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The Future of Aging

(U.S. News & World Report) Imagine a day in the not-too-distant future. You’re in your late 40s, and it’s time for a special doctor’s visit. The physician reviews your lifestyle, sleep habits and health history and orders some blood work to compare certain biomarkers with baseline measures taken when you were in your 20s. Then she gives you a personalized prescription for change that includes a diet that mimics the effects of fasting and a drug that helps your cells clear out malfunctioning proteins. The goal? To make you age more slowly and lengthen your “healthspan.”
If it sounds like science fiction, you’re right – for now. But researchers in the field of geroscience, which explores the relationship between aging and diseases like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, see that day coming. They are marshalling evidence that the same cellular processes that drive aging also result in those diseases, and that it’s possible to slow the damage down. “The idea is that if you can treat the underlying causes of aging, you can delay all of these things as a group,” says Dr. Steven Austad, scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research and a professor at the University of Alabama–Birmingham. “That’s a whole different way of thinking about medicine.”
The goal is not to extend lifespan, though that may indeed happen. Instead it’s to extend the length of time you’re healthy and active. “We want people to be in their 80s and feel like they’re in their 50s and 60s,” says Brian Kennedy, president and CEO at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California. That’s not far-fetched, according to The New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center.
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