Who Wants to Live Forever? Thinking About Age Like a Disease, Not an Inevitability
The idea of agelessness or living forever is something as old as the human spirit itself. Juan Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth in 1400s. Nicolas Flamel, a scholar and alchemist in the 1300s, tried to invent the elixir of life for himself and his wife. Even the oldest story known to man—the Epic of Gilgamesh—involves an element of immortality. Humans have constantly sought a way to live forever.
Unfortunately, immortality is one of those things we’ve resigned to myth. These days, most people reach their 90s and consider it a long life. But what if it wasn’t? What if 90 years was actually young? What if life expectancy was closer to 900 years? It’s a strange prospect to consider, accepting death at one tenth of your actual life expectancy. But it’s what we do because no one has ever lived past 130 years.
Thinking about age as a cause of death doesn’t seem strange to us, because eventually, we all die of old age. But what if we started thinking about age as a disease—something we all suffer from, which could be cured if someone found the right treatment or medicine?
Age as a disease
Think about why people die from old age. Our minds and bodies give out. Our joints break down and we’re not able to heal as fast, and our minds begin to succumb to conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Right now, modern medicine is concerned with treating these conditions and finding cures to prevent them. But what if they’re just symptoms? What if age was the real disease?
As it turns out, that line of thinking might just be the right one. More specifically, scientists, health activists, spiritualists and others have begun looking at inflammation and age as catalysts for all disease. Age isn’t just what’s causing our bodies to break down and die—it’s something that might be treated in the same way we treat its symptoms!
Modern anti-aging efforts
Solving the problem of age as a disease isn’t as simple as drinking from the Fountain of Youth or making the Elixir of Life. To solve age, we need to prevent its biggest symptom: Inflammation.
For the last 20 years, scientists have accurately and authoritatively identified inflammation as the root of all illness and disease. Inflammation is what causes our joints to break down and our bodies to become frail. Inflammatory responses cause hormone releases (cortisol) that can hamper our cognitive processes and harm our nervous system. Inflammation even affects our gut flora, which dictates everything from mood to bodily wellness. Safe to say, to stop aging, we need to stop inflammation.
Right now, anti-inflammation efforts center on diet, exercise and supplementation. Eating foods with high antioxidant levels or maintaining a healthy low-impact exercise regimen (swimming) are proven to reduce inflammation levels within the body. Not coincidentally, good diet and exercise also correlate to longer lifespan. In fact, think about all the good and bad habits we’ve been encouraged to observe and consider how they affect inflammation. There’s a clear pattern—bad habits cause inflammation and lower our lifespan; good habits reduce inflammation and help us live longer.
What if death wasn’t inevitable?
What would you do if you woke up on your 430th birthday, feeling like a spry 30-year-old? It’s a concept that’s almost laughable to us now. But if we managed to solve the problem of inflammation and cure the disease of age, it might very well be a possibility in the future. It’s something many people have already begun thinking about as they assume a uniquely anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Consider the lifestyles of people like surfer Laird Hamilton or ultramarathoner Rich Roll. They’re not just athletes—they’re proponents of diet and exercise that optimize the human body. And, it’s no surprise that their methods are anti-inflammatory in nature. Hamilton’s XPT program is meant to improve cell oxygenation and muscle health; Roll’s vegan diet is widely touted as the epitome of anti-inflammatory. Both men and their legions of followers have experienced amazing results—namely that they look and feel great, regardless of their age (both men are 50+).
These examples are meant to show the immense potential and capability of a body unhampered by inflammation. When we cure the disease of age, we can capitalize on the astounding potential we’re born with. Imagine having the energy you did when you were 10 years old as an 80-year-old. Think about running a marathon at age 160. Consider playing a pickup game of basketball at age 306. With a mind and body that are sharp and unencumbered, these things could be very real possibilities. But, they’re only possible if we stop looking at age as an inevitability and start looking for the cure.