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We Live Too Short and Die Too Long.

The book is about aging. Not a sad contemplation of life rushing toward a dismal end, but a call for seeing the various stages of "development" as positive, rather than deterioration with accompanying terrors.

Aging is not a disease, Dr. Bortz insists. Often disease does accompany the process of becoming older, but infirmity is not inevitable.

Back in Julius Caesar's time, human life expentancy was approximately 25 years. In 1900 it had risen to the age of 49. The increase in longevity has been explained, says the author, by factors such as decreased infant mortality, eradication of many communicable diseases, and improvements in both nutrition and public hygiene. We live longer, he says, because we are designed to live longer. "And when we control anomalies such as disease, trauma, behavioral maladaptation, and self-destruction, the natural order of our lives prevail."

"I believe the fear of being old and infirm is what keeps us from being old and healthy," the author charges. "My hypothesis comes as a physician who has for decades watched with astonishment as his patients actively avoided all manner of preventive health care.

Dr. Bortz is convinced that what passes as age change is not the inevitable damnation of the elderly but disuse of one's body: abuse and/or the neglect of not using mind, muscle and viscera.

Bortz's book is about aging and living, he explains, and that attaining the biological age determined by our allocation of one million hours and a corresponding ratio number of heart beats, is the reward awaiting almost everyone who is able to play by nature's rules.

"Until now, growing old was an accident, like a dish breaking in the dishwasher," Dr. Bortz writes. "Daily existence was precarious. No one knew how many tommorows there were to be or how to define a coherent life pattern. Such ignorance bred fear; and this accounts for much of what we see today in the starkly negative imagery concerning aging."

He urges us to change our conceptions because present knowledge has given us a broader perspective upon the human lifespan. Enough evidence exists to confirm the optimistic statement that more people reach close to the biological term of 120 years, and for those who don't the probability ofliving into their 80's and 90's is assurable. Bortz's book is abundant with examples of individuals in many different societies who have lived beyond the century mark.

Searching for an anology between known lifespans among various animal species, Bortz cites investigators who affirm a 120 year lifespan for humans. George Buffon, a French biologist, observed the close relationship between the time of skeletal maturity and lifespan in many animal species. He recognized that animals tended to lived six times the period needed to complete their growth. Because skeletal maturity is reached in humans at 20 years of age, the maximum projected lifespan of 120 years is achievable.

Dr. Bortz, citing from experience, notes that from the many autopsies he has personally performed, much evidence reveals that upon death many organs and viscera were not involved in the cause of death. Most of the body has not had the opportunity to live out its alloted time. "In effect," he insists, "no one has been shown to die of "old age.'"

Aging research, until quite recently, has been predominantly the domain of pseudoscientists and quacks. Most medical schools did not include geriatrics in their curriculum. Our society's attitude toward the elderly could have been defined as myopic, they were regarded as transient figures awaiting trasport to another existence.

With more people, however, surging into "old age" (60-80), recognition is sharpening. "There we are -- soon." And, once the insensitive become sensitive to the inevitable, that the next stage is imminent, dying at 60 or 70 becomes a spectre of unfairness. "What about all those years coming to me?" Dr. Bortz utters a collective complaint: "We die too soon!"

We are reminded in Dr. Bortz's formula for aging gracefully that reducing calories can insure a more healthful lifespan. He cites laboratory experiments which seem to prove that alleviating the stress and strain of overeating and its effects upon various organs can contribute to longevity.

Immunological competency and metabolic waste accumalation, he contends, are affected by caloric restriction. The laboratory subjects whose food intake was reduced also showed less cancer occurrence. Dr. Bortz considers the evidence compelling the weight loss and lower metabolic rate make possibly the body's functioning at lower temperature with less loss of energy.

It should be noted that "undernutrition" is not the same as "malnutrition." Bortz emphasizes that such laboratory experiments included a well-balanced intake of nutrients while reduced-calorie meals were being administered.

Until the time is appropriate for such experimetation with humans, the concept for living longer eating less must remain an unconfirmed theory.

"My wonderful old patients are generally in communion with their own aging. They may lament physical losses, but lon the whole they demonstrate a much greater sense of wholeness, of equanimity with life, than do my younger charges," Dr. Bortz writes admiringly.

"Age has its many credits; and wisdom, gained for experienced is high among them," he continues. "To change that which can be changed, rather than batter at the unchangeable. The wisdom to know the difference. This resolve seems particularly evident in my older patients. Sickness always hurts, but it hurts less in the older years."

Bortz continues to dwell upon the philosophical changes that accompany healthful aging. "When we are young," he observes, "how long we have yet to live is all dominant. But as the years tick by, as the million hours pass, how much longer life is yet to be becomes quantitatively less important. Quality gains preeminence, so that by the end of life, content is all that matters. A minute of good becomes an acceptable trade-off for several days of poor life. Quantity and quality cohere."

Dr. Bortz devotes a large part of the book to his central theme, that longevity is a worthwhile goal that can be attained. He credits lifestