Time of Our Lives: The Science of Human Aging / Edition 1

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By the year 2050 one in five of the world's population will be 65 or older, a fact which presages profound medical, biological, philosophical, and political changes in the coming century. In Time of Our Lives, Tom Kirkwood draws on more than twenty years of research to make sense of the evolution of aging, to explain how aging occurs, and to answer fundamental questions like why women live longer than men. He shows that we age because our genes, evolving at a time when life was "nasty, brutish, and short," placed little priority on the long-term maintenance of our bodies. With such knowledge, along with new insights from genome research, we can devise ways to target the root causes of aging and of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's and osteoporosis. He even considers the possibility that human beings will someday have greatly extended life spans or even be free from senescence altogether.

Beautifully written by one of the world's pioneering researchers into the science of aging, Time of Our Lives is a clear, original and, above all, inspiring investigation of a process all of us experience but few of us understand.

The book contains black-and-white illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A conversational, intelligent look at the current understanding of how and why biological aging occurs, along with some suggestions for how to stay healthy in old age....Kirikwood is an amiable, intelligent guide at the forefront of a fast-changing field. His is an entertaining and informative look at our current understanding of aging."—Kirkus Reviews

John Horgan
Kirkwood is a charming, chatty guide, who leavens his text with vivid metaphors and fun facts....We can live longer, healthier lives, he says, by adhering to the sensible old standbys... —The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Aging is neither inevitable nor necessary," declares British gerontologist Kirkwood in this unorthodox study. According to his hypothesis, which he calls the "disposable soma theory," aging occurs because genes treat organisms as dispensable, investing just enough in body maintenance to enable an organism to get through its life expectancy in the wild. Kirkwood believes that freshwater hydra--tubular pond animals with remarkable regenerative powers--are immortal, a claim made by Argentinean biologist Daniel Martinez in the early 1990s. When it comes to humans, though, Kirkwood concedes that a fountain-of-youth elixir, whether obtained through gene-repair therapy or other means, is far in the future or may never exist. His survey of scientific research into the human aging process reveals clues about the origins of arthritis, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and immune-system impairment. He dispenses sensible if unsurprising advice on how to slow one's own aging (exercise, eat fewer calories, keep up a healthy sex life, etc.) and examines anti-aging fads, including those involving melatonin, the steroid hormone DHEA and hormone replacement therapy for women. Kirkwood's more provocative ideas include an evolutionary theory to explain menopause and his argument that cancer is an accidental throwback to "immortal" cell-growth mechanisms that were meant to be switched off. He concludes with a weak science fiction scenario in which aging has been conquered and babies are created infrequently to replace individuals who die from accident or suicide. Agent, Felicity Bryan. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Of the many recent books on why and how we age, this is one of the best written. Kirkwood (biological gerontology, Univ. of Manchester) explains complex scientific concepts in a clear, entertaining, and personal way. In one example, he effectively uses an examination of causes of death in a remote Ghanaian village to explain how and why our lifespans in First World countries are so different from those of our ancestors. Among the topics he addresses are the evolutionary advantage of aging, the relationship of aging and cancer, why women live longer then men, Alzheimer's, and the future of gene therapy. He also addresses how to prolong life or at least improve the quality of it in later years. Unfortunately, there are no references to published research, though there is a bibliography. This is an asset to public libraries, but those preferring references might consider either Stephen Austad's Why We Age (Wiley, 1997) or John J. Medina's The Clock of Ages (LJ 3/15/96).--Marit MacArthur, Auraria Lib., Denver Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
John Horgan
Kirkwood is a charming, chatty guide, who leavens his text with vivid metaphors and fun facts....We can live longer, healthier lives, he says, by adhering to the sensible old standbys...
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A conversational, intelligent look at the current understanding of how and why biological aging occurs, along with some suggestions for how to stay healthy in old age. British gerontologist and World Health Organization advisor Kirkwood challenges two commonly held ideas about aging: first, that it is inevitable ("because we just have to wear out"), and second, that it's necessary (because if some of us don't die, the world will become "hopelessly crowded"). The truth is infinitely more complicated, and Kirkwood, in a comfortable, entertaining, but not oversimplified style puts readers straight on what is currently known about the aging process at the cellular and higher levels. Along the way, he looks at related issues of interest: what goes wrong with the body when cancer occurs (and how cancer interacts with aging), the meaning and mechanisms of menopause, why eating less may mean living longer, why women continue to live longer than men, and what part genetics plays in longevity (says Kirkwood, "Length of life is influenced by many things, including purely random factors like car accidents"). Kirkwood is an amiable, intelligent guide at the forefront of a fast-changing field. His is an entertaining and informative look at our current understanding of aging.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195139266
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Kirkwood is Professor of Biological Gerontology at the University of Manchester and Director of the Manchester-Newcastle Joint Center on Aging. He is a member of several international editorial boards and scientific committees, an adviser to the World Health Organization, and winner of the Heinz Karger Prize on cellular aging. Mr. Kirkwood lives in Manchester, England.

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Table of Contents

1 The funeral season 1
2 Attitudes to ageing 12
3 What's in a name? 22
4 Longevity records 39
5 The unnecessary nature of ageing 52
6 Why ageing occurs 63
7 Cells in crisis 81
8 Molecules and mistakes 100
9 Organs and orchestras 118
10 The cancer connection 147
11 Menopause and the big bang 161
12 Eat less, live longer 174
13 Why do women live longer than men? 184
14 The Genie of the Genome 196
15 In search of Wonka-Vite 212
16 Making more time 230
Epilogue 243
Notes 257
Bibliography 261
Index 269
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