Since the very beginning of recorded history, humans have seemingly always attempted to maximise their natural lifespan. The Greek philosopher Plato, widely considered to be the founder of Western political philosophy and a pivotal figure in the development of Western religion and spirituality, was also a professional wrestler and sportsman. The exact age at which Plato died is disputed, however it is thought that he lived into his early eighties. Naturally, this is noteworthy given that Plato did not have access to the modern medicines we do today- and that until the industrial revolution the average life expectancy hovered around 35.
From what we know, Plato, the great thinker that he was, was clearly already practising preventative health measures, a key aspect of longevity, in his daily life. But what is longevity? In this blog post we will be explaining what longevity is, choices that can be made with longevity in mind and, most importantly, why we should care…
What is Longevity?
The Cambridge Dictionary definition of ‘longevity’ is ‘living for a long time’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in modern medical academia, research into the extension of a human lifespan is referred to as ‘longevity’ (or longevity research). So how is this different to the rest of medicine?
Modern medical advances have largely been the cause of the modern extension of average life expectancy, addressing health conditions that have previously had high mortality rates and considerably lessening child mortality rates. Put short, as the length of a human lifespan has increased – the limit has not. As noted by Harvard Professor of Genetics Dr. David Sinclair in his landmark book ‘Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To’, we have conceded that mortality is a reality and instead turned medicine to other directions. Most particularly, our medicine has been turned toward the treatment of diseases that afflict us as we age – ‘making mortality a medical experience’.
The main issue with how we address illness, despite the amazing work done by the medical researchers who dedicate their lives to this cause, is that simply stopping one disease does not make it less likely that a person will not be afflicted, or perhaps killed, by another. But – and there is a but – through longevity research we can not just pursue cures for individual diseases. We can instead address a shared underlying factor behind them: Aging.
So why should we care about Longevity?
If you’ve read the above but, understandably, thought that this just sounds like the beginning of a promising development for future generations then you are easily forgiven. Myths about the extension of life have existed for thousands of years and still pervade modern culture today – you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about the fountain of youth or the holy grail. Yet through modern research, it is increasingly probable that we will find a way to extend the lifespan of a human life – and far, far sooner than you would think.
It is already thought that someone who is currently alive today will live a longer lifespan than has ever been recorded in human history. The professor emeritus of developmental biology at Stanford, Stuart Kim, has stated that there are people alive today who will live to 200 – and has even made a bet with a colleague on the matter. This bet will be worth around $1 billion in 2150… if either of them live to collect it. Some would say this figure itself is optimistic but Dr. Sinclair has put across a different theory. He believes that we could potentially live forever. But whatever the upper limit, it is obvious that the leading minds of longevity research are increasingly convinced that it is possible for humans to live far longer than the time we have believed is allotted to us.
To live forever…
At present however, until the coming gerontological breakthrough, longevity-minded individuals are acting to ensure that they benefit from the coming developments – and live long enough to benefit from each next innovation in the field. This strategy has been described as seeking ‘bridges to immortality’ by the futurist Ray Kurzweil. This involves utilising preventative health choices to pre-empt health conditions, with the theory that if one is able to extend their lifespan for an additional twenty years then they will still be alive to benefit from these longevity treatments.
Another aspect of the longevity movement is the personal effort to increase what most of us would describe as ‘the good years’. In other words, our healthy and energetic years. It was mentioned above that mortality has been made a medical experience. As we get older, and feel our mortality, we require constant visits to the hospital to deal with medical afflictions that have developed during our lives and the myriad newer health problems that develop alongside or due to these comorbidities. In short, a person who does not die of acute illnesses, such as infections, and survives with chronic illnesses is more likely to develop additional chronic illnesses.
…Or, to stay forever young…
So, a significant part of the longevity movement is encouraging individuals to take ownership of their own health – being an active subject caring for themselves, not a passive subject treated by doctors when a problem arises. Longevity is about the prevention of aging, which is the cause of diseases and pre-empting problems before they arise (as opposed to diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases).
Through this method, we can have a better and longer lifespan and, with the best hope, live to see gerontological advances that can prolong our lives yet further. Longevity in practice is about finding behavioural measures, healthy choices, that work for you so you can build a lifestyle around them – and by doing so prevent or lessen the severity of health problems that you may have in the future. Simply, acting now to prolong your best years and dodge prolonged hospital visits for as long as possible.
To find out more about how to live with longevity in mind, check out the links below:
- Practising longevity in your youth (18-30).
- Practising longevity in your middle age (30-60).
- Practicing longevity in later life (60+).
The earlier you start making the choice to build longevity-minded habits into your lifestyle, the longer and healthier you will likely live. Leading experts in the medical field already believe that living a lifespan with a length previously unrecorded is within reach. The longer we can remain healthy, the longer we can live. Plus, if aging breakthroughs arrive while we are still healthy, it is very possible that we may live energetic lives well past 100 – potentially even living young forever. By reading this blog post, you’re already making proactive steps toward building healthy habits into your life and are likely researching healthy choices that are available for you.
Check out the links above for some basic suggestions on how to live life with longevity in mind. Also make sure to keep up to date with our blog here and sign up to all of the NOMIX social channels (Twitter and Telegram) for more news about longevity.
 Some might think it strange for a blog post on the topic of longevity and how to maximise it to mention Plato, given that one of his famous quotes is ‘attention to health is life’s greatest hinderance’, however, Plato actually means that being forced to pay attention to your health – through poor health – is a hinderance.
 Diogenes Laërtius, Life of Plato, II
 Passarino, G., De Rango, F., & Montesanto, A. (2016). Human longevity: Genetics or Lifestyle? It takes two to tango. Immunity & ageing : I & A, 13, 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12979-016-0066-z
 I write ‘largely’, as the part played by an increased, reliable food supply and clean water has also played a significant part in increasing human lifespans.
 Sinclair, D., PhD & LaPlante, M.D., Lifespan: Why We Age- and Why We Don’t Have To’, (2019), pXVII.
 Taylor, G. (2017). Scientist thinks that the world’s first 200-year-old person has already been born. Norway Today, 23rd March 2017. https://norwaytoday.info/everyday/scientist-thinks-worlds-first-200-year-old-person-already-born/
 Adler, R. (2010). Ray Kurzweil: Building bridges to immortality. New Scientist, December 27th 2010. https://www.kurzweilai.net/building-bridges-to-immortality
 ‘Comorbidity’ refers to other health problems that a patient can have, when talking about a health problem.
 Divo, M. J., Martinez, C. H., & Mannino, D. M. (2014). Ageing and the epidemiology of multimorbidity. The European respiratory journal, 44(4), 1055–1068. https://doi.org/10.1183/09031936.00059814