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Healthy Aging

Would You Want to Live To 1,000?

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 11/09/2009
Last Updated: 11/23/2009

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If you're interested in anti-aging, this is interesting stuff. It's something my own doc was all excited about a year ago when he told me about a new exciting discovery scientists had made on the cellular level.

At the time, I really didn't understand much of what he was telling me but once I started to sniff around, I found some really fascinating information. It's something called telomeres. This "new" discovery has actually been in the works since the 1980s, when scientists discovered an enzyme called telomerase that is responsible for maintaining the length and integrity of the all-important and protective ends of our chromosomes, telomeres.

Telomeres are the "caps" that keep your DNA from fraying when cells divide, kind of like the way those plastic bands at the ends of your shoelaces keep the laces intact. As we grow older, they become shorter. When telomeres are frayed, your body cannot effectively replenish itself, thus leading to more aggressive aging - and disease. And just how worthy is that? Well, worthy enough to earn the three American scientists who discovered them a Nobel Prize. And worthy enough to be reminded of what we need to do to keep our bodies at their peak performance.

Some scientists think that the understanding of telomeres and their enzyme, telomerase, is a major key to unlocking the secrets of aging and cancer.

Shortened telomeres contribute to ills like diabetes, heart disease and lower immunity. In people over 60, it's been found that those with shorter telomeres are more likely to die of heart disease and an infectious disease than those with longer, "younger" telomeres.

So, are we powerless here? Well, no. In fact, one study from the University of California, San Francisco found that men with healthy habits like regular exercise, meditation for stress and healthy diets actually increased their telomerase levels. University of Utah geneticist Richard Cawthon estimates that we could live 1,000 years if all the processes of aging and oxidative stress were eliminated. Rather than die "prematurely," people would die from things like accidents, suicides, pneumonia and other infectious diseases.

Tell me, would you want to live to be 1,000?? Or, if not 1,000, how old, I wonder?

To read what healthywomen.org has to say about aging well, click here.

Comments

I don't know about 1000, but I want to live for as long as I'm feeling good. My grandmother is 96 years old and going strong. No major health problems, better memory than me and she's incredibly active. If I can be blessed with that, I'll be very happy.

It is definitely a quality of life issue. Hard to answer in the abstract. One of the things I saw with my mother, who lived to 96, was the continued blows of losing friends and relatives. You don't want to be alone in the world.

Fascinating research, but would I want to live to 1,000? As others have pointed out I think it would definitely be a quality of life issue. What excites me about this research is not so much the anti-aging possibility, but instead what it might mean for cancer research. I'd much rather live with a few wrinkles but have an effective treatment for breast cancer.

I'm glad they are studying these. I read somewhere recently that quality of life for the elderly is the next frontier in medicine. I think that's definitely the case

Sheryl:

Great article and definitely interested in this topic. Being healthy and living to 1,000 is one thing but if you have declining health, then not so much.Glad the docs are digging deep into longevity, it's a fascinating topic.

But then again, maybe its our believes about aging that are doing us in. Why do dogs on average live only 9 to 15 years? Other animals like parrots or koi live a fairly long life, 90 to 100 years. What does make the difference.

Thanks for this really interesting topic.
judy

I'd like to say that I would have to think about it... but I don't. Of course the answer is yes.

When I home-cared my mother who died at 97, I concluded I did not want to live to be that old, husband and friends deceased, dependent on other people, healthy but bored and bedridden. So, 1000? No way. But I found it fascinating to read about research on telomeres. I hope telomeres will be used in ways to bring better quality of life for the elderly, rich and poor alike.

I would not want to live that long. I think we enjoy life more knowing that it is finite and that our cells have a programmed death. I want to live long enough to meet my grandchildren and help my children raise them. If I am lucky enough to do that, I will consider myself lucky indeed!

Quality of life would be the issue for me. If my telomeres could be controlled so they did not deteriorate, causing aging and sickness, living to 1000 might be fun. Although, think of the impact on culture, society and the environment. Who would want their mother-in-law living with them for, oh,, let's say, the last 200 years of her life?

Fascinating topic, Sheryl. Makes me think of how intrigued I've been by the way different people age -- some beautifully, others painfully. I think we all want the former. But living forever? No.

I'm not so sure about living to be 1,000. If all my friends and family members had died off, then it would be a sad existance. And if they were still around, then population control would probably an issue. Not to mention the fact that Medicare would never be able to support people that long! (Although I guess 1,000 is pretty far off so maybe they'd have a new system by then.)

Nope, not me! I don't know what's on the other side--probably nothing--but 90 to 100 years here will do me just fine. I hope they're quality years healthwise. I'm certainly doing all I can to stay healthy, and I have good genes, but it's still luck of the draw I think...

I agree with the other comments that I want to live as long as I can in good health and with quality of life. Having just said goodbye to a very sick grandmother who was living in pain, I don't wish that on anyone.

What a concept to ponder. Thinking about it makes my head spin a little.

If I were hale, hearty and able to experience a millennium, I'd definitely go for it. Like the classic sci-fi author Robert Heinlein's protagonist Lazarus Long. But not as a slowly mouldering heap in the corner thanks.

I have to say that I have mixed feelings about things like this. While sure, everyone wants to be young forever, I always hear the price of unnatural longevity. Maybe I'm old school, but I feel that if you can't gain it through overall good health and treating your body well, you're stepping a few toes into that "if it's too good to be true..." territory.

;)

Great topic. I'd want to be here in spirit for 1,000 years but not necessarily in body. 100 healthy years would be plenty!

I wouldn't want to live that long. I am 39 and don't want to live anymore as it is.

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