12 February 2008

How to prolong youth?

Moskovsky Komsomolets

Historically, women were raised by stayers, and therefore live longer. And men are not in danger of longevity in the next hundred years. Why?

Vladimir SHABALIN, Director of the Gerontology Research Institute, Academician of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, knows all the secrets of aging and life extension and willingly shares them with MK.

- Vladimir Nikolaevich, you head the main institute in Russia studying human aging. At what age does this terrible process begin?

- Since the birth of a person and even earlier. The younger a person is, the more intense the aging processes are. But only with age, the changes, accumulating, become obvious. It's not just wrinkles on the face, joint pain, etc. Aging is the most fundamental biological process that ensures the development of living matter. Why are modern people so smart and beautiful? Because billions of molecules of the "pre-human" species of life, our predecessors, over the course of billions of years have done tremendous work to build and improve the structure of our tissues. And in the future, we will not remain the same as we are now. Millions of species of wildlife, having completed their task, left the evolutionary scene, passing the baton to more advanced species. Similarly, man, having fulfilled his mission, will leave the evolutionary scene.

- And who will take our place on Earth? It's even scary to think: robots, living intelligence, aliens? Has science already looked into this abyss?

- Living matter has gone through several stages of its development: physical evolution (atoms were created), chemical evolution (molecules were created), biological evolution (living beings were created). Now we are entering the fourth stage of development. I call it intellectual, when the human intellect actively interferes with its genome and its evolutionary development. Scientists are beginning to change the genome by applying various influences at the genetic and biological levels.

- Does this mean that a person can create something more perfect than himself?

- Evolution continues. Human intelligence interferes with the process not only through biological development, but also through electronic systems — soon a computer in a micro-variant will be created that can be implanted into our body. And then a person will not have to strain his memory — it is enough to force his nerve cells to enter memory through a neural network by a mental process and extract from it what we need. According to experts, by the end of the XXI century, electronic components in the human body will be thousands of times superior to biological ones in their functions.

- Is it possible to achieve immortality in this way if most of the internal organs are replaced by mechanisms?

- We will not come to immortality, since all biological elements in humans are mortal: molecules and cells die. But robotics in the future can reach such heights that the biological part of the human body will not be very necessary for us. There will be "clean" robots or biorobots. It is difficult to say which of them will take over. Maybe biorobots will take on all the human burdens, and the person himself will turn into some kind of pet. And depending on how the robot treats him - cherish, feed or keep him on a strict collar - his life will depend. And perhaps our intelligence, scattered among individuals, will unite into a common intellectual ocean. And we will transform into a single form - an intellectual system that will determine all the activities of living matter.

- But let's go back to today's homo sapiens. Vladimir Nikolaevich, if you were given a newly born "experimental" child, what would it be possible to turn it into with the help of modern science and practice?

- It is impossible, by isolating one person, creating ideal greenhouse conditions for him, to achieve a standardized version that can be replicated as a new biological species. A person, figuratively speaking, is a cell of the biosphere. And it cannot develop outside the biosphere, but only in the environment where it originated and where it developed.

- According to the genetic program, a person should live up to 120-150 years on average. But so far we live only half of this period. Why?

- On the one hand, we ourselves are not fully responsible for our health. On the other hand, anthropogenic environmental factors have a negative effect on humans and on nature as a whole. Therefore, it is impossible to artificially increase life expectancy. We are all the product of our parents' genetic program. From them we get genes that determine everything, including the genetic program, where the age limit of our life is recorded. Everyone has their own.

- And yet aging can be slowed down, or it can be accelerated. Isn't that right? 

- And so, and not so. There is no anti-aging pill, drinking which you can live for 150 years. Without changing the person himself, it is impossible to change the speed of the aging process. But pathological aging can be influenced. We need a systematic approach that would extend over the entire period of life. Everything that is included in the system of life is also included in the system of aging: lifestyle, nutrition, physical and intellectual load, character, abuse...

- Is it true that the longer a person is engaged in intellectual work, the longer he lives?

- Everything is fine in moderation. If an already elderly person is given an excessive load, exceeding what is written in his genome, then you can only do harm. The intellectual load should also be adequate to the capabilities inherent in the human genome. With age, some as a result of physiological changes weaken the capabilities of the brain, others — on the contrary. For example, Sophocles wrote his brilliant classic tragedy "Oedipus the King" at the age of about 90 years. Ilya Repin, Ivan Aivazovsky, Michelangelo created their best works closer to the age of 80.

by the way Reflecting on death, Leo Tolstoy called deep old age the most important period in life:

"In a very old age, many people think that they are living out their lives. But no, this is where the most important thing begins, and the most important thing is to work in life for yourself and for others." Old age is a ladder to wisdom.

- In the Bible, as a wish to people, it is written: "Be like children." How do you understand this?

- When something rude, unforeseen happens in the fate of an elderly person, many break down. If something does not work out for the child, he does not perceive it as a tragedy, but immediately switches to something else. The elderly would do the same, especially since they have enormous life experience. At any age, you need to look at the world with children's eyes, then there will be a way to go further.

- You talked about nutrition as one of the main components of longevity. What are the priorities in nutrition and at what age are preferred?

- Already in middle age, dietary interests need to be shifted towards plant-based food - it contains more easily digested proteins. The elderly human body with its slow digestive and metabolic processes does not require a large amount of animal protein. But you can't switch to plant-based food only. Instead of meat, consume fish, other aquatic and marine products. Reduce animal fats, giving preference to vegetable fats. The total amount of food is also important: in old age, consume 30 percent less food than in younger years.

