Here at the Spine Institute Northwest, we took notice of a recent Reuters article that examined how advances in biotechnology could potentially extend the human lifespan. Ken Dychtwald, an expert on gerontology and longevity, forecasts that medical technology will soon allow people to live to be 150 — or even longer — but warns that “healthspan” may not be the same as “lifespan.”
What is your “healthspan”? It’s not just how long you’re alive; instead, the idea takes into account how long you are alive and able to enjoy life. Dychtwald points out that in many instances, medicine has been able to extend life but not health. Lengthy stays in hospitals or assisted living facilities keep people alive, but quality of life may be limited.
Debilitating diseases (notably Alzheimer’s disease) can dramatically shorten healthspan, but researchers are also looking at preventive measures that can be taken to extend it. Fitness and nutrition are often emphasized, as obesity and related diseases (such as diabetes) decrease healthspan.
There’s also a deluge of research money — much of it coming from Silicon Valley — looking at other solutions to this problem. Human Longevity Inc., founded in 2014, is trying to use genetic sequencing to better understand aging, while Google launched an effort focused on extending the human lifespan in 2013. Rather than going through the hurdles of applying for public funding, much of the funding behind these and other ventures is private and unregulated.
Dychtwald is enthusiastic about the possibilities this research holds, but worries that the initial costs of these procedures will limit them to only the super wealthy. There are, however, numerous medical interventions that have become available in recent years, thanks to these technological innovations — and they aren’t just for the 1%. At the Spine Institute Northwest, we’re laser-focused on the expanding field of regenerative medicine. Regenerative therapies use the body’s own stem cells to repair and regenerate injured tissue, and have been used at our clinic to treat both chronic and acute back and neck conditions.
More broadly, thinking about the idea of healthspan as compared to lifespan puts an emphasis on the importance of early intervention for health issues such as chronic pain. Taking action, rather than living with pain, means that you’ll have a longer time to actually enjoy your life. It doesn’t make sense to “wait and see,” especially with issues such as chronic back pain, which don’t tend to resolve on their own.
If you’re suffering from chronic pain — whether back pain, neck pain, or even joint pain — call the Spine Institute Northwest. If you’re living with pain, you’re not really living. To start the journey, call us today at 206-496-0630.