The eternal quest for longevity has plagued the generations since ancient civilization, haunting us with its illusive appeal. Through the majority of human history, most humans died long before they had lived long enough to develop age-related diseases. Thankfully, scientific advances have all but eliminated those causes of death, which people died from over a century ago and limited life spans to about 40 years.
Now, however the Baby Boomers are coming to terms with their own mortality and looking for answers in everything from diet and exercise to supplements and vitamins. Some even entertain ideas of more bizarre forms of life preservation, like cryogenics and scientific experiments to achieve human immortality. Our journey to stay forever young and healthy takes many paths, as we try to avoid sickness and disease, maintain vitality and extend our life expectancy as far as possible.
Many experts of both allopathic and alternative medicine agree that a healthy diet, rich in fruits and dark leafy greens and incorporated with a regular exercise program will provide the building blocks for a long life. Vitamins, minerals and supplements may also assist in the fight against the effects of the aging process by providing adequate supplies of nutrients to organs and bones, as well as, antioxidants to fight free radical damage to the cells.
Other means of life extension include hormone replacement therapy, body part replacement, plastic surgery, injections and extreme calorie restriction diets. Some of these theories have valid evidence as to their life preserving qualities, while others are merely cosmetic in nature
Calorie restriction to 30 to 50 percent of the average person’s intake has shown to successfully extend life in primates and prevent many age-related deaths within their species. No one has conducted human studies, though there are people who are attempting a calorie-restricted program in hopes of extending their lives. Only time will tell if they live longer than average.
As people age, their level of hormones, especially HGH, testosterone and DHEA, all decline. Hormone replacement therapy gives patients doses of these hormones to counteract the effects and impact of aging. No evidence exits to link hormone replacement therapy with increased life span in humans.
The human body wears out and needs constant care to stay healthy. Adherents to stem cell research, human cloning and other new life extension technologies, believe that body parts can be grown and used to replace worn out organs and limbs to increase life span. This theory does not take into account the systematic changes that occur in the human body over time.
Cryonic proponents believe if you can stop life’s clock in suspended animation and then wait for new technologies to come along to cure illnesses and replace organs they can keep you living eternally. There is little evidence to support this theory. Remember, no mammal has ever been successfully cryo-preserved and been brought back to life.
Our quality and quantity of life is the culmination of many factors – some controllable, some not. Genetics, lifestyle, attitude, medical care and environment all contribute to the illnesses and disease we will contract. Our body’s immune systems response to those challenges will ultimately determine our life span.
The human race will always attempt to expand life expectancy through advancements in science and technology. However, will the quality of life be worth the extended years?
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How to Live Forever (2009)
Directed by Mark Wexler
Eat Clean Diet
By Tosca Reno
Mark Stibich, Ph.D.
University of California
San Diego School of Medicine