Background

Long Life : Prolonging the Productive, Fulfilling Lives of Women : A Survival Strategy

The very first reaction I got from the Registered Nurse reviewing this book for a publisher was “He’s got to be kidding”. I am not kidding. Immortality is not just a hope or a religious belief or a futile dream. For the cells which make up every part of our bodies, immortality is an achievable state. There is a cautionary note: watch what you wish for.

Cell death, which is a normal occurrence, is caused by genes. These genes are known as self-destruct genes. It is possible to turn off these genes, so that the cell does not die.

Each of us inherits chromosomes from our parents. Genes exist in the chromosomes. The end of each chromosome is called a telomere. The telomere prevents abnormal changes, called mutations, from happening.

The telomere is maintained and repaired by telomerase. By activating telomerase, it is possible to make the human cell immortal. On the other hand, if telomerase is inhibited, the cell dies. That is the double-edged sword. The hallmark of cancer is that cells multiply in a bizarre fashion indefinitely. In order for the human body to function properly, it is important that abnormal and malfunctioning cells be removed. Keeping cells alive that normally would die could have major consequences.

On the other hand, making specific cells die could be very helpful. Cancerous cells multiply, and keep on multiplying. The cancerous cells eventually take over the body and kill it. The ability to specifically make cancer cells die without damaging a woman’s body should be the goal of all cancer treatment.

The ability to alter the lifespan of the cell could radically change your life and health.

What you will be able to expect from your doctor will be changed. In fact, these changes are already taking place and represent a revolution in medicine.

When I first became a medical doctor, there were no imaging techniques beyond x-ray. There was very little in the way of prenatal diagnosis, beyond our ability to diagnose by palpating, or feeling, the fetus within the mother. Our diagnostic senses and skills of necessity were acute, but we were limited. Minimally invasive surgery was not yet developed. The very first cancer marker was just being developed for use on patients. The cause of cervical cancer was still unknown. Mapping the human genome was in the realm of science fiction.

What a physician does when she or he sees a patient for a checkup is an evaluation of whether or not the patient has a disease or diseases, and the extent to which those diseases have progressed. As well, the physician evaluates what the future may hold for the patient in developing new disease states. The physician recognizes what is normal, and what is abnormal. The physician is then in a position to inform the patient that she is healthy, or conversely what disease is present, what the prognosis is, and the options available for getting the best possible results with treatment.

When a disease state is diagnosed, the physician basically has three options. One is to simply to watch the condition to ensure that it does not progress, and to the counsel the patient on steps that could be taken, such as a modified proper diet and other lifestyle modifications, that would help the condition.

Advanced imaging techniques and minimally invasive surgery allow the physician to watch conditions that not too long ago would not have been diagnosed in time for relatively simple treatment, or that would have required full scale major surgery for diagnosis.

The second option is the treatment of the condition with drugs or medications. The third option is corrective surgery.

For approximately 50 years, antibiotics that kill germs or bacteria have increasingly become available. Bacterial infection, although still a danger, does not pose the life threatening risk to the same extent that it did in ages past.

Antiviral drugs are starting to become available to treat dangerous viral infections, although there are still many viral diseases that still cannot be effectively treated or treated at the level which we would wish.

Vaccines, of course, have long been available for certain classical viral illnesses. A vaccine triggers the human body’s own immunity to a specific virus: when that virus does enter the body it is killed before it can do harm.

Classically, surgery was used to remove abnormal growths or tumors, or to cut out diseased organs.

In trauma cases, surgery was used to close off bleeding blood vessels and to remove damaged organs and limbs.

Although these categories of surgery are still needed, modern surgery focuses on the repair of organs and reconnection of even tiny blood vessels, with the use of microscopes, video cameras, and precision often tiny, tools. Surgeons who have mastered minimally invasive techniques are now moving into robotic surgery: the surgeon works at a console, directing instruments placed in the patient.

Physicians and surgeons are now nearing the point where they will be able to introduce new cartilage into damaged joints, regrow bone, induce damaged heart muscle to repair itself, and give people with damaged vital organs, such as the kidneys and the liver, the ability to grow new replacement cells.

Based on what we know today, and the treatments for disease now available, it should be possible for people in our society to live to the age of approximately one hundred and thirty seven years.

This may seem fanciful, but as new understanding and the ability to manipulate the workings of the human cell increase, even that age may be surpassed.

In order for women to be able to live meaningfully to great age, there will have to be availability of replacement parts for worn out joints and the ability to grow healthy new tissue to shore up failing organs.

It was not too long ago that the four minute mile was thought to be an impossible goal. Some suggested that in order to achieve it, athletes would have to use oxygen tanks. Nowadays, world class athletes break this barrier routinely.

The first two men who climbed ‘unconquerable’ Mount Everest were hailed as heroes. Now, successful climbs of Mount Everest are hardly mentioned in the press.

Goals that are thought to be impossible, and obstacles that are labeled unconquerable, are often attained and overcome.

In medicine, we are now progressing beyond the point of making people “feel better about themselves”, and “looking their best”, to actually being able to offer people longer, more productive lives.

It is possible to decrease the incidence of the serious diseases that traditionally occur as we age – including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. When these diseases do occur, it is often possible to manage them as chronic conditions for long periods of time.

A healthy, active, fit, woman, free of disease, will obviously feel better about herself, and will tend to “look her best”.

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