Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Sunday musings…4/11/2021

1 Crowd. What you call a herd of rhinos. Pretty good word. Still not the coolest name for a group of animals, though.

A group of crows is called a “murder”.

2 Simulacrum. “sim-you-LAY-crum”. An image or representation of someone or something, usually unflattering or denoting something unsatisfactory.

No reason. Just came across it and had to look it up.

3 Paak. The rapper Anderson.Paak: “You need the mojo of the stage”. This from a man who has been incredibly productive over the course of the last year, creating astonishing music in the fanless vacuum of his home. This quote reminds me of how pretty much all of my professional colleagues viewed their time in lockdown, home, away from their patients. It makes me think about how much we all wish to come together for in-person meetings despite the evidence that shows we are able to learn remotely.

There is an energy in the doing on stage thing. There is a creative spark that simply never lights when you do what you do behind the curtain, so to speak. For me, at least, there is. Paak says it out loud. In healthcare can you provide the same level of care “behind” a screen, without the presence of co-workers? Without the physical connection of in-person care? No idea. Will the possibility of enhanced access, along with what everyone assumes will be lower cost, trump the spark that occurs “on stage”?

For now the answer lies just far enough back stage, off screen, for us to truly see it.

4 Healthspan. Ooooo, I really love this one. As opposed to lifespan, of course. Your healthspan is that part of your life where you are not only not dead (duh), but in good health. Functional. Still winning the fight against decrepitude (you can still get your ass up off the loo without help). As a sorta, kinda, still a CrossFit guy the appeal of this term is obvious. Especially today as I sit here having “broken” my ass after hitting a measly 40 balls on the range yesterday.

Aging is a bitch, but seriously? I hit 40 shots with a wedge and I have a broken ass?

In yesterday’s WSJ there was a cool essay by a guy who wrote a book on the science of fighting aging. Not the diseases associated with aging, but the process of aging itself. At a cellular level there is a lifespan. Once the cells die their lifeless husks apparently remain, gumming up the works for the cells still living. Why does a tortoise live so long? As it turns out it actually ages more slowly at the cellular level. Not only does a tortoise live longer, but it also doesn’t age as rapidly; a 100 year old tortoise is as vibrant as a 50 year old tortoise (if any tortoise could be described as vibrant). In a similar vein there are species of rats, I believe, where it is not possible to distinguish between a 3 year old rat and a 23 year old rat.

Although they live a long time these animals do not age, per se.

Imagine what this would mean for developed societies (the only kind I’ve lived in so the only kind I feel comfortable commenting on). Even without any significant increase in lifespan, if you increase the healthspan of the population you alleviate massive amounts of late-in-life suffering, thereby reducing the cost of caring for elderly infirmed. If older people are only older in time, not age, you preserve the resource that is their collective life’s experience. Mentorship remains available for decades longer, and productivity during their years of employment remains high.

There remains the need to continue to develop cures for disease, of course. This is especially true for those diseases that take out the young. Public health remains neither more nor less important; protecting the population from preventable deaths where better policy is the cure (vaccination, accident prevention, etc) is probably even more important when you have a population that remains “young”, or “not-aged” well past mid-life.

What will bring us to a human version of tortoise-hood? In my rather obsessive reading on this over the years there does not appear to be any one, single thing that could be universally applied across humanity. At least not yet. It appears that literally every diet/nutrition strategy works best in a particular genetic setting, and that no one, single diet works across the board. This stings a bit if you have forced yourself to adhere to something extreme and it turns out it doesn’t fit your genome, a phenomenon that cuts both vegans and carnivores equally. Even if your diet does match up with your genetics, so far it would only seem to keep you alive longer, not keep you “young” longer. Some suggestions to fight aging run afoul of the “less fun” barrier. As in “is it really worth not aging if I can’t have a beer” barrier. Is it really better to have a longer healthspan if you each day is emptied of fun?

Still, even here there is less than conclusive evidence, let alone a consensus of evidence.

It appears that the battle against decrepitude, the quest to be older without aging, will require something that we do not yet posses. Some kernel of knowledge, some discovery that will allow us to be simply more experienced versions of our younger selves without suffering the aging process. Whatever it is will also have to be acceptable. Suffering some puritanical intervention to achieve a long life without aging seems like a recipe for some sort of societal disaster. Still, I’m convinced that it’s possible to find a solution that will allow us all to enjoy a glass of wine, eat in a manner that we find pleasing and comfortable, and still remain youthful in all ways except the number of candles on our birthday cakes.

Which means we should be able to swing a golf club 40 times without injuring our ass.

I’ll see you next week…

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