Extending the human lifespan

Next week, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) will organise its 29th Annual World Congress at The Venetian and Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas. Since 1992, A4M has been on a mission to redefine healthcare through longevity medicine in order to optimise vitality and extend the human lifespan.

But the question is do we really want to become super seniors or centenarians in a disruptive world?

Co-founder Dr Robert Goldman believes in the possibility of “practical immortality” with a lifespan of 120-plus years. Nine years ago, I met the ebullient anti-ageing physician at a conference organised by VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center and Bumrungrad International Hospital.

I asked him whether it’s unnatural to stop the clock with anti-ageing medicine as the body isn’t designed to last over 120 years.

“It’s as unnatural as taking a plane,” he said. “Because if man was meant to fly, he should have been born with wings.”

The fact is anti-ageing interventions are not something new and the search for the fountain of youth has been part of human culture and societies for millennia.

Dr Goldman asserts that there’s nothing out of line with anti-ageing medicine and its utilisation to stretch the life span and enhance quality of life.

The demand for anti-ageing programmes is being driven by baby boomers who don’t want to age the way their parents did.

Its comprehensive approach to wellness encompasses nutrition, dietary supplements, lifestyle modification, and controversial hormone replacement therapy.

One mechanism of ageing is a decline in hormone levels, which sends a chemical message to cells that this body is old and they start to die off. Hormone replacement therapy attempts to trick the cells to think that they’re still young.

However, it’s not a quick fix or a magic pill as it takes effort and focus in adopting an anti-ageing lifestyle and treatments.

Through very early detection, prevention and reversal of age-related diseases, this field of medicine aims to prevent illnesses and disabilities. In addition, advances in biotechnology will drive dramatic changes in anti-ageing medicine to accomplish practical immortality.

Around a century ago, a 40-year-old was considered to be an elderly person, and today those in their 70s are in the winter of life. The practical immortality concept proposes that in the future people will not be considered old until they are centenarians.

On the other hand, longevity can be earned without taking supplements and hormones. For example, Japan’s nonagenarians and centenarians are proof of natural and healthy ageing through diet, exercise, way of life and cultural factors.

Accordingly, the anti-ageing movement has faced controversy and been accused of being pseudoscience and a business that prescribes dietary supplements, hormone injections, as well as other products and services.

Nevertheless, over the three decades, A4M has grown into a global community with alliances in countries including Thailand.

Next week, its Annual World Congress event is being held under the theme “The Next Chapter: Unmasking The Hidden Epidemic”, and it will address many neglected health crises in a world stricken by Covid-19.

The pandemic has posed numerous challenges and changes as we focus on fighting infectious diseases and viral mutations. We aim to be survivors and not be afflicted by a deadly virus and its economic consequences.

Accordingly, the past two years have put many of us in a health-conscious mode and made us dependent on self-care due to lockdown.

It has probably changed many people’s perspectives of the world and the meaning of life. Stuck in a crisis for two whole years, we may not even care about outliving turtles and just try to cope with current circumstances, which reinforce how uncertainty in life remains absolute certain.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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