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Chasing longevity Essay

To work together on the article, we chose to alternate turns, each first reading out a passage and then summarizing what he had read to the others.

As future speech therapists, we will often be in contact with and assist elderly people. This is why we follow neurology classes on aging to explain the normal and pathological losses related to that process. We are also asked to do an internship in an elderly residence to get better acquainted to aging issues.

Due to our future profession, we are particularly concerned with people experiencing several cognitive declines, mostly due to neurological degenerative condition, such as Parkinson or Alzheimer diseases. Aging implies a multidimensional process of physical, psychological, and social changes that impact each of us even if the consequences may differ drastically from one individual to an other. In class, we learned that some people called “extra normal” seem to escape that process and an article in the last National Geographic review called my attention. It is entitled “Chasing longevity” and presents scientific researches on centenarians.

Mankind has always cherished the idea that it could reach immortality. Our culture bears the marks of this quest, such as the myth of the Fountain of Youth, which could restore the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters; or Faust’s pact with the Devil to remain eternally young.

Even though we all know we will not escape death despite those beautiful or frightening stories, we may consider reaching a very advanced age in a good shape. Few would reject the possibility to add twenty healthy years to their life.

People having a lifespan of more than a hundred years do exist and scientists regularly undertake researches to understand the secret of those happy few. In recent years, researchers have travelled throughout the globe to find the keys to long life. Scientists have focused on regions where people live significantly longer such as in Sardinia or on the islands of Okinawa in Japan where some demographers found hot spots of longevity in villages where
an amazing rate of men and women reach the age of 100.

Usually, scientists link a long life expectancy with a specific poor diet including mostly fruits and vegetables. In fact, it seems that food restriction could be the key to longevity, as eating sparingly helps to maintain a general good health. Recently researchers have concentrated their attention on the genetic factors that could explain longevity. Small genetically isolated communities scattered around the globe present a high rate of centenarians. The article studied presents a population touched by the Laron syndrome, which is a type dwarfism caused by an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by an insensitivity to growth hormone. The main symptoms are a particularly high resistance to diabetes and cancer and a short stature.

The majority of cases are from Arabic or Semitic origin, mostly living in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and some remote villages in Ecuador.

Many theories suggest that ageing results from the accumulation of damage to DNA in the cell. Because DNA is the basis of any cell structure or function, damage to its molecule can provoke the cell death. This process seems to be delayed by the weakness of the growth hormone receptor in the Laron population. Geriatricians and geneticists are still analyzing the Laron’s genome to discover more genetic clues to their immunity against cancer and diabetes.

All these studies tend therefore to demonstrate that a long life begins with the right genome. These cases of extreme resistance against lethal diseases concern however a very restricted percentage of human population; and until genic therapy is developed, a balanced life style is still the best protection the best bet for a long and health life.


to get better acquainted to : v. to be able to understand or recognize something centenarian : n. One who is 100 years old or older.
hot spot : n. A place of more than usual interest, activity, or popularity mankind : n. The human race : the totality of human beings
lifespan : n. The duration of existence of an individual
geriatrician : n. A specialist in geriatrics
geneticist : n. A biologist who studies genetics
scatter : v. To distribute irregularly


neurological degenerative : ˌnjʊə.rəˈlɒdʒ.ɪ.kəl dɪˈdʒen.ər.ə.tɪv psychological : saɪ.kəlˈɒdʒ.ɪ.kəl
extra : ˈek.strə
chase : tʃeɪs
regularly : ˈreɡ.jʊ.lərli
vegetable : ˈvedʒ.tə.bl̩
diabetes : ˌdaɪəˈbiː.tiːz

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