Monday, 15 January 2018

Why you should make longevity your primary goal

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If human beings were happy all the time, there would be little need for philosophy. If transactions never went wrong, there would be no market for lawyers and arbitration services. If individuals never became sick and died, few persons would choose to become medical doctors. In this light, death is not only the ultimate justification for medicine, but also its most crucial subject of study.

Statistics are telling us why people die, but there is much more to death than what the eye can perceive. Road accidents, heart failure, stroke, and cancer occupy prominent positions in every country's causes of decease. Contemporary statistics are also recording the toll taken by auto-immune deseases.

Why all animals die

Statistics are giving us the immediate cause of decease, but fail to address why we have to die in the first place. This question should not to be dismissed as trivial. Unless we get a clear idea of why we must die, statistical data become irrelevant. After all, one could argue, if we are doomed to pass away at eighty-five, who cares if we die of cancer or diabetes?

Since all animals die at a certain point, we are taking for granted that nature has foreseen a particular lifespan for each species, but is this really true? Can science extend man's life, allowing us to become at least one hundred years old?

Historical records show that, in previous centuries, many men and women have lived longer than a century. What is preventing us from making exceptional longevity a general rule applicable to all of us? Even if self-driving cars eliminated road accidents as a cause of death, we would still have to contend with cancer and cardiovascular disease. Will those ever be eradicated?

In order to explain why all animals must die, scientists have put forward different theories, but many of those have been abandoned during the last sixty years due to lack of evidence. The two theories that still remain (the waste theory and the exhaustion theory) seem to be pointing in the right direction.

The waste theory

The waste theory considers death as the inevitable consequence of biochemical decay. From the  moment a newborn begins to breath, its cells are acting as biological converters that turn oxygen and other substances into chemical products that the organism will consume in order to stay alive.

However, the biological conversion is going to generate certain amounts of waste that will slowly accumulate in our bodies. According to this theory, when the amount of waste surpasses our body's ability to deal with it, we die.

The exhaustion theory

The exhaustion theory is attributing death to the depletion of our body's ability to replace its own cells. While we are still alive, our cells are continuously dying and being replaced by new cells, which are almost identical to the ones that died.

According to the exhaustion theory, our cells can only reproduce themselves a limited number of times without losing their key genetic information. This limit is what will determine the maximum lifespan of each species. In the case of human beings, the maximum lifespan is estimated to be hundred and twenty years. Afer that, human cells cannot longer reproduce themselves quickly and accurately enough.

Learning from statistics

These two theories are putting cause-of-death statistics in a new perspective. Indeed, if the waste theory and the exhaustion theory are true, there might be a common cause behind cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Would it be possible that cancer and cardiovascular disease are nothing but symptoms of biochemical waste accumulation and cellular exhaustion? If that is the case, the practical consequences are earth-shattering.

What would you say if you woke up one day, and realized that your vision of the world has been turned upside down? If the waste theory and the exhaustion theory are correct, the way we are living our lives might be massively wrong.

A new paradigm

Our whole view of the world is based on a pattern made of six steps, namely: that we are born into a certain family and social environment; that we live, eat, and work in that environment; that one day, cancer, cardiovascular disease, or other major sickness will hit us out of the blue; that we will follow a medical treatment in order to fight that particular illness; that even if the treatment is successful, another disease will soon come to haunt us; that eventually, when all medical treatments fail, we'll die.

Yet, if the theories of waste accumulation and cellular exhaustion are true, we should be changing our views and expectations. Sickness and death take a whole different meaning when we start to look at them as factors that we can influence to a much larger extent than we had assumed.

If we adopt a new paradigm, we will start to see the world differently. Our new set of beliefs will be something like this: that we are born into a certain family and social environment, but the people around us won't necessarily know what's good for their health; that we can avoid or delay chronic sickness by choosing a healthy lifestyle; that we'll be much better off if we live, eat, and work using reason as a standard, irrespective of what other people may think of us; that it is up to each of us to establish longevity as a primary goal.

What to do next

We need to learn how to live in a way that slows down the accumulation of biochemical waste in our organism, since our own behaviour is the number-one factor that is keeping us healthy or making us sick.

When it comes to health, prevention should be our main concern. If the waste-accumulation theory is true, we can choose a lifestyle that will delay fatal illness until a later stage, allowing us to live longer and more healthily.  We should be running our lives in ways that minimize cell exhaustion, so that we can extend our lifespan towards the one-hundred-and-twenty years that constitute the maximum human lifespan.

The types of sickness that are killing most people are a direct consequence of a wrong lifestyle. By correcting our thinking and behavioural patterns, we can live more healthily and extend our lifespan.

Imagine the enjoyment you could draw if you lived a decade longer without being afflicted by debilitating illness. The inspiring aspect of the waste theory and the exhaustion theory is that they are reinforcing the idea that we, as a rational individuals, are in control of our future.

We are still far away from understanding all the implications of the new paradigm, but it is clear that the waste theory and the exhaustion theory are strongly favouring the tenets of rational living.


Image: photograph by John Vespasian, 2015.

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

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