The body's aging process can be cruel and unforgiving. It affects our looks, our bodies, our health, even our minds. (And our ability to remember what it was that we went downstairs for, anyway.) It's a process The Wall Street Journal notes can end with "years, even decades, incapacitated by illness ... and unable to enjoy the people, places and activities that make life worth living." But a group of researchers, including Mayo Clinic's James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mayo's Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, are trying to change that. They're looking for ways to allow us to age gracefully by staying "healthy until a certain age, perhaps 85" before dying "naturally or after only a brief illness."
These researchers, the Journal reports, are focusing on "drugs that can slow the rate of aging and the development of the costly, debilitating chronic ailments." If successful, writer Jane E. Brody says, "not only would their approach make healthy longevity a reality for many more people," but it could also save the United States a nice chunk of change (perhaps "$7 trillion, over the next half-century") in related health care costs.
"Aging is by far the best predictor of whether people will develop a chronic disease like atherosclerotic heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia or osteoarthritis," Dr. Kirkland, tells the Journal. "Aging way outstrips all other risk factors."
Dr. Kirkland and other self-described "geroscientists," Brody reports, are hoping to study "one promising compound" in particular — a "generic drug called metformin" used by those living with Type 2 diabetes. The study would be done, Brody writes, with the help of "3,000 elderly people" to better determine whether the approach could safely, and effectively, "delay the development or progression of a variety of age-related ailments, including heart disease, cancer and dementia."
The effort is hardly Mayo's first foray into solving the aging puzzle. As we told you back in November, the aging-related work being done by Dr. Kirkland and others at Mayo's Kogod Center on Aging caught the attention of the National Geographic Channel's "Breakthrough," which featured their work in a segment called "The Age of Aging." The show highlighted the work being done at Mayo to "extend the healthy years of lifespan," a phrase Dr. Kirkland and others use to describe "the period of life when individuals are independent and free" from the aches, pains and struggles of chronic health conditions.
"We are focused on delaying the aging process as a whole, as opposed to tackling individual age-related diseases," Dr. Kirkland said in a news release leading up to the special. "While we believe that providing care and cures for individual diseases is important, we believe that we can have a transformational impact by ultimately delaying the aging process."
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