Thursday, December 14, 2017 22:39

Growing Old

Posted by on Monday, October 26, 2009, 17:26
This news item was posted in Seniors category and has 1 Comment so far.

What is growing old, anyhow? A half century ago, people thought that the most obvious aspects of growing old senility, strokes, heart diseases, and cancers were part of the natural process of aging. Now we recognize that they often be wreckage from our collisions with the microbial world .

If most microbes deal with us benignly, then we are compelled to ask how much of the less obvious part of aging is caused by microbial fender benders. Logic tells us that it may be much. If so, what can we expect from human life simply by preventing the damage from our encounters with microbes?

The diversity of activity among the elderly gives us a clue. The bodies of some 50 years old are falling apart, whereas some people pushing 80 seem to be cavorting like teenagers.  A 70 years old lady was run over by a track and bought to hospital with a badly fractured pelvic, a broken set of ribs, and a punctured lung.

She left hospital after 45 days and was walking in about 2 months. 3 months from accident she departed in Europe tour with her boyfriend,  leaving her wake doctors and nurses who were happily scratching their heads in disbelief.

Could recovery rate from such injuries depend on whether someone was lucky enough to be resistant to chronic infections? I don’t know. Many of the elderly and seem middle aged people have problems with osteoporosis, if infections play a role in this conditions, then an elderly person who is resistant to such infections might be especially well able to heal broken bones.

Of course this is just an anecdote. But what is an anecdote? In an effort to be scientifically rigorous, twentieth century medical science has made anecdote a dirty word. Ardent attempts to codify rigor have stripped us of the benefits anecdotes provide. Anecdotal observations are essential for rigorous science because they provide possible clues to the solutions of medical puzzles. Their true value often cannot be discerned without follow up studies. They may turn out to be junk or germs.

The vision of medicine is sometimes blinded by the average. Any large cohort of 80 year old will include some who are youthfully active and others who have become immobilized by the process of aging. We see that same 70 years olds and 60 year olds. But as the cohort becomes younger, our sense of what is normal changes. We begin to see the debilitation as something out of ordinary and therefore deserving of a special explanation.

We therefore begin thinking  of the debilitation as disease rather than as part of the normal process aging. Once this transition in thinking occurs, we are spurred to understand the cause of illness. Perhaps when we understand the full scope of infectious causation and effectively prevent its damaging outcomes, vibrant 80 years old will be the rule rather than the exception.

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1 Response to “Growing Old”

  1. 18 December, 2010, 12:35

    Growing Old | Cure Pages…

    What is growing old, anyhow? A half century ago, people thought that the most obvious aspects of growing old senility, strokes, heart diseases, and cancers were…

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