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The Quest: 6 Facts about Aging and Aging Research

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Credit: CDC/Debora Cartagena

Fact #1: With about $2.5 billion in annual funding, aging research is in the top 20 research categories supported by the National Institutes of Health.*

That gives me another opportunity to test my contention that taking a couple of seconds to think about where to start searching for medical information instead of automatically calling up your favorite all-purpose search engine will give you much more reliable and actionable results.

As always, my go-to starting point for broad subjects like “aging” is, a service of the National Library of Medicine (disponible en español también), or NLM.

Typing “aging” in the search box gives me a page with short introduction, well over 2,000 links to authoritative information—ranked in order from the broadest categories (Seniors’ Health) to more specialized ones (Aging with HIV), and the ability to refine my search by either type (news, videos and tutorials, etc.) or keyword (for example, aging and cancer, the brain or exercise)

Click on photo for larger image

Fact #2: While some aspects of aging are inevitable, a healthy lifestyle that features eating a balanced diet, keeping body and mind active, not smoking, getting regular checkups and adopting safety habits to avoid accidents and prevent falls are some of the most effective things you can do to “stay healthy and active as you age,” according to a summary of research written by the National Institute on Aging for MedlinePlus.

Fact #3: The two greatest environmental causes of excess wrinkles are exposure to sunlight and cigarette smoking, which you can find by clicking on the result #2 from the MedlinePlus “aging” page.

Fact #4: “Any symptom in an elderly patient should be considered a drug side effect until proved otherwise.” This sage piece of advices comes from the Brown University Long-term Care Quality, Letter, 1995, which I learned after scanning the list of keywords suggested by MedlinePlus, clicking on “drug” and following the first link to Caregivers’ Guide to Medications and Aging.

Fact #5: Medicare does not pay for long-term stays in nursing homes (the average Medicare-covered stay is 22 days).  Only Medicaid (which is available only your income is below a certain level, you meet certain state requirements and you apply for and are accepted into the program) pays for long-term nursing home care. Follow link #9, which covers nursing homes, after refining your MedlinePlus’s search for “aging” by type—in this case: “Health Topics.” (Going to have to ask the folks at the NLM what the difference is between a keyword and a type.)

Fact #6: Air pollution is more likely to kill people aged 65 years and older than it is to kill younger people, according to one of the many research studies about aging that you can access for free, using MedlinePlus as a starting point. (Remember, always scroll all the way down any of the 900+ “Health Topics” pages in MedlinePlus if you’re looking for more specialized or technical information—still one of my best tips for getting the most out of that particular website.)

And now, for comparison purposes, what do you learn if you enter the word “aging” into any of the more popular search engines?

Google’s top result directed me to the National Institute on Aging. (Thanks, their information was already included in my MedlinePlus search, along with dozens of other authoritative websites.) Yahoo and Bing sent me to the Wikipedia entry on aging first. (Wikipedia is great for some things but I wouldn’t want to depend on it for medical information).

Once again, MedlinePlus gave me the most reliable results in the shortest period of time with the added advantage of allowing me to easily direct my search toward the broadest overviews, practical advice or more detailed scientific research studies.

*As you might expect, clinical research is number 1 category of funding at the NIH, followed by genetics, prevention and biotechnology.

Previous posts in The Quest series:

My 2 Favorite Tricks for Searching PubMed

Get the Lowdown on the Pills You’re Popping

$84,000 Miracle Cure Costs Less Than $150 to Make

How To Get A Medical Librarian to Do Your Search for Free

Practical Advice for Online Searches

Or click on this tag: how-to-search-medical-info


About the Author: Christine Gorman is the editor in charge of health and medicine features for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. Follow on Twitter @cgorman.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. SJCrum 7:15 pm 05/21/2014

    Ironically, aging in this world could actually be stopped at the maximum age of maturity at twenty-six. You just have to know the real science that can accomplish that. Cool, huh? Yep it is!
    So, just how can this totally-previously-impossible situation be accomplished by a little know how? The angel-like female is workin’ on it. Ornerilly, of course.
    By the way, while she is doing that, when God takes everyone on this planet that is loved by Him, and because they all have positive souls, the situation in the new world is that everyone will be twenty-six, and forever. that means zillions and zillions of years. And, each female will be more beautiful than any female on earth here exists, or ever has existed. God also knows totally how to have our bodies live forever. So, that is going to soon be a tremendously totally terrific reality.
    As for this planet though, aging can stop at twenty-six by causing body cells to reproduce in the exact body pattern that exists perfectly for each person, instead of duplicating in an aged version. Simple, huh?
    You would think that the body would just duplicate by copying the copied existing cell. Duh-uh.
    It doesn’t, and that’s the entire problem.
    So, what causes the body to make new cells that are less than perfect?
    The body “sees” the body pattern in a way that appears to be less, and it then makes a copy according to what it “sees”. And, even so, it is still able to make it the perfect way instead. So, it’s a clueless body, huh? (nope)
    Oooooookaaay. (sarcastically thought)
    So, it uses a less type of pattern because it has to keep trying to keep up with the need to survive in this world. So, what it has to do is to create a copy that is ready to leave with God, and then be totally thankful to Him for giving the enormously far more beautiful body and total life that will be lovingly given to all of them.
    For information, I didn’t see that one coming even in the slightest, but, unfortunately, that item is likely an enormously great truth of reality in this world.
    In the end, all females, for one, will be leaping with thrill when they get to see the loveliest version of themselves that can even possibly exist. By the way, also, all males who want to be married to the totally-out-of-this-world gorgeously lovely females there, will have to get an A+ on the test that determines if they are even close to being good enough to love these females. AND, they all will factually, and I kid you not, be begging for each female.
    So, that is going to be total reality of fact also. And soon.
    By the way, all of the love in the new world will be a totally new way to thrillingly love a female. And, with all of the male’s heart and love.
    So, as for the items in this article, that is what is coming in the VERY NEAR future, and totally because of the very loving God of creation, and who is the Jewish and Christian God I AM.

