For the longest time, the process of aging was perceived as a natural part of life. Every person eventually had to go through it so no one ever thought of it as a disease.
In recent years, however, the view on aging seems to be changing as more scientists are agreeing that there’s a difference between aging as a process, and aging relative to the number of years that one has been alive. Specifically, it’s the process of aging — not getting older in terms of chronological years — that makes one become more susceptible to diseases like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart ailments and many more. From this point of view, it seems to make sense that there might be ways to minimize the impact of the aging process per se. And if aging can be controlled or “treated”, a person might have a better chance against the most common degenerative and chronic diseases that are typically associated with older people.
At this time, there has been no formal initiative from any group to reclassify aging as part of the official list of diseases. But there are those who believe that changing our perception about aging can be the first step towards fighting the process. That is, if the process can be fought against at all.
According to biophysicist Alex Zhavoronkov, acknowledging that aging is a disease will likely create incentives to develop treatment and remedies. There’s already a lot of funding and research going on to delay the effects of aging as it is. Imagine the funding it will attract if it is officially declared as a disease.
Biogerontologist David Gems holds a similar view. In a conference called “Turning Back the Clock”, he said: “If aging is seen as a disease, it changes how we respond to it. For example, it becomes the duty of doctors to treat it.”
More recently, a physician at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, Dr. Mutaz Musa, said that we should view aging in a different light — the exact word he used is “pathologize.” Which simply meant that we should think of aging as an abnormal physical condition that is treatable.
If aging is declared as something curable, wouldn’t it logically follow that a person’s life span can be lengthened? And if living longer is possible, maybe living forever can be achievable too? Well, that’s probably going too far. But it sure is an intriguing prospect, isn’t it? And it’s one chain reaction that starts with the concept that aging might not be as natural as what we’ve always accepted it to be. Even if there’s still no denying the reality that everyone does get old.
So maybe age is really just a number? While the discussion on aging and how it should be perceived continues, our best bet against aging and its horrible effects remains to be a healthy lifestyle. We’re sure that won’t be up for debate.