recent economic analysis published in the journal Health Affairs. The findings suggest that a major advance in cancer/heart disease treatment can give a 51-year-old about 1 added year of life. This could be doubled by modest improvements in the way we handle aging.
It appears that slowing aging (senescence is the fancy term) is a goal within the reach of modern medicine. What’s more, the benefits of doing so call for a new focus for medical research, which at present is focused on fighting specific diseases rather than understanding the process of getting older. According to the micro simulation of the future health/spending of aging Americans, a focus on disease is not as effective as adding healthy years to a person’s life.
In fact, delaying the aging process could up life expectancy an incredible 2.2 years, most of that time enjoyed in fine health. The researchers went so far as to put a dollar value on delayed aging – $7.1 trillion over a 50-year period. Working to solve cancer or heart disease separately yields diminishing improvements in both longevity and the health of those years by 2060.
The micro simulation used in the study is known as the Future Elderly Model and it compares best possible disease specific scenarios with a theoretical scenario of delayed aging. Even with average gains in the understanding of slowing aging, an added 5% of those over 65 in the U.S. would be healthy, instead of classified as disabled, during the years 2030 to 2060. This gives us 11.7 million more able, healthy U.S. adults who are older than 65 years by 2060.
The cost for all this is enormous. The authors suggest offsetting the expense by raising the Medicare eligibility age as well as the retirement age for Social Security. Of course, we’d all be healthier so that would work out.
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When asked if delaying aging would only hold off onset of disease and contribute
to the growth of population, Professor Dana Goldman, a co-author on the study
and the Norman Topping chair in medicine and public policy from the University
of Southern California at Los Angeles, used an example from history. If medicine
were practiced today as it was in the 1970s, it would take 2.5 years off your
life expectancy, but would cost much less. Is that what you want? Of course not.
What’s more, the research focus on single disease has been called into question by no less than the American heart Association. They want to stop treating the specific biomarkers of heart disease and focus on changing lifestyle factors instead. The AHA wants doctors to start treating unhealthy lifestyles as aggressively as they do high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other risks for heart problems.
People value a long life when those years are good healthy ones. What we all need to find is a way to get there that isn’t impractical, or doesn’t cost a fortune. The amazing thing is that very much of what can be done to help yourself age well are things you can do for yourself.
To your good health,