Jewish World Review July 26, 2004 / 8 Menachem-Av 5764
Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Medicine, genes, sports and longevity
Will our genes keep up with the advances in medicine? Can we burn our
medical and sports candle at both ends?
From birth to death, human life goes through a series of stages. But though
we all grow, age, and die, different cultures divide the stages
differently. Until rather recently, Americans have defined the life journey
as: a long, more or less sheltered childhood and youth, a few decades of
productive adulthood, then passive retirement accompanied by chronic
conditions of various sorts. Nowadays, however, more and more people
defined as <ì>children are accomplishing great things, while more and
more people who used to be considered over the hill are astonishingly
active and productive.
The stages of life ain't what they used to be. And the changes raise
questions about everything from <ì>youth cultureî> to the genetic nature
of our existence and medicine's proper role in prolonging and/or improving
To simplify, every organism has both a life span and a life expectancy.
"Life span" seems to be genetically fixed by the number of times cells can
reproduce without either dying or turning cancerous. "Life expectancy" is
how close you can get to your life span, and is determined by many factors
beyond biology (especially lifestyle).
For millennia, it was believed that the human life span was the Biblical
three score and ten, around 70, while life expectancy hovered around half
that. Adulthood came early for those who survived their childhoods. Decades
of debility and pain were the price of long life.
This changed dramatically in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as
medicine solved the "easy" problems infectious diseases, infant and
maternal mortality, sepsis, public health. At the same time, advances in
treating the conditions of the aging meant that people could now live well
past that three score and ten.
But society and culture didn't keep up. The result is a society in which
economically non-productive childhood can last twenty to thirty years,
while millions retire while still capable of great effort and
Recently, however, this has started to change. The phenomenon is especially
remarkable in athletics, where people in their sixties and even later are
climbing mountains and running marathons. It's also true in professional
sports, where athletes now routinely compete and compete well in latter
thirties and their forties. Think Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens in
baseball, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul Jabbar in basketball, Martina
Navritilova in tennis.
Yet at the other end, world-class athletes are growing ever younger: Maria
Sharapova of the Newport Beach Breakers in tennis, Frankie Martinez (K-Rod
of the Angels) in Baseball, Freddie Abdu in soccer, Tiger Woods in golf.
The high school phenomenon, Lebron James, signed for 100 million in
basketball, not to mention an endless progression of barely post-pubescent
gymnasts and swimmers.
On one of these Medicine Men's local front, Aaron Peirsol of Newport Beach
won the 2000 Olympic Silver Medal in the 200 Meter backstroke after his
junior year at Newport Harbor High School and is favored for the Gold this
year. Misty May was one of the best volleyball players in the world as a
freshman at Newport Harbor.
So what does this mean? Several things. First, turning children into star
competitors is, in some ways, a reversion to a time when childhood ended
much earlier than nowadays. Children are no longer (if they ever were)
innocent beings to be protected for as long as possible from the adult
More broadly, America is now becoming a nation whose dominant youth culture
is adopted, not just by the middle-aged, but by those beyond middle age,
reversing the age-old notion that the young take their models from their
elders. What this may mean for the people in the middle "the productive
adults" over the next few decades is hard to tell.
But the most far-reaching question is genetic. Can science actually extend
the human life span by decades or more? Should it? Or should research
concentrate its scarce resources on adding more good years, making the
sixties and seventies as healthy and productive as possible? This is what
medicine has traditionally done; to attempt to extend the life span would
be a completely new undertaking.
Perhaps someday stem cells will give genetic first-aid but in our opinion
this will take far longer than patients hope and medical researchers
Editor's Note: Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D.
wrote this week's column.
Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments
on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a Discovery Institute
Senior Fellow and a past president of the Association of American Physicians
and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists.
Comment by clicking here.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
07/16/04: Biotech foods foolishly feared by Franken-Folk
07/09/04: The Runaway Trial Lawyer
07/02/04: Physicians not treating trial lawyers: A shootout at OK Coral and Courthouse?
