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Should we treat aging as a disease?

Written by Diane Archer

Experts disagree as to whether aging is simply a natural process or we should treat it as a disease. If aging is seen as a diseases, we should be looking for ways to treat it.  Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry supports treating aging as a disease.

To be sure, there’s a difference between your biological age and aging.  All of us age. We grow older and older over the years. But we don’t all age at the same rate. Put differently, aging happens more rapidly to some of us than others, and we all age in different ways.

People’s physical conditions vary based on age, much like their cognitive abilities. Some of us lose bone mass faster, others are better able to retain memory as the years pass and most of us turn grey in our 50s, while some do not. But does that make aging a disease like other chronic conditions?

Some say aging is a disease.  They believe that if aging is seen as a disease, scientists may be more likely to research ways to treat aging. And, some experts believe that at least certain aspects of aging may be treatable, just as we treat heart disease or high blood pressure.

Indeed, a diabetes drug, metformin could extend the life of rodents. If it could extend human life, should it be considered an anti-aging drug?  What do you think?

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14 Comments

  • While it is true that we live longer than ever in our history, there have been so many changes to our environment both natural and man made. I don’t know at this point how ethical it is to increase our lifespans when we do not do nearly enough to improve our quality of life as it is. At 53yrs I feel that I have lived as long as I want to. Before serious illnesses, and I am helpless like both of my parents became. Unlike them, I do not have family to take care of me safely in my own home. So I’d have to say age is relative. Some people want to live forever. Go figure.

  • Aging is a natural process and there are benefits of aging. Treating aging as a disease is another excuse for the drug industry to push more medication. This is just another symptom of our throw-away and ageist society. Let’s start eating the most nutritious foods and exercising in order to be happier and healthier as we age. Respect age, because it is part of the lifespan if we are lucky enough to live to be 50 or older. Most people in the world don’t live that long.

  • Humans have come to believe that we can control nature for our own convenience and ease, but as we look back we see how human manipulations of nature have caused serious consequences for our planet and all those that inhabit it. Overpopulation has been recognized for decades as detrimental, yet instead of trying to control population growth people and corporations have found more and more unnatural ways to address the problems. Longer life for humans as other species become extinct because of us? How greedy can one species be?

  • We are born. We grow old. Then we die. Aging is a natural process. We already have longer lifespans than at any time in our history. To make it a disease is just a way for someone to make money out of aging.

  • Treat aging as a disease? How about we embrace death as a natural part of life? We are headed for a crisis of unimaginable proportions right now because insurance companies and pharmaceuticals companies call all of the shots. The cost of living with illness is catastrophic in this country. We don’t have the infrastructure in place to address it. Baby boomers and their children are in serious danger of losing everything they’ve worked all their lives to acquire, threatening the health and well-being of the adult children who help them. The system is broken and we need to find answers now.

  • I am definitely in favor of greater research on the health problems that arise as we get older so that more of us can enjoy the benefits of age, too: perspective, wisdom, knowledge, time to do what we want, etc. At 72, I feel me life is as good as it has been. But I also realize I have been and am very lucky. To answer the question, I don’t want to be viewed as having a disease because I have gotten to some age. Rather, I want the physical and mental challenges that often come with aging to be treated as worthy of significant research aimed at minimizing them.

  • Contrary to popular belief, we do not live longer than people did 500 years ago. Just the number of people who make it to their 80’s and 90’s has increased. In my genealogy, I have many family who lived well into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, 400 to 500 years ago. If we can keep our telomeres from shortening each time our cells replicates we can live, barring disease or injury, as long as we want. As for me, I love life, even though I have been poor most of it. I learned from my Dad, to enjoy the little things. A beautiful sunset, birds singing, the beauty of a wild flower. I have much to improve in myself, to be a better person and to learn about all of the marvelous things the universe has to offer. These and more will take many, many years and I look forward to each and every one of them.

  • I think maybe we should quit trying to extend our life spans and put effort instead into improving quality of life for everybody. This would involve massive cleanup efforts and much stricter environmental protection regulation. Personally, I’m suspicious of anything the pharmaceutical industry supports, since they seem much more interested in profits than in truly beneficial treatments.

    I’m all in favor of treating specific aspects of aging; I myself have a titanium hip, yay science! but “aging” is a process involving many variables and is certainly not simply a disease. To think of it that way is to massively oversimplify it, and could result in advertising campaigns which claim to be able to cure it. Sounds like BS to me.

  • I agree about the ethics of extending life. I don’t think we should even consider making that an option it unless there is also provision made for people to have a choice about when to end that life. I’m quite a bit older than 53 and am still living my life independently and am able to enjoy it. I would like to have the option to end my life when it becomes impossible to enjoy it and I become unable to live independently. I also think that as a nation we seem not to care about how our seniors live, especially not if we have to make any sacrifices so that they can afford to eat and to obtain medical care. There are already more inhabitants on the earth than it can support. Where is the compassion in enlarging the population and then forcing many of the to live in abject poverty when their ability to provide for themselves ends?

  • I think Ms. Davies makes a good point about the elderly population allready in our society. That was kind of what I was saying about quality of life. We have so many nursing homes in this country filled with the elderly that society has essentially turned its back on. I feel strongly that we need to concentrate our efforts on the quality of life as we grow older, and not just for the wealthy minority who can afford to retire and live out their lives fairly comfortably. Hah what am I talking about? If we don’t make some major changes in our government, retirement will be another thing only for the 1%ers.

  • As Boomers, we will be re-visioning aging because we must. We will need to rely on one another and create interdependent communities. It is a mistake to think that we can rely on science or for-profit pharmaceutical companies. Aging IS natural, offers many spiritual benefits, and can lead to wisdom and elderhood. To treat it as dis-ease is to perpetuate the Western notion of pathology, which continues to make us cling to outmoded systems of belief. There is nothing wrong with us, we are simply growing older. I say let’s use those extra years to live and love consciously. The world is full of hurt and needs our love and compassion.

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