Archive for the ‘Ageing’ Category

When all your email is only spam

January 27, 2018

Looking at some old class photographs I realised that about 15% of my school class has passed away.


 

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Dwindling peers or The loneliness of the long-distance survivors

January 15, 2018

The global crude mortality rate is just under 1% (around 8/1,000 in developed countries with some countries up to about 15/1,000). As population ages the global rate will be around 9-10/1,000 by 2100.

Of those aged 50, the annual mortality rate is about 300/100,000. By the age of 60 this has increased to about 800/100,000 and then increases sharply to around 25,000/100,000 by 90 and encompasses virtually everybody by the age of 100. (There are currently about 300,000 people world-wide who are 100 years old and a handful who have reached 115 years old). On average women live around 4 -5 years longer than men.

Defining “peers” to be those of a similar age, I assume that most people probably reach a maximum number of peer-acquaintances at a little over the age of 50. In my own case I would guess that this was probably when I was around 55.

An increasing mortality then applies to a dwindling cohort of peer-acquaintances. The longer one survives the faster one’s peer-acquaintances shrivel.


Setting peer-acquaintances to be 100% at 50 (and ignoring accretion of new peer acquaintances), their number has dropped to around 80% at 70, and have halved by the time one has reached 80. At our 50th school graduation anniversary when we were all around 65, around 10% of our classmates had passed away. By the age of 90, peer-acquaintances have dwindled to less than 10% of those who were alive at 50. Those who live to 95 have virtually no acquaintances of their own age left alive.

For those who survive to 80, half their peers have died by then. Loneliness is I think governed, not by the number of people surrounding you, but the number of peers one can communicate with. It is a cliche of course, but the longer you survive the dwindling number of your peers ensures the increase of your loneliness. If loneliness is inversely proportional to the number of peer acquaintances, then between 70 and 90 loneliness increases by a factor of 8.


 

Five decades

December 8, 2017

One ages and one gets nostalgic.

The past gets compressed into some kind of a zip-file in my memory and sometimes the file is difficult to open.

But five decades of a working life does not take much space to summarise.


 

Protein injections could reverse Alzheimers

April 19, 2016

While life expectations have been increasing across the globe, the time spent suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have also been increasing. In the last decade this increase has not been checked by any breakthroughs in drugs to brake the onset of, or reverse the progression of, dementia. While life expectancies are approaching 90 years, the period at the end of life with serious disability is approaching 10 years. Among the elderly there is now a greater fear of the degradations at the end of life than of the end itself.

Now, the IL-33 protein is showing the potential of actually reversing some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Injections of the protein succeeded in restoring the memory of mice which had been debilitated by an Alzheimer’s like affliction. The potential is that injections – if the protein acts in a similar way with humans – could restore the memory of Alzheimer’s patients within a week. It is hoped to start clinical trials by the end of the year and that could leave to approved drugs becoming available within 5 years.

The Scotsman:

A protein which can reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice could provide a key to potential treatments, Scottish scientists said.

Researchers from Glasgow University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) discovered that injections of the protein IL-33 could improve cognitive function in mice with Alzheimer’s-like disease. …

….. Glasgow expert Professor Eddy Liew discovered the IL-33 protein could digest existing plaque deposits and prevent the build up of new ones, which led to an improvement in memory and brain function among mice within a week. Professor Liew said: “The relevance of this finding to human Alzheimer’s is at present unclear. But there are encouraging hints. For example, previous genetic studies have shown an association between IL-33 mutations and Alzheimer’s disease in European and Chinese populations. Exciting as it is, there is some distance between laboratory findings and clinical applications.”

The IL-33 protein is produced mostly in the nervous system but patients with Alzheimer’s had less IL-33 than people without the condition, he said. The study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS), also found the IL-33 curbed the inflammation in the brain tissue, which has been shown previously to increase plaque and tangle formation.

alzheimer's brain scan

alzheimer’s brain scan (image BBC)

IL-33 is made in the body and the highest concentrations are found in the brain and the spinal cord. Those with Alzheimer’s have depressed levels. Alzheimer’s disease is widely believed to be driven by the production and deposition of the β-amyloid peptide (Aβ). The IL-33 protein is thought to activate the body’s immune system which in turn attacks the β-amyloid which causes the characteristic Alzheimer’s plaque.


 

 

UK MPs vote for the duty to suffer and reject the right to die

September 12, 2015

We live longer but – as a recent study suggested – have longer periods of disabling conditions at the end of life. It was suggested that – on average – our increase in longevity meant that we also had an increasing period of “vegetable-like living” and that this period was of the order of 10 years. Life expectancy is increasing faster than “healthy life expectancy”.

Science Daily: Global life expectancy at birth for both sexes rose by 6.2 years (from 65.3 in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013), while healthy life expectancy, or HALE, at birth rose by 5.4 years (from 56.9 in 1990 to 62.3 in 2013).

That is 9.2 years of “unhealthy life” in a total of 71.5 years (12%). It would seem that each increase in life expectancy consists of about 90% of that increase being “healthy”.

But UK MPs believe the elderly have a duty to suffer. Virtually every organised religion lobbied against the bill to allow assisted dying and the bill was duly quashed yesterday. Yet about 80% of the UK population support such a bill. Perhaps this bill did not have enough safeguards but that was not the reason the bill was rejected. The real reason, I think, is the puritanical view of suffering being a duty – especially when it is the suffering of others.

There is no parliament in the world where the over-70s are not grossly under-represented. There is something illogical when medical assistance is available to terminate a foetus – with no consent by the foetus – but medical assistance is denied to people who are suffering and who, not merely consent, but wish to terminate their suffering.

Perhaps it is the views of the sufferers which should come into play?

BBC: 

MPs have rejected plans for a right to die in England and Wales in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years.

In a free vote in the Commons, 118 MPs were in favour and 330 against plans to allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision.

In a passionate debate, some argued the plans allowed a “dignified and peaceful death” while others said they were “totally unacceptable”.

Pro-assisted dying campaigners said the result showed MPs were out of touch.

Under the proposals, people with fewer than six months to live could have been prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, which they had to be able to take themselves. Two doctors and a High Court judge would have needed to approve each case.

Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, welcomed the rejection of the legislation, saying the current law existed to protect those who were sick, elderly, depressed or disabled.

He said: “It protects those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion, it acts as a powerful deterrent to would-be abusers and does not need changing.”

But Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said it was an “outrage” that MPs had gone against the views of the majority of the public who supported the bill.

But this will come. Currently life expectancy increases by about 2 -3 months  every year. By 2100 most people will be living to over 100 years. More than half will not suffer significant degradation for any lengthy periods at the end of their lives. But up to half will – unless they have the option to choose.

 


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