06/25/04: Dosage makes the poison in 400-year-old mercury murder
06/11/04: Canada's health system dream turns to nightmare
06/04/04: It's A Medical Life I Remember Yesterday
05/28/04: Back to the Future: Patient Pays Directly for Medical Care
05/21/04: Sue Your Boss Month
05/14/04: Death from painful medical myths
05/07/04: Fear in the Medical Garden of Eden
04/30/04: DDT vs. Death by Malaria
04/23/04: In pain do we part!
04/16/04: Free or not free to treat pain
04/09/04: Wrong Military Diagnoses & Treatments
04/02/04: Radiation monster slain
03/19/04: What Do and Don't Bush and Kerry Plan to do to Your Health Choices
03/15/04: Dear Rush: We Feel Your Pain, So Now Feel the Pain of Others
03/05/04: Fraudulent use of fraud laws by government
02/27/04: Population growth, birth control and increased terrorism?
02/20/04: Doctors fighting against doctors, at the behest of the government and lawyers
02/13/04: Legal Cancer in the White House?
02/06/04: Feds Harass Doctors. Who's Next?
01/30/04: Women, the Military and Medical Misconceptions
01/23/04: Welfare for the Wealthy
01/19/04: New diagnoses and strategies create both short and long term problems for medicine and the military
01/09/04: A new plastic phobia?
01/02/04: Baseball Good Medicine?: International Forkball and Split Finger Rotating Our Way Soon
12/26/03: Medicare Bankrupt: A Possible Palliative
12/19/03: Crossing Fruit Street: Some Movies Like "Stuck on You" Cross the Medical Line
12/12/03: Silver Lining in the Medicare Clouds?
12/05/03: Medicare mop up
12/01/03: The Dirty Radioactive Bomb: Rational Response or Fear Itself?
11/24/03: The Caduceus Conspiracy: How the People Lost Medicine and How We Can Take It Back
11/14/03: Mosquitoes kill us; DDT doesn't
11/07/03: Avoiding the Schiavo Scenario: Readers Speak Out With Life-and-Death Comments
10/31/03: The Terri Schindler-Schiavo Case: Speaking out for those who can't
10/24/03: Want health service go on a diet?
10/15/03: The War on Legal Painkillers: Sen. Kerry owes an apology to the more than 48 million Americans who suffer chronic pain
10/13/03: Medicare defrauds itself
09/19/03: Politics prevents women from learning about abortion/breast cancer risks
09/12/03: Medical mischief
09/05/03: Unholy medicine
08/29/03: The California Tea Party and West Coast Determinism; Voter anger coming your way soon
08/18/03: The outlaw prosecutors: A Justice and Civil Liberties Issue
08/08/03: "Toxic Teeth?"
07/25/03: Resuscitating the Constitution; CPR American Style
07/25/03: Drug reimportation: Bill translates to goodnight, patients
07/11/03: Costly Medicare Changes, Without Real Reform
07/04/03: The Painful DEA II: War on legal drugs ensnares too many doctors and not enough dealers
06/20/03: The Medicare Mess: Will President Bush call Congress' Bluff?
06/13/03: Diagnosis: School Insanity: A suit for sanity and school discipline
06/05/03: Soaring Medical Costs: Rational ignorance or rational enlightenment?
05/30/03: A Tale of Two Admirable Women: Jessica and Annika
05/23/03: Latest medical innovation: Cash
05/09/03: We feel your pain; Physicians have it too no thanks to the DEA
05/02/03: Medical Quarterbacking
04/25/03: CNN the "Conscience-Not Network"
04/21/03: Medical Miranda?
04/11/03: Are childhood vaccines shots in the dark?
04/09/03: The PETA Principle -- The lambshank Redemption
03/28/03: American conscience?
03/21/03: West Wimps or Wings: Treatment for Hollywood Hypocrisy
03/13/03: Worldwide schmaltz shortage looms --- all because of a featherless chicken
03/06/03: Legal metastases are killing us
02/28/03: Outside the Jury Box: Seeking Justice rather than a Lottery in Medical Liability
02/21/03: Workforce temperature rising; employer TLC in demand
02/14/03: Malpractice Insurance: They Reap What They Sue
02/12/03: Hawk, Dove or Groundhog: Diagnosis Critical List; Prognosis Uncertain
02/07/03: How about tax cuts for the "rich" and "poor"?
01/31/03: AIDS Bug Chasers
01/24/03: Libertarian moment or movement?
