Monday, May 21, 2012
Enlightened Aging by Nortin M. Hadler
Aging, dying, and death are no longer solely the purview of philosophers and clerics. Many biological and epidemiological theories of aging have been articulated. Some are even testable theories, and many have been tested. The result is an informative science. We still have much to learn and many a theory that eludes testing, but the product of all this science is a body of information that has much to say to anyone today who wants to reflect on aging, dying and death. This book is anchored on this body of information. Beyond reflection, aging, dying, and death have arrived at center stage in realpolitik at the urging of economists and for public-policy considerations, given the needs of the burgeoning population of elderly.
Aging, dying, and death are not diseases. Yet they are targets for the most egregious marketing, disease mongering, medicalization, and overtreatment. This book is to forewarn and arm the reader with evidence-based insights that promote informed medical and social decision making. All who have to good fortune to be healthy enough to confront the challenges of aging need such insights. Otherwise they are no match for the cacophony of broadcast media pronouncing the scare of the week or the miracle of the month; pandering magazine articles; best-selling books pushing “angles” of self-interest; and the ubiquitous marketing of pharmaceuticals and alternative potions, poultices, and chants. All are hawking ‘successful aging” and “long life” as if both were commodities. We awaken every day to advice as to better ways to eat, think, move, and feel as we strive to live longer and better. We are bombarded with the notions of risks lurking in our bodies and in the environment that need to be reduced at all cost. Life, we are told, is a field that is ever more heavily mined with each passing year.
There are places on the globe where life is a literal minefield. There are others where it is a figurative minefield. The former are places where ripe old age is the fate of a lucky few, unconscionably only a few. Those places usually have common denominators: inadequate water and sewer facilities, unstable political structures, and dire poverty. They are a reproach to the collective conscience. However, I am writing this book for those of us fortunate enough to reside in the resource-rich world, countries that have crossed the epidemiological watershed so that it is safe to drink the water. For us, death before our time is not a fact of life; it’s a tragedy. For us, a ripe old age is not a will-o’-wisp; it’s likely. And this happy and fortunate circumstance has almost nothing to do with what we eat, with our potions and pills, or with our metaphysical beliefs, and it has very little to do wit the ministrations of the vaunted “health-care” systems that we underwrite. In the chapters that follow, this becomes disconcertingly, even painfully, clear.
Dr. Hadler is professor of medicine and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina and attending rheumatologist at UNC Hospitals. He also wrote
Stabbed in the Back: Confronting Back Pain in an Overtreated Society
Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America