Gray hair and joys

Medics in search for recipe of comfortable life for the elderly
Benjamin Franklin noted: “everyone wants to live long but no one wants to grow old”. This paradox has only become more topical throughout centuries. Each decade adds two and a half years to life expectancy. However, ageing is inevitable and brings typical ailments called “second half diseases”.
Today elderly Belarusians suffer from cardiovascular diseases, chronic gastritis, cancer and diabetes. Though ancestors would consider descendants lucky as they couldn’t even last to these maladies. Today male Belarusians live almost 2 times longer than their ancestors 4 centuries ago, and female Belarus citizens live even longer. And this is apart from long-livers, 700 in Belarus. The number of long-livers is going to rise.

Gerontology, which is just making its first steps in Belarus, has lots of questions to answer. E.g., why the number of pensioners dropped by 40 thousand over six months? Why there are twice as many women among them and this disbalance is growing every year (compare: very few representatives of the sterner sex have a chance to live to a hundred). It is not easy to find an answer to these questions: there are only 192 gerontologists in the whole country.

Today male Belarusians live almost 2 times longer than their ancestors 4 centuries ago, and female Belarus citizens live even longer
Many people are concerned with the problem of ageing as a whole and with its particular phenomena, and there are numerous reasons for that. Recent occasion — a most singular phenomenon of speeded aging of human body recorded in Minsk region. A 26-year-old woman looks 80, besides, she has been diagnosed with heart calcinosis, a disease characteristic of extreme old age only! She is the second case in the history of Belarusian gerontology: the first patient, 11-year-old Iosif, died several years ago. Besides, the interest is warmed up by various scientific hypotheses, which are expected to result in no less than anti-aging elixir. Will it be, for example, rejuvenescent anti-oxidant — a work of Vladimir Anisimov, chair of the Russian gerontology society? Belarusian gerontologists are also interested in these experiments, but they will have to wait at least two years for results. “Old age is not programmed, it is a result of implementing a genetic program, — claims Alexander Khapaliuk. — Why is it so hard to fight arterial hypertension and other illnesses of the “second half of life”? Isn’t it because we are threatening the genotype, trying to fight God’s creation, so to say? Development of many diseases could be stopped if we managed to preserve body balance at the level of 40 years. But how? This is the question.”

A specialized scientific center could spur progress in Belarus, yet geriatricians can only dream of it. It is not that no one researched antioxidants. In due time biochemist Tatiana Morozakina and oncologist Vladimir Sukolinsky even won State Prize for their research, and their results were of so much great interest to world community that even allowed them to get a European patent of invention. Following other countries, Belarus arranged an info line for the elderly: now geriatricians realize their scope of work, most vulnerable statistical groups and their most acute problems. As a rule, all complaints are the same: how can one learn to lead a new life? And the objective of medics lies in agreement with this. In nearest future they will try to make life of elderly people as long and comfortable as possible.

by Marina Poniatovskaya
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