AGING AND ITS REVERSIBILITY
Young and old, don’t we all want to reverse the aging process? Wouldn’t it be nice to grow younger? We can’t actually do that, of course, nor can we, at present, do much about increasing our maximum life span. According to James F. Fries, MD, writing in 1980 for The New England Journal of Medicine, the average life span has increased from 47 to 73 years since 1900, but the maximum life span has not increased. Premature, nontraumatic deaths have declined, and most people are living longer. Thus, statistically, they are "bumping up" against a fixed limit, making the "survival curve" more rectangular.
But does this mean a longer period of diminished physical vigor – more years of infirmity for most of us? Not necessarily. Dr. Fries introduces the concept of "organ reverse":
While this research has an ominous sound, there is increasing evidence that the loss of organ reserve can be partially compensated for by improvements in hygiene, environment, and nutrition. According to Dr. Fries, "Chronic illness may be presumably postponed by changes in life style, and it has been shown that the physiologic and psychologic markers of aging may be modified. . . . The average age at first infirmity can be raised, thereby making the morbidity curve more rectangular." Thus increasing the rectangularity – living healthily longer – is a reasonable goal to work toward.
1Fries, James F., "Aging, Natural Death, and the Compression of Morbidity," The New England Journal of Medicine, July 17, 1980, p. 130.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XVII, No. 2, Spring 1992, page 1.