What Is The Maximum Human Lifespan?

by Malc on August 1, 2011


Methuselah (TheoJunior via Flickr)

What is the maximum human lifespan is a fascinating question. And, more to the point, why is it so short?

There is no moral reason why we should deteriorate as we age and then die by the time we are 90, 100, 110 or – the maximum currently possible for humans – 120 years old. If we try to interfere with this factor – if we try to extend healthy human life – we are doing no more than Fleming did when he discovered penicillin; we just have different tools now. No doubt Fleming was considered a heretic in his day by some sections of the public.

The problem with extending the maximum human lifespan is that mammals are fairly complex beings, and evolution has resulted in our developing some fairly inefficient body processes.

For example, getting oxygen to our cells – via breathing and the red blood cells – is highly inefficient; it takes a lot of energy to get a single molecule of oxygen to a cell.

Science will improve this process massively, with huge benefits for oxygen capacity, physical endurance and general health. It is easy to see the life-saving benefits of this for, for example, premature babies and also those with lung disease such as emphysema.

Whales Live Longer

Some mammals do live a long time already. Some whales live up to 200 years, for example. Why shouldn’t humans? This isn’t a moral issue: it’s purely a physical one.

Some other beings – for example lobsters – live so long: that we have no idea of their life span. It seems to be indefinite. These are simpler beings, however, which reduces the accumulated damage of the type from which humans suffer. But the principle remains: lobsters show no signs of aging. In fact, in terms of fertility, the older they get, the more fertile they are.

Reducing Damage Is The Key

The key to healthy aging is reducing damage ion the body. This ranges from glycation (wrinkling, inside and out, promoted by high sugar levels in the blood), to oxidation – (free radical damage) (which anti-oxidants oppose), to reducing fat and building lean muscle (a high protein diet and interval training are both great for this; preferably both).

Check out this article from http://fightaging.com on a “20 minute argument in favour of Radical Life Extension”.

The maximum human lifespan is entirely brought about by physical restrictions. There is no morality to it: it is just a figure waiting to be extended by human science. Of course, lengthened lifespan will bring questions and issues, such as overcrowding.

But humans have shown they are resourceful and adaptable and they will, of course, use those skills as our lifespan increases, which it inevitably will. And – sooner than you probably think.

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