PUMPING IRONY: Forever Young?

In a few short years we may all be able to pop a pill that will guarantee us a long and healthy life. Count me out.

The comedian Steven Wright came up with this great line about longevity: “ I intend to live forever,” he said. “So far, so good.” I know it’s just a gag, but I believe it. Each of us has lived to the farthest reaches of the current earthly timeline. Forever, in a manner of speaking.

I bring this up after stumbling upon new research that breathlessly announced the imminent emergence of a new generation of anti-aging drugs that will “ultimately prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.” The lead author of the study in question, Professor David Sinclair of the University of New South Wales in Australia, explains that the drugs will activate a single enzyme, SIRT1, with a mega-dose of resveratrol, triggering an avalanche of healthy outcomes for geezers like me. The list of maladies thus foiled is impressive: cancer, cardiovascular disease and cardiac failure, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, fatty liver disease, cataracts, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, sleep disorders and various inflammatory diseases, including psoriasis, arthritis and colitis. Apparently something in the neighborhood of 4,000 synthetic versions of resveratrol have been developed, and the top three candidates are currently being employed in clinical trials on actual old folks like me.

This is, of course, joyful news for anyone floating on the uncompromising tide flowing away from the shores of youth. Who wouldn’t want to pop a pill once a day to ensure that he would maintain his relatively youthful demeanor far off into the great unknown? I mean, think of the possibilities, once you make that wager with GlaxoSmithKline! As Sinclair puts it, “We’re finding that aging isn’t the irreversible affliction that we thought it was. Some of us could live to 150. . . .”

Don’t get me wrong — I’d like to stick around for a good long time, but this “fountain of youth” hyperbole is full of holes. Hyper-longevity is a wonderful goal, but unless you’ve built a way of life that will sustain you every day as you grow older, living into your 90s and beyond may not be worth the (probably substantial) price of a pocketful of pills. Quality of life, in my book, will always trump quantity.

Simple Steps to Maintain Your Youth

So, while we all await the heralded anti-aging pill from our friends from Big Pharma, here are a five simple — and free — ways to maintain your youthful vigor:

  1. Get plenty of sleep.
  2.  Breathe deeply on a regular basis. It’s a great way to tamp down everyday stress.
  3. Eat real food. As Michael Pollan so aptly puts it: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
  4. Exercise every day. It could be a walk in the park or a round of pushups or a kettlebell routine. Nothing keeps you young like moving your body and working up a sweat.
  5. Decide every day to be happy, no matter what you encounter. Positive psychology research has shown that an optimistic outlook will keep you healthy for the long run.

Let’s face it, we’re all going to get old (and, yes, we’re all going to die), but we don’t have to suffer along the way. And we don’t have to resort to pharmaceutical solutions to make the journey a pleasant one.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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