My first reaction is “what kind of jack-leg question is that?”. What do you mean – is aging a disease? My reply includes 1 squinted eye and a turned up corner of my mouth.
Some researchers and scientists are trying to say it is. Taking that into consideration, the drive to categorize aging as a disease becomes crystal clear. I’ll explain that a little further down.
You Can’t Live Forever
That’s a no brainer. No one, and no thing, can live forever. Except for that bunch on “Twilight”. But for this post I’m going to exclude them from consideration.
As we grow older our bodies naturally begin to wear out. Our less than perfect habits and environment takes it’s toll. Things like air pollutants, poor diet, lack of sleep, too much stress, and too little exercise all lead to our physical decline.
While our bodies are young and viral it can withstand those big hitters. But, as if you were subjected to Chinese water torture, you will succumb.
Some will begin feeling the effects in their 20’s, and a few more in their 30’s.
But the 40 something and up? Well this is where we really start having the screws turned on us. Things like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and so forth, begin to afflict us.
Since most sickness and disease doesn’t onset until later on in our life, does that mean that our aging is the disease and all those other things are nothing more than outward signs and symptoms of the aging disease?
I started thinking, maybe I don’t know the real definition of disease. So I srambled to do a search on the big G for the definition of disease.
1) A condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms. Merriam-Webster
2) A disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors. Reference Dictionary
3) Any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown. Medical Dictionary
Of course there are many more definitions, but those 3 are enough for me.
Considering Aging as a Disease
Any free thinker could take those definitions and answer with a definitive yes, aging is a disease. As such, we should be able to control it. We should be able to delay the onset of aging and age related disorders. Right?
I say yes, we can delay the onset, regardless of whether we consider aging a disease or just a natural part of life. By focusing on your diet and nutrition, reducing stress, and maybe some hormone replacement, you can delay feeling old. You can’t stop the clock, but you can slow it down.
Those things are a natural way of doing business. Some folks start doing things right from an early age, while others wait until they’re shocked by a diagnosis of something nasty. While it’s never too late to start good habits, and stop the bad, you can never start too early.
Why Do Scientists Want Aging Classified as a Disease?
Why does an official classification even matter? The answer can be summed up it two words – drug sales.
Now hear me out before you start thinking “conspiracy theorist”.
The U.S. FDA is the largest drug regulator in the world. Further, the FDA only approves drugs for specific diseases and conditions, not something so general as “aging” or “just getting older and want to feel better”.
But if they can get the FDA to categorize aging as a disease, then the floodgates will be opened for deep research and drug development. Once drugs hit the market touting the ability to add 5, 10, or even 20 years to our life expectancy, watch out.
If you think weight loss supplements sell like hot cakes, what do you think’s gonna happen when you tell a retiree that he can take this little pill and feel 20 years younger?
That’s their angle. Good, bad, or indifferent. I don’t like it because I don’t like taking artificial drugs and supplements. There are always side effects and risks. In other words, you gotta pay the piper.
Calling Aging a Disease is Worrisome
Dr. Ruth Elaine Nieuwenhuis-Mark wrote an editorial in Feb. 2011 and it was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. In her closing comments she wrote
“by claiming that making the jump to call aging a disease is, at the very least, questionable, and indeed, worrisome. Do we really need to feed the already negative stereotypes which exist of the elderly in society? Should we not be celebrating how much the old bring to the world and have still to offer not only to close family and friends but also to society at large? Labeling aging as a disease may or may not help research funding but it can only hurt public opinion of what it means to age.”
I see the stigma that may go along with associating aging with disease. But I don’t necessarily agree that it would cause society to begin treating our seniors with any less dignity and respect. After all, everyone of us will be there one day.
My only problem is with the crooked pharma trying to market some longevity drug. Yes, I know drugs are necessary in some cases, much needed in others. But to risk the nasty side effects of a drug just to ward off something that’s a natural part of life – I just don’t like it.
Maybe I’d have a different thought process if I were the 62 year old retiree. I think it’s a debate that could go either way. For me it’s a no. Aging is natural. It’s just the way life is.
What do you think? Is aging a disease?