In most people’s minds, getting old is synonymous with disease. Aging alters the onset, manifestation and severity of almost any disease. For example, from about 20 years of age the density of our bones slowly declines. At some point, bone thinning becomes so significant that our risk of fractures is increased. This point (or disease) is called osteoporosis. While it is not separate from aging, it is not the same thing. A number of other factors (e.g. smoking, inactivity, a poor diet, etc.) can also contribute to bone loss and therefore osteoporosis (disease).

Aging just shifts the threshold in a way that makes it easier for other factors to push you over the edge, and vice versa. So why not just prevent diseases or wait for a cure and let aging take care of itself?  The problem is that successful aging, like health, is not merely the absence of disease. It certainly helps! But any anti-aging strategy must always also include participation in disease prevention programs and compliance with effective disease management.  After all, we want to live long enough to reap the benefits. Many believe that, in our own lifetime, new understanding, technologies and treatments will eliminate the major diseases that limit our longevity. And the more we strive to prevent disease, the more important it is to examine ways in which a focus on slow aging can also be incorporated into our lives. Longevity without preventing the losses of aging is a curse, not a cure.

Last Reviewed 03/Mar/2014

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Dr Merlin Thomas

Professor Merlin Thomas is Professor of Medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, based in the Department of Diabetes. He is both a physician and a scientist. Merlin has a broader interest in all aspects of preventive medicine and ageing. He has published over 270 articles in many of the worlds’ leading medical journals