Being 18 till you die
Harbir K. Singh

The End of Aging
by Carol Orlock.
Magna Publishing, Mumbai. Pages 248. Rs 175.

The End of AgingOLD age will no longer be life of wheelchairs, walkers, tottering bodies and fading memories. Our seventies and eighties will be as productive, charming, attractive, enthusiastic and smart as our youth. Scientists are changing the biological process of aging. Medical science through various experiments are changing concept of old age. No one wants to age fast and wish to remain healthy and strong if he or she lives up to the eighties and above. Everyone wants their later years to be time of pleasures that the earlier years of 9 to 5 working did not allow.

In The End of Aging by Carol Orlock is on studies of how medical science is changing the very concept of old age. It looks into the laboratories where vital research is taking place on immune-system enhancement and numerous other methods that offer the promise of stopping or reversing the biological process of aging.

This book, in five parts, explains the history of aging. What is ageing? Why do we age? Letís battle against ageing. Each part is a revelation. Anti-aging discoveries are separate from the quest for long life and provide the focus of much anti-aging research today. With the lengthening of life expectancy and the defeat of many diseases, the physical facts of aging have changed.

In primitive culture, the elderly were cared for till they had strength. With time, our behaviour has changed. The old could still fantasise about fountains of youth because science had added years and strength to their life. Gerontologists, who study the ageing, keep running up these problems. When we age, our skin wrinkles and thins.

Because the oil glands produce fewer lubricants, the upper layers produce fewer cells. In middle age, hormonal changes also occur. By mid life, many of us need glasses as our eyes begin to change the way our hearing reshapes. Itís assumed that getting old will make the elderly senile, as the volume of brains shrinks and its cells change shape. Neurologically also, their response to actions is not as quick. Accumulation of fats increases and the bones get thin. The bodyís rate of burning fuel and producing hormones also slows down.

As age increases, the body become less tolerant of drugs. After 50, the liver becomes less efficient at processing nitrogen and the kidney function also follows a downward curve. Wear and tear starts even with the lifestyle change and heredity also amplifies the impact. Attacks from free radicals weaken the body cells, so scientists are trying to prevent the production of free radicals in the body by beefing up the antioxidants to see if greater defensive strength can hold the line.

Scientists are also trying gene transplant and finding the cures for heart diseases, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer and Parkinsonís. Experiments are underway. The loss of hair with age is an other area of focus. The middle age also requires spot repair cosmetic surgeries that are taking place even now. Hormone replacement therapy has been an attractive option to blunt the physical and emotional impacts of menopause. When the estrogen level drops, the risk of heart diseases rises. Hormonal replacement therapy restores the cholesterol lowering effect of estrogen.

Our mind cannot function as well in the old age as it used to when we were young. Although normal decline in concentration and memory lapses are slight, we grow anxious with weakening muscles and loosening grip. We fear the worst: "Is it Parkinsonís or Alzheimer?" Medicineís fix-it approach cannot yet reverse these conditions, but medicine and surgical procedures can delay their progress.

There are nearly a dozen drugs to boost the memory. The most radical approach being tried for repairing damaged brain cells is foetal cell transplant. Cell death in the organs and body systems may be one of the major factors behind ageing. Science can now identify cells that deteriorate with age and replace these with foetal cells or products manufactured with such cells can pave the way for our rejuvenation.

Due to improved surgical techniques, transplants of body parts have become easier. Monitoring the balance in our diet becomes important. Metabolism declines late in life, making it hard to achieve nutritional balance. Drinking in moderation is recommended. Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for health, but the body still needs more antioxidants and vitamins. Supplements of vitamins C, E and beta-carotene are essential to our health. Antioxidants may help prevent cancer and cataract. Studies have shown promising links between eating antioxidant-rich food and decrease in cancer. Antioxidants in vitamins help us maintain good health. Along with taking pills, exercise is also important for fitness.

Scientific breakthroughs may end aging, but can society cope with a bumper crop of centenarians. The cost of social security will gradually increase. The end of ageing will certainly challenge and alter our attitude towards getting old.