Extreme Longevity: Death-Proofing Our Lives and Living Environments
by Nils Osmar. June 3, 2022
Aging kills. From one point of view it’s the leading cause of death for adults because it makes us more vulnerable to dying from. cancer, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases and accidents.
One of Many Causes
The aging process isn’t invisible, but it moves in slow motion and tends to sneak up on us gradually if we don’t stay watchful for signs of it. It’s visible in the sense that a plant’s growth is visible, best observed over time. We observe it and notice changes over stretches of weeks, months or years, but not moment to moment. In a sense it’s our enemy, so thinking about possible ways to slow it down or reverse it is our main focus on this website.
But of course other things can also kill us. Some that come to mind when thinking about my own life include:
- Washing dishes, taking showers or standing under trees (or lying flat on the ground in wet grass) during lightning storms. If lightning strikes within 100 feet of your house while you’re standing at the sink doing dishes, it can travel through the pipes and water and kill you. If we lie flat, we do make ourselves lower but change one point of contact with the wet ground to thousands of points, multiplying our odds of dying. See article.
- Trusting other drivers to obey traffic rules. My car was recently stopped at a red light; it turned green; I had an impulse to drive forward, but took the precaution of checking what was happening in the cross street; a truck went barreling through what to them was a red light, and would have pulverized my car if I hadn’t looked.
- Medical mistakes. I’ve been to doctors who made mis-diagnoses and insisted, sometimes vehemently, that they were right… until proven by further testing that they were completely wrong. “Recent studies of medical errors have estimated errors may account for as many as 251,000 deaths annually in the United States.” See article.
- Choking on food (or vitamin pills!). “In the United States, the odds of one dying from choking on food is around 1 in 2,535. These odds are greater than the odds of dying from an accidental gun discharge or as a passenger on a plane.” Being “present”, paying attention, and not trying to do ten things at once can make routine things like this far less hazardous. See article.
- Slipping and falling. “Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older, and the age-adjusted fall death rate is increasing. The age-adjusted fall death rate is 64 deaths per 100,000 older adults…Fall death rates among adults age 65 and older increased about 30% from 2009 to 2018.” See article.
- Too much hormesis. Fasting, cold showers, hot saunas and other interventions are anti-aging because they trigger the sirtuin (survival) genes. But they do so because too big a dose of them can put our lives in danger. People can and do freeze to death from too much cold exposure, have heart attacks in extreme heat, and starve to death while fasting. I love hormesis, but have to remind myself now and then not to go too far overboard.
- Not to mention, of course, killers like heart disease, cancer, accidental injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, strokes and cerebrovascular diseases, but we all know about those 🙂
The list above isn’t intended to be comprehensive. There are thousands of causes of death that I haven’t mentioned. The above are just some that have been on my mind recently.
Death-Proofing Our Lives
But thinking about this topic is a reminder (to me) of how there’s more to life extension than eating right, exercising, and taking anti-aging supplements.
Many of us have experience of (at one point) having baby-proofed our homes; we might want to think about death-proofing our homes, and our lives, in a similar way. Examples would include:
- Choosing a car rated for safety instead of one with a history of fuel tank explosions
- Leaving ample distance between our cars and the cars in front of us when we’re driving;
- Avoiding high speed driving under dangerous weather conditions with poor visibility.
- Learning first aid and learning about the Heimlich maneuver (which can save out own lives as well as the lives of loved ones).
- Holding onto the handrail when using stairs, particularly if we’re older and/or have brittle bones. (Or you could do what I do; I like going up and downstairs without touching the handrail; it improves my balance; but I keep my hand just above it so I can grab it easily if I do fall.)
The heart of it (to my mind) is remembering that while we can’t control for every eventuality, we can use our heads and be prepared for many of them. We can “death proof” our lives to an increasing degree as time goes on. Doing so may make the difference in our still being around to take advantage of medical interventions which can stop or reverse the aging process, when they do arrive.