What are age-related chronic diseases?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
With the exception of a few contagious illnesses (HIV infection, for example), most of the chronic conditions that affect us as we age are not diseases in the way we generally think of the term -- that is, infectious diseases. Nor are they usually purely inheritable genetic diseases, where the problem is something structurally wrong with us from the time we were born, and is therefore something we cannot influence. Rather, these chronic conditions are examples of the body itself beginning to come undone as a result of aging. The image of a machine wearing down its parts is apt. These chronic conditions -- heart disease, kidney disease, endocrine malfunction -- are what we mean by age-related disease, or aging until calendar age ninety or so. Yet, and this is important, these conditions also serve to accelerate the rate at which other parts of us age, too. By managing such conditions, we can control, in large part, the degree to which whatever we mean by "aging" -- for most of us, that's age-related disease -- will age us.

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