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Studying Delayed Aging More Beneficial than Cancer and Heart Disease Research

Update Date: Oct 07, 2013 04:02 PM EDT

In a new report, researchers are suggesting that investments in studying delayed aging could be more beneficial for the overall human population than studying cancer and heart disease. According to the research team, if more investments were put into studying delayed aging, more seniors over the age of 65 could live without major disabilities in the future. Since the number of seniors will rise over the next decades, finding new ways to delay aging-related diseases could be the key in promoting longevity.

In this report, the researchers from USC (University of Southern California), Harvard, Columbia, the University of Illinois at Chicago and other facilities stated that if studies focused on delayed aging, the benefits could be huge. The team stated that aging research could lead to a 1.25 percent reduction in age-related diseases. This means that by 2060, there could be 11.7 million more healthy seniors. Even though research into cancers and heart disease are important as well, they will not add vital years for seniors since they will still be considered disabled due to the medications.

"In the last half-century, major life expectancy gains were driven by finding ways to reduce mortality from fatal diseases," said lead author Dana Goldman, Leonard D. Schaeffer Director's Chair at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. "But now disabled life expectancy is rising faster than total life expectancy, leaving the number of years that one can expect to live in good health unchanged or diminished. If we can age more slowly, we can delay the onset and progression of many disabling diseases simultaneously."

Goldman added, "Shifting the focus of medical investment to delayed aging instead of targeting diseases individually would lead to significant gains in physical health and social engagement. We see extremely large population health benefits, and the benefits will extend to future generations. There are major fiscal challenges, but these are manageable with reasonable policy changes, and the economic value of such a shift is too large to ignore."

The researchers suggested that more research into delayed aging need to start. By 2060, the number of seniors will jump from 43 million in 2010 to 106 million. If a smaller percentage of this new group of seniors were disabled, that would translate to lower health care costs and higher life satisfaction. Their report was published in Health Affairs

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