Extending functional life span


Harman D




Exp Gerontol


Average life expectancy at birth is a rough measure of the span of healthy, productive life--the functional life span. In the developed countries average life expectancies at birth now range from 76-79 years, six to nine years less than the limit of about 85 years imposed by aging. Aging is the accumulation of changes that increase the risk of death. Aging changes can be attributed to development, genetic defects, the environment, disease, and the inborn aging process. The latter is the major risk factor for disease and death after age 28 in the developed countries. The free radical theory of aging arose in 1954; it postulated that aging changes were caused by free radical reactions. There is now a growing consensus, largely based on the results of measures to minimize more-or-less random endogenous free radical reactions, that such reactions are a major cause of aging, possibly the only one. Some of these studies are presented following a brief discussion of free radical reactions.