    Link to this
  2. 2. rshoff2 12:34 pm 05/22/2014

    As I age, my view on the phenomenon changes (evolves?). We are physical beings made of atomic structures that organize into full functioning cells. But we are more than just cells, we are systems. We have an infrastructure to maintain in addition to cell health.

    As with everything in the universe, our atoms cannot be held together forever. The first sign is when our systems become less efficient and start failing. We wear out. Sad, but true.

    What I think we can affect is ‘how’ we wear out. We must accept that we do age, but we can influence ‘how’ we age, a tinsy bit.

    Even if we could intervene at a cellular level to support and preserve our bodily systems, how could we possibly do it for 7billion people? I think we are very far off from being able to affect our lives a few decades here and there. And then it will be hit or miss.

    Then the final question, if we could do that now, for 7 billion people, then what have we gained? Old brains? Is that what we are after, preserving consciousness? Well, your consciousness is no more valuable than mine or that of billions of infants yet to be born. And even if you extended your conscious mind for 200 years, would it still be you? Why not just allow yourself to be displaced. Baby’s are cheaper than immortality.

    Let’s go for good health while we are alive and hope for an extra decade or so. As you see family and friends die, you realize that our physical being is just a very small part of what defines us as human or even conscious. I’m referring to a Collective nature of the human entity.

    Link to this
  3. 3. SJCrum 5:18 pm 05/22/2014

    The enormously wonderfulness of our reality is that we all have a soul, and the soul, while we are alive, is inside a physical body. So, that is our human existence.
    As far as the soul, when it goes into a body it bonds at three bond locations inside the physical brain that is in our bodies. When a person dies, the soul no longer bonds and it floats upward to where it is completely outside.
    That soul then can wait until it can go into another body, or it can just wait until now for God to take all of the positive souls on this planet to another new world that is right now just waiting for everyone to get there.
    So, this is the real soul and body existence, and this is not just an opinionated thinking at all. It’s reality and factual truth.
    Just so you know also, God made all of the souls that exist on earth 6000 years ago, and everyone living now has been in many bodies before. And, the process has always been that people going into bodies has been into those that are family. And, there are relatives who have died before who work diligently to make sure that a new born baby in their family has the soul of a deserving relative. So, it is as simple as that.
    As for souls going to Heaven and where God is, that doesn’t occur, and God has always been here on this planet to be involved with all of the human development that has occurred here. Quite frankly, all of the positive souled people who have died in the past have wanted to be in a new born life here instead.
    For information, virtually everyone who is living on this planet as a positive soul has had a watchful relative being very close to them and often helping them in anyway they can.
    So, all of this is how real life and passing away on this planet actually exists.
    By the way, an interesting thing is that the souls always have the appearance of the person when they are at their maximum maturity age of twenty-six. When my mother-in-law passed away, our family was sitting in a front pew during the ceremony, and my oldest son actually saw her standing right behind the coffin. Because he was looking right at her, she noticed that, and smiled at him. Years later he told my wife and myself this, and said that she looked young and just like the picture on our self that was of her when she was seventeen.
    As for that son, he is partially color blind and he likely has the eyes that can see ultraviolet light, and that because she was seen in shades of grayish violet. He also has an extremely high genius I.Q. and there was no doubt that he actually saw what he described ten years later.
    So, hopefully this helps with a little reality also.

    Link to this
  4. 4. davidonewell 12:06 am 05/29/2014

    Iam of the opinion that all we really are is one organism, with an unfortunate sense of “separation” from “the whole”, which has devestated our potential to act in accord with our potential, which is to enable the thriving of Life.

    Link to this
  5. 5. hkraznodar 6:11 pm 06/4/2014

    A blog post on aging in a science magazine and 75% of the responses have nothing to do with science and are posted by religious zealots. How sad for America.

    Link to this

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