And the water load should be adequate. The body needs water not only to quench its thirst, but to make protein molecules work (no protein molecule will work without water, since each is surrounded by a thick shell of liquid). With age, it is impossible to limit yourself in water consumption. If you like salty, you need to drink more water to remove excess salt. The average rate is one and a half liters of water per day. Drink mineral water depending on the condition of the gastrointestinal tract.

- How do you feel about mono-diets? For example, for a whole week to eat one buckwheat or to consume only meat without measure ("Kremlin diet")?

- None of the mono-diets has yet shown a positive result in the future. All these hemocodes, separate nutrition, raw food - fiction. You need to eat what a person has been used to throughout his life. Follow their national traditions.

- It is believed that people live the longest in the mountains. Does high-altitude air affect longevity?
- It is proved that life expectancy is the longest not in the highlands, but in the middle mountains — at an altitude of 3-4 thousand meters.

- Is there the most favorable place for a person on the planet, where they live the longest?
- At one time, the Southern Hemisphere was considered the most favorable, now it is the Northern Hemisphere. But the Japanese (Southern Hemisphere) and Scandinavians (Northern) live for a long time - on average about 80 years. In our country, the average life expectancy is the highest in Yakutia. Centenarians are those who have crossed the 90-year mark. The most adapted to life in the existing environment are people. Their main advantage is healthy genetics plus an adequate lifestyle.

by the wayIn terms of the number of centenarians, the first place is occupied by the USA (14 thousand centenarians); in Russia, centenarians - 6,7 thousand people, and centenarians, according to the 2002 census, -412 thousand (one centenarian per 500 people - live to 90 years).

Up to 100 years in Russia, one person out of 25 thousand lives.

- And why then do the participants of the war and even those who have passed the concentration camp live longer, although they have experienced hunger, cold, psychological pressure? 

- First of all, they must be firmly genetically tailored. Secondly, they went through a hard training period, hardened up, and then moved on to a favorable life.

- That is, if you want to live for a long time, you do not need to create greenhouse conditions for yourself. Who lives longer: idlers or hard workers? 

- Laziness is the best way to shorten the life span. Life quickly removes idlers from the list - this is the law. Before space flights, experiments were conducted at the Military Medical Academy: will a person be able to exist with immobility? For a whole month, the volunteer was put in a special bed, and he did a minimum of movements. The thought processes, of course, could not be stopped, but the intellectual load was also reduced. A month later it turned out that not only the muscles atrophied - the "test subject" became disabled: the kidneys and other life support systems suffered.

Stress, by the way, also trains the body, hardens it. Remove all stress - and the person will immediately weaken in every sense. Stress, like physical exertion for the body, supports our psyche..  - If the boss is rude, inadequate, keeps the team "in good shape", does he prolong the life of colleagues?.. 

- Absolutely not. If a person has worked all his life in benevolent conditions, he will not stand being treated rudely — he will leave or get sick. But even a rude boss destroys himself: he gets a fat minus of his life.

- Today a person spends a lot of time at the computer. He transfers from the office to the car. It turns out that a high "quality of life" shortens his life?

- The "passive" should be compensated with an "asset": before and after work, walk, run, jump rope, do gymnastics, swim. Any form of physical and intellectual movement is beneficial.

- Does fullness shorten our years?

- Any extra pounds shorten a person's life. Obesity is a storehouse of undigested foods. Hence the dangerous fatty layers on the heart, liver, intestines, which do not allow them to work normally. And diseases.

- Vladimir Nikolaevich, there are five times more women among centenarians than men. This is the situation all over the world. Why do you think that is? 

- Firstly, in women, the intensity of metabolism (the rate of metabolic processes) is 20 percent less than in men. Secondly, historically, women were brought up as stayers: hardy people with a small load on long distances. Men are like sprinters: hardy hunters and warriors, able to endure a heavy load in a short period of time. And now men in Russia have a more sprinting life. In a critical period for the country, men experienced social upheavals more strongly, especially in the main thing for themselves — their careers. Women have adapted.

by the wayPathological changes in a woman's body occur earlier than in a man, but more slowly, and she has time to adapt.

Men do not have time to adapt, because mortality from cardiovascular diseases at the age of 45-50 years is 5-6 times higher for them than for women. But the health of long-lived men, who live to a very old age, is stronger than that of women.

- Many older men today marry young. In your opinion as a specialist — do they prolong their life in this way or shorten it?

- Where is the cause and where is the effect, it is difficult to understand. Either the increased sexual activity of such men contributes to their longevity, or a good physical condition of the body allows them to engage in sexual activity at a later time. Or maybe the man simply overestimated his physical capabilities, and the increased load, including sexual, will have a negative impact and he will die prematurely. There are no statistics that by marrying young men prolong their lives.

- It is known from history that the pharaohs washed themselves with young blood to prolong their youth, covered themselves with young concubines… Are there sophisticated ways to prolong life today?

- Those who are allowed funds, take milk baths. Washing with young blood was once in China, in ancient Rome — not necessarily human blood, it could also be animal blood. Did it prolong life? Is unknown.

- How promising are stem cells for prolonging human life?

- There are also more speculations than achievements. The introduction of foreign cells is fraught with complications. There is no more or less serious data on the effectiveness of the use of stem cells to prolong life. And they are unlikely to be. However, there are such diseases (for example, leukemia) when stem cells help. And using them for replacement, for the growth of blood vessels and heart muscles does not give real results.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru12.02.2008

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