Slowed Aging Seen As Key to Future Longevity Gains

New research strategies may be needed to extend healthy years, postpone age-related diseases

WEDNESDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- Because most people in developed nations now reach old age in reasonably good health, and researchers have identified interventions that can postpone nearly all the diseases and disabilities that affect older people, it's time that national policy supports the development of research strategies aimed at slowing the aging process, according to an article published online July 8 in BMJ.

Robert N. Butler, M.D., president of the International Longevity Center in New York City, and colleagues credit the disease-specific model for increasing life expectancy by a dramatic 30 years in developed countries during the 20th century, citing initial mortality reductions in infants, children and mothers, and subsequent mortality reductions in middle-aged and older people. But they state that the disease-specific model is unlikely to produce similar gains in the 21st century.

The researchers call for a new, complementary research strategy to extend life span that would focus on the relationship between aging and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, sarcopenia and most cancers. They also call for increased funding of basic research into the fundamental cellular and physiological changes that drive aging.

"If we succeed in slowing aging by seven years, the age-specific risk of death, frailty and disability will be reduced by about half at every age," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "People who reach the age of 50 in the future would have the health profile and disease risk of today's 43 year old; those aged 60 would resemble current 53 year olds, and so on. Equally important, once achieved, this seven-year delay would yield equal health and longevity benefits for all subsequent generations, in much the same way that children born in most nations today benefit from the discovery and development of immunization."

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