Healthcare costs are skyrocketing. The reason: the population is aging, but the age of onset of chronic diseases, the healthy age expectancy, is declining slightly. As a result, the period during which people need medical care is on average getting longer. Isn't it smarter to stop the aging process yourself, instead of treating the symptoms?
Healthy life expectancy
Healthy life expectancy is defined as the number of years of life that an average member of the population (eg Dutch or Belgians) spends disease-free. The older people get, the more likely they are to develop a chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart complaints or cancer. As a result, the number of years of illness, and with it the costs of health care, explode. Where in 1980 men in the Netherlands became ill on average at the age of 60, and died at the age of 72 (12 years), the number of years of illness has now increased to 15 years (on a life expectancy of 80 years) (1): This trend will , and continue without any major changes. In short: if we want the quality of life of the elderly to remain good and health care costs manageable, it is wise to focus much more on the prevention of chronic diseases than at present.
Chronic diseases as symptoms of aging
Chronic diseases are much more common in old people than in young people. The reason is that our body ages. This manifests itself in changes in cells, tissues and organs. Telomeres, the ends of chromosomes, shorten. More and more cells therefore jump into 'sleep mode': they change into senescent cells. Our immune system is weakened. Communication between mitochondria and the cell nucleus becomes disrupted (2). Proteins lose their shape and clog cells.
Recent scientific research increasingly shows that typical diseases of old age, such as diabetes, cancer, dementia and rheumatism, are in fact just symptoms of these processes. If we can stop or even reverse these aging processes, we will prevent many of these diseases.
Do we already have effective anti-aging drugs?
Perhaps inadvertently we even have some effective anti-aging drugs in our hands, which are now used to treat aging diseases. Metformin, for example, is an effective drug for adult-onset diabetes. Now medical examinations showed something remarkable. The life expectancy of diabetic patients treated with metformin was found to be even higher than that of
the healthy control group (3). Incidentally, Metformin is not a harmless candy and has some side effects.
A cocktail of the anti-leukemia drug dasatinib and quercetin (a dietary supplement) has been shown to be effective in removing senescent cells in patients with advanced IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis), resulting in a much better
he condition (4). Dasatinib also has the necessary side effects.
Prevention is more pleasant and cheaper than expensive foster care
If we succeed in slowing down or even reversing the aging process through a sophisticated combination of medicines and nutritional supplements, many healthy years of life will be added. They need less use of nursing care or hospitals and can work longer if they wish. And most importantly: this greatly increases the happiness of the elderly. If the government or health insurance companies reimburse these drug cocktails, that would mean a much longer lifespan.
1. Healthy Life Expectancy Trends, CBS, 2014
2. Nuo Sun, The Mitochondrial Basis of Aging, 2016
3. N. Barzilai et al., Metformin as a tool to target aging, Cell Metabolism, 2016
4. First in-human trials of senolytic drugs encouraging, Science Daily, 2019