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From Lifespan to Healthspan: Brain Scientists Tap Into The Secrets Of Living Well Longer

Yolan­da Esparza (right) and Mary Lyons (left) con­tin­ue their 2‑mile group trail ride orig­i­nat­ing from the Con­ley-Guer­rero Senior Activ­i­ty Cen­ter in Austin, Texas, on Dec. 3, 2019. (Julia Robin­son for KHN)

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AUSTIN, Texas — Retired state employ­ees Vick­ey Ben­ford, 63, and Joan Cald­well, 61, are Gold­en Rollers, a group of the over-50 set that gets out on assort­ed bikes — includ­ing trikes for adults they call “three wheels of awe­some” — for an hour of trail rid­ing and cama­raderie.

I love to exer­cise, and I like to stay fit,” said Cald­well, who tried out a recum­bent bike, a low-impact option that can be eas­i­er on the back. “It keeps me young.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ever heard of the Longevity Dividend? Perhaps Gray is the New Gold

The Longevi­ty Div­i­dend is a the­o­ry that says we hope to inter­vene sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly to slow the aging process, which will also delay the onset of age-relat­ed dis­eases. Delay­ing aging just sev­en years would slash rates of con­di­tions like can­cer, dia­betes, Alzheimer’s dis­ease and heart dis­ease in half. That’s the longevi­ty part.

The div­i­dend comes from the social, eco­nom­ic, and health bonus­es that would then be avail­able to spend on schools, ener­gy, jobs, infra­struc­ture tril­lions of dol­lars that today we spend on health­care ser­vices. In fact, at the rate we’re going, by the year 2020 one out of every $5 spent in this coun­try will be spent on health­care. Obvi­ous­ly, some­thing has to change.

Enter the Longevi­ty Div­i­dend. The Longevi­ty Div­i­dend does­n’t sug­gest that we live longer; instead, it calls for liv­ing bet­ter. The idea is that if we use sci­ence to increase healthspan, not lifes­pan. In oth­er words, tomor­rows 50-year-old would have the health pro­file of a 43-year-old.

It might sound like sci­ence fic­tion, but, in fact, it’s quite pos­si­ble. We’re already doing it in some ani­mal mod­els using genet­ic and dietary inter­ven­tions, tech­niques relat­ed to what sci­en­tists call “the biol­o­gy of aging.”

Get­ting there in humans, how­ev­er, means embrac­ing an entire­ly new approach to our think­ing about dis­ease and aging, and how we con­duct sci­en­tif­ic research into the two.

Get­ting Sci­en­tists’ Atten­tion

A group of emi­nent researchers first pro­posed the Longevi­ty Div­i­dend in a 2006 arti­cle pub­lished in The Sci­en­tist. The authors, S. Jay Olshan­sky, PhD, pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­o­gy and bio­sta­t­ics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois in Chica­go, Daniel P. Per­ry, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Alliance for Aging Research in Wash­ing­ton, DC, Richard A. Miller, MD, PhD, pro­fes­sor of pathol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan in Ann Arbor, and Robert N. But­ler, MD, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Inter­na­tion­al Longevi­ty Cen­ter in New York, intend­ed their essay to be a “gen­er­al state­ment to sci­en­tists about the need for a par­a­digm shift in the way we think about aging and dis­ease.

The researchers also met with U.S. sen­a­tors who served on the Sen­ate com­mit­tee that over­saw the bud­get for the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH). “We told them we believed Read the rest of this entry »

Hourglass #3: the biology of aging

Wel­come to the third edi­tion of Hour­glass, the month­ly vir­tu­al gath­er­ing of blog­gers to Hourglassdis­cuss the Biol­o­gy of Aging.

For today’s edi­tion, let’s imag­ine all par­tic­i­pants sit­ting around a table lead­ing a live­ly Ques­tions & Answers ses­sion, dis­cussing as a group, lis­ten­ing, talk­ing. (And, well, aging.)

Q: What is aging?
Ms. Wikipedia: “Age­ing or aging (Amer­i­can Eng­lish) is the accu­mu­la­tion of changes in an organ­ism or object over time. Age­ing in humans refers to a mul­ti­di­men­sion­al process of phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and social change. Some dimen­sions of age­ing grow and expand over time, while oth­ers decline. Reac­tion time, for exam­ple, may slow with age, while knowl­edge of world events and wis­dom may expand.”

Aging may not be the sex­i­est  of words in our vocab­u­lary. Unless, of course (as I heard some­where recent­ly but can’t prop­er­ly cred­it), you con­sid­er the most com­mon alter­na­tive.

Q: If the objec­tive of anti-aging research is to extend lifes­pan, isn’t there a risk that we may neglect qual­i­ty of life. After all, would peo­ple real­ly like to spend more years afflict­ed by the dis­eases and the decline that often come with age?
Ed (dragged to the dis­cus­sion by Chris and Alvaro): I have rel­a­tive­ly good news to share. A recent Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Den­mark found that the pro­por­tion of elder­ly Danes who man­age to remain inde­pen­dent holds steady at Read the rest of this entry »

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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