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interest to public health. Instead of addressing single public health

problems such as cancer, diabetes mellitus, stroke and

cardiovascular diseases, to name only a few, the ‘ultimate

preventive medicine’ would be to work towards healthy aging.

Increasing the biological age will ‘delay the onset and progression’

of diseases of major public health importance

(7)

. That might still

be a hypothesis, but it is being supported by results with laboratory

animals

How can aging be a ‘risk factor’? It is a natural development

resulting finally in death, imposed on mankind, as Christianity

believes, by the Lord, because Eve could not resist eating an apple and offering some of it to

Adam. In short, aging involves skin wrinkling and spotting, changes in metabolism with a

trend towards increased weight and becoming fat, losing your ability to hit a golf ball several

hundred meters because of muscle wasting, your bones fracturing easily, especially if you are

a woman, very easily getting sick with infectious and non-communicable diseases

2

and, as it

is generally believed, losing your ‘cognitive ability’ due to an aging brain. The decline of

cognitive skills is said to start after age of around 25. As you get older your mental ability

starts to fade, your short-term memory deteriorates, and this also happens to the speed of

processing information. Beyond the age of 65, the risk of dementia doubles every five years

and almost 25% of people over 80 suffer from dementi

a 3 .

Of interest, not only for those

working in geroscience, is how fast these developments befall an individual. Why do some

people age rapidly from their fiftieth year onwards, while others seem still to be very young in

mind and active far above their 80

th

birthday.

The biological age should overrun the chronological age

The longest living human on record was Mrs. Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of

122. She became a national celebrity in France and was called the ‘doyenne of humanity’

4 .

Not only her longevity but also her liveliness made her famous. What was very much liked

was her ‘tart wit’ which she showed up to the end of her life. “I've waited 110 years to be

famous. I count on taking advantage of it,” she joked at her 120

th

birthday party. Another

famous quotation is: “Getting used to growing media attention with every year that passes,”

she quipped, “I wait for death… and journalists.” Mrs. Calment certainly is an exceptional

example of how the ‘biological age’ can differ from ‘chronological age’. What should be of

interest not only for geroscience, but also for public health, is how to extend the ‘biological

age’ beyond the ‘chronological age’, how to measure ‘biological age’ and the possible ethical

implications of this. What are the consequences for the role of the elderly within the society,

and how can we work against the common assumption that aging necessarily goes along with

a declining mental ability? Why are people living longer nowadays and why do they appear to

2 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/aging/art-20046070

(accessed June 1,

2016)

3 www.newscientist.com/article/mg18825301-300-how-brainpower-can-help-you-cheat-old-age/(accessed

June

1, 2016)

4 http://anson.ucdavis.edu/~wang/calment.html

(accessed June 1, 2016)