Aging Healthier, Not Just Longer

Dov Michaeli

Posted 11/8/11 on The Doctor Weighs In

“Methus’lah lived nine hundred years; Methus’lah lived nine hundred years; But who calls dat livin’ when no gal’ll give in To no man what’s nine hundred years.”

“It Ain’t Necessarily So,” Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin

Isn’t that the ideal most people strive for? Never mind living to 120; what we want is to live healthy to whatever age biology allotted us. Age is the major risk factor for most cancers and for chronic diseases like arthritis. Why is it? Evolutionary biologists tell us that this is nature’s way of clearing us off the stage, so as not to compete with the young for resources. Maybe. I find this theory a bit unsatisfying, if for no other reason than the fact that lower species, like bacteria and fungi, basically live almost forever (they do eventually do die out by senescence) because every mother cell simply divides into two brand new daughter cells. Other species, invertebrates as well as some vertebrates, use the process of parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction involving the egg only without fertilization by the sperm (no fun there, except for some man-haters who love the concept), thus forming genetic clones of the mother.  Also, most organisms in nature rarely live to their biologically-determined limit –they fall prey to disease and predators. So aging per se couldn’t be a major selective force.

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