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Lifespan

Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have To

By David A. Sinclair, PhD and Matthew D. LaPlante
15-minute read
Audio available
Lifespan  by David A. Sinclair, PhD and Matthew D. LaPlante

Lifespan (2019) delves into cutting-edge genetic research and advances new theories on why we age and how we can prevent aging altogether. From high-tech lab research to simple nutritional strategies, it serves as a guide to the varied ways in which we can already, or might soon be able to live longer and better lives.

  • Young people who want to age better
  • Older people who want to feel young again
  • Anyone who wants to live a longer, healthier life

David A. Sinclair, PhD, is a leading scientist and professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. Time magazine has named him one of the 50 most influential people in healthcare and one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Matthew LaPlante is a science writer and journalist who specializes in writing about genetics and longevity.

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Lifespan

Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have To

By David A. Sinclair, PhD and Matthew D. LaPlante
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Lifespan  by David A. Sinclair, PhD and Matthew D. LaPlante
Synopsis

Lifespan (2019) delves into cutting-edge genetic research and advances new theories on why we age and how we can prevent aging altogether. From high-tech lab research to simple nutritional strategies, it serves as a guide to the varied ways in which we can already, or might soon be able to live longer and better lives.

Key idea 1 of 9

We view aging as inevitable, but it’s actually a treatable disease.

At the turn of the twentieth century in the United States, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis and gastrointestinal conditions accounted for approximately 50 percent of all deaths. It was all but inevitable that one person in two would die from one of these afflictions.

Today, only 10 percent of the people in the United States who contract influenza or pneumonia are in any danger of dying, and the country’s mortality rate for both tuberculosis and gastrointestinal conditions is so low that it’s statistically irrelevant.

Thanks to medical advances, diseases that once spelled death are now rarely life-threatening.

What if we thought of aging as a disease, just like pneumonia or tuberculosis? Like any disease, aging presents a host of symptoms, like dementia, organ failure, loss of bone density, just to name a few. Wounds also take longer to heal when we age, our bodies become more susceptible to infections and viruses, our organs slowly yet inexorably fail and our brain function is impaired.

Recent breakthroughs in genetics show that aging actually is a disease. Not only that, it’s a disease that’s potentially curable, and eliminating it would add years to our lifespans. Without the symptoms of aging to deal with, the quality of our newly extended lives would be improved immensely.

Of course, like any disease, aging is best treated not by tackling its symptoms one by one but by targeting its root cause. Cancer provides a useful comparison here. Up until the 1960s, researchers didn’t understand what caused cancer, so treatment focused on symptoms, not root causes. Doctors removed cancerous cells where they found them, often destroying healthy cells in the process.

In the 1970s, molecular biologists discovered the oncogene. This is the specific gene that causes cancer when it mutates. Instead of attacking symptoms at random, subsequent cancer treatments could specifically target the oncogene, leaving healthy cells unscathed and improving patient survival rates.

So why haven’t we done something similar in our approach to aging? Because until now, very little was known about its root cause. However, a spate of recent breakthroughs are bringing scientists ever closer to pinpointing it.

Where do these scientists think the source of aging lies? It’s deep within our genetic makeup, as we’ll see in the next blink.

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