Top Ten Facts About Ageing
- Life expectancy in most developed countries is increasing by 5 or more hours each day
In many developing countries the rate is even faster as these countries catch up.
- Human ageing is much more malleable than used to be thought
Factors such as healthy lifestyles, better public health and education all contribute to the fact that on average we now age much better than in the past.
- There is no biological programme driving our bodies to age
Our bodies are programmed for survival. However in earlier times, when life was much more hazardous, it was a higher priority for our genes to reproduce than to build a body that could last forever. We age and die through the gradual accumulation of damage in our cells and organs.
- Older people make a large positive contribution to the national economyThere are some costs associated with population ageing but the net effect is strongly positive.
- Although ageing brings increased vulnerability to disease, many people aged 85 and above rate their quality of life highly
- Population ageing contributes much less to increasing health costs than is commonly perceived
The most expensive period for health care in each of our lives is our terminal illness, whether we die young or old. Because most people are now old when this cost is incurred, a false impression is often gained that it is population ageing itself that is costly.
- There is no fixed point at which ageing begins
Indeed, the biological process of ageing begins very early in life, when we are still in the womb.
- Adherence to healthy nutritional patterns results in longer, healthier lives
- Longevity does run in families but the contribution from our genes is only a quarter of what determines length of life
The genes responsible for above-average longevity include genes influencing body maintenance.
- The biological mechanisms responsible for ageing are complex but beginning to be understood
This knowledge will help medical scientists better to understand the many age-related diseases for which age is the single strongest cause. In time this knowledge will lead to new ways to prevent and treat these diseases, possibly by acting on the ageing process itself.
Writen by Professor Tom Kirkwood.