01/17/03: It's not just 'sue the docs' anymore
01/03/03: A pox on the critics; diagnosis sour grapes
01/03/03: If protesting is good for your health; then at least let's root for the home team
12/20/02: Obesidemic (obesity epidemic) or not?
12/20/02: Time for voluntary informed smallpox vaccinations
12/13/02: The real reason the state opposes homeschooling?
12/06/02: Conscience of a former conservative: Portrait of a political metamorphosis
11/27/02: Thanksgiving dinner hazard?
11/22/02: Time to think outside the box and inside the nucleus
11/15/02: The military should be protected from abusive environmental laws in times of war
11/11/02: Does Kyoto Treaty pose more harm than global warming?
10/31/02: Deep thoughts on Baseball, the World Series and Life: How about them Anaheim Angels?
10/23/02: "Pediatric rule" guinea pigs
10/23/02: Once the World Series ends, we need to create a Donnie Moore Day of Remembrance: Sports and mental health
10/18/02: Congress to senior patients: Do as we say not as we do for ourselves
10/11/02: Using pollution "scare labeling" to political advantage
10/04/02: The Great Asbestos Heist: Did Litigation and Junk Medical Science Helped Bring Down the World Trade Center?
09/27/02: The imminent rise of civic feminism: A far healthier national alternative in war and peace
09/20/02: A Ray A Day" to replace the daily apple?
09/13/02: Beware of celebrities hawking drugs
09/06/02: Avoid 9/11 overdose: Give blood to begin "September of Service," SOS
08/28/02: From Doubleday to strikeday: Baseball's collective anxiety attack
08/23/02: Should she or shouldn't she?: An alternative view on treating menopause with HRT
08/16/02: Cooking up defenses against germ warfare
08/02/02: Medicine, crime and canines
07/26/02: Lies, pathologic lies and the Palestinians
07/19/02: Medicare Drug Follies … as in "now you see it, now you don't"
07/12/02: Anti-Profiling: A New Medically False Belief System
07/08/02: Don't procrastinate, vaccinate!
06/28/02: The scientific advances on the safe and effective deployment of DDT are being ignored, or denied. Why?
06/21/02: Sex and the system: In seeking healthcare men are different from women
06/14/02: The FDA, drug companies and life-saving drugs: Who's the fox and who's the hen now?
06/07/02: Medical Privacy Lost: A hippo on the healthcare back!
05/24/02: To clean up America's game: A (soggy) ground rule
05/10/02: Free speech is good medicine
05/03/02: Medicine's Vietnam
04/26/02: Attack on alternative medicine could lead to alternative lawsuits
04/12/02: Insure the 'crazies'?
04/09/02: No Time for Litmus Tests: In War We Need a Surgeon General and NIH, CDC, and FDA Directors
04/02/02: The scoop on soot: A dirty rotten shame?
03/22/02: Too many beautiful minds to waste: The first annual Caduceus Movie
03/15/02: Terror and transformation: Defense essential for health & state of mind
03/08/02: Diagnosis: Delusional
03/06/02: The great matzah famine
03/01/02: Is new Hippocratic Oath hypocritical?
02/15/02: Why the recent moaning about cloning?
02/08/02: Searching for Dr. Strangelove
01/15/02: Score one for the value of human life
01/04/02: Medical-legal-financial wake-up call
12/28/01: Who's afraid of a 'dirty bomb'?
12/21/01: End of medicine?
12/14/01: More heroes: Docs deserve a little credit after 9/11
11/16/01: Do we need 'Super Smallpox Saturdays'?
11/09/01: Why the post-9-11 health care debate will never be the same
11/01/01: Common sense good for our mental health
10/26/01: Your right to medical privacy --- even in terror time
10/12/01: Failed immigration policy ultimately bad for nation's mental health: Enemy within leads to epidemic of jumpy nerves
09/28/01: Can legal leopards change their spots: A treat instead of a trick
09/21/01: Civil defense again a civic duty
08/30/01: Shut down this government CAFE
08/23/01: School Bells or Jail Cells?
08/15/01: Time to take coaches to the woodshed
08/10/01: Blood, Guts & Glory: The Stem of the Stem Cell controversy