What Do We Need to Know to Treat Degenerative Aging as a Medical Condition to Extend Healthy Lifespan?
It can be confidently stated that, at the present time, the extension of healthy lifespan (or “healthspan”) for the global population is one of the most urgent and vital societal goals, if not the most urgent and vital. In its scope and potential significance for the well-being of the global human community, this goal dwarfs virtually any other development goal, even though the current support for the achievement of this goal is rather miniscule, compared to other types of expenditures. Yet, the importance of this goal for the society and every single individual cannot be overestimated. Throughout the world, due to the increasing aging population, the prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases and disabilities – such as cancer, ischemic heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, etc. – rises steeply. For the “developed countries” the problem is becoming acute. Thus, while 66% of deaths in the world occur from chronic age-related diseases, in the developed countries, this proportion reaches 90%, dramatically elevating the costs for healthcare and human suffering. For the so called “developing countries” (or “low income countries”) the problem of population aging may seem less visible, but is in fact not less, perhaps even more grave. Currently, while the highest life expectancies (and correspondingly the incidence of aging-related diseases) are still found in the “developed” countries, the rise in life expectancy is now the largest and most rapid in the developing countries, and the trend is likely to continue. The faster and larger rise in life expectancy for the developing countries also means the stronger and faster population aging, and the larger and faster increase in the incidence of chronic age-related non-communicable diseases. At the same time, the geriatric and non-communicable disease care and research in these countries may be under par and unprepared, potentially threatening the lives of millions of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged older people. Also, in absolute terms, the number of people suffering from aging-related conditions in the “developing countries” exceeds the absolute numbers in the “developed” countries. Hence, also for the “developing world,” the problem of population aging is strategically pressing, and the task of improving healthy lifespan for the population is urgent. Thus, it can be confidently stated that healthy lifespan extension is one of the most important healthcare, economic and humanitarian tasks for the entire global community. If transhumanism is understood as an aspiration for human development and for a solution of global problems, thanks to ethical use of new technological means, then the extension of healthy lifespan is undoubtedly one of the most central and urgent tasks of transhumanism, perhaps even the most central and urgent.
The author thanks the Shlomo Tyran Foundation and Vetek Association for their support.
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