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How to Live Forever
The quest for immortality is as old as history itself. Today, we study the habits of those who live the longest, and invest countless billions in technology we hope will allow us to live forever.
Life expectancy is the statistical measurement of the years a newborn child can expect to live, barring accidents and unnatural events. Live expectancy in the U.S. is currently 75.7 years for men and 80.8 years for women. The U.S. ranks 37th in the world for longevity. Life expectancy in the U.S> has steadily increased since 1960 and is expected to increase through 2020.
What Stops Us from Living Forever?
No one has found a way to cheat death, at least not yet. Our quest for longevity is often thwarted by a few big, predictable causes of death.
The top causes of death in the U.S. are heart disease (616,067 deaths annually), cancer (562,875), stroke (135,952), chronic lower respiratory disease (COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, smoking-related disorders—127,924), and accidents (123,706).
Add Years to Your Life
Specific lifestyle choices may help you live a longer, healthy life. While many seem simple, there is a science behind how they slow the aging process.
1. Restrict your work week: Working no more than 40-50 hours each week adds a year and half to your life. Howeve,r working reasonable hours through retirement actually adds years to your life. When at work, five 110 percent. This breeds longevity by establishing identity, and a bit of stress can actually increase longevity.
2. Calorie restriction: The theory is simple: Eating less helps you live longer. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 25 percent. Being in a state of slight hunger stresses the body, making it stronger and more resistant against the aging process. Taking in fewer calories also slows metabolism, and studies suggest people with a slower metabolism live longer. Calorie restriction gives cell autophagy process a boost. Autophagy is how cells remove damaged parts and recycle these materials into new parts. By removing these damaged parts, cells may age more slowly, increasing longevity.
3. Red, red wine: Resveratrol is a natural ingredient in both red and white grapes. Its benefits include cardiovascular health, protection from macular degeneration, protection from free-radical damage, and healthy blood sugar levels. Low doses of resveratrol protect both the heart and brain by preventing cell damage, activating a cell’s survival mechanisms. Free radicals are unstable, organic molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage.
4. Death by chocolate?: Dark chocolate is a great source of flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants that reduce oxidative cell damage caused by free radicals. Free radical damage has been linked to aging, heart disease, and different types of cancers. Studies suggest the flavonoids in dark chocolate actually slow the aging process and help prevent age-related disease.
Our road to everlasting life leads through the laboratory. Some key scientific breakthroughs are leading us ever closer to a new fountain of youth.
How Long Are Your Telomeres?
Telomeres are tiny pieces of DNA that keep chromosomes from unraveling. New research shows that short telomeres are linked to many health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and early death. Chronic psychological stress causes damage deep within human cells, which can shorten telomeres. Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that exercise keeps stress from shortening the length of telomeres As little as 10-15 minutes of vigorous exercise each day can prevent the shortening of telomeres, reducing aging’s effect on cells.
Predictions for the Future of Living
Science fiction is quickly becoming science fact. Here are a few examples of how future advancements could guide us toward immortality.
Grow Your Own Heart: Scientists have already figured out a way to grow human heart cells in the laboratory, using stem cells to regenerate organs. In the future, heart transplant patients will be able to grow their own. This could pave the way for growable livers, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.
Send in the Robots: Some leading robotics theorists believe that we may be able to create tiny nanobots that travel through our bloodstreams. These robots could eliminate cancer cells and harmful pathogens before they spread throughout the body.
Genetic Engineering: The Human Genome Project has successfully identified and mapped all of the genes that make up human DNA. Future implications for this research include genetic engineering. Genes linked to aging could be modified or replaced to allow us to live longer. Early detection and possible elimination of disease could result
Human Machines: Some futurists propose we will someday be able to upload human consciousness onto a computer system. Computer hardware would be installed in the brain. Consciousness would no longer end with the body’s destruction. A person’s consciousness would then become essentially immortal.
Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist: He says humans will become immortal by the middle of this century. A.I., or articficial intelligence, will render biological humans extinct, but human consciousness will remain intact. A.I. models of our actual brains will be used to extend our human abilities of intelligence and physical strength. He takes 250 supplements every day to extend his life.
Aubrey de Grey, molecular biologist and biogerontologist: Believes the first human beings who will live to 1,000 years old have already been born. They will defeat aging by eliminating the lreationship between your physical age and how likely you are to die. They’ll be able to fight cellular death, which begins as soon as we are born and accumulates throughout life.
Beating the Clock: How They Did It
Jeanne Calment, world’s oldest person to have lived: Died at 122 years, 164 days in France. She rode a bicycle until she was 100 years old, drank red wine, and ate lots of chocolate.
Sarah Knauss: Died at 119 years, 97 days in the U.S. She lived a tranquil life with little stress.
Marie-Louise Meilleur: died at 117 years, 230 days in Canada. Lived a life of hard work.
Maria Capovilla: Died at 116 years, 347 days in Ecuador. Never drank hard liquor or smoked.
Christian Mortensen, world’s oldest man to have lived: Died at 115 years, 252 days, from Denmark and the United States. Had a positive attitude, refrained from alcohol, and surrounding himself with friends.
Emiliano Mercado del Toro: Died at 115 years, 156 days in Puerto Rice and was known for a keen sense of humor.
Walter Breuning: Died at 114 years, 205 days in the U.S. For the last 36 years of his life he ate only two meals a day. He worked until he was 99 years old.
In your lifetime, will science or technology create an immortal human? It’s impossible to say, but society is racing toward the answer at an impressive pace. The human mind is limitless, and one day, our bodies may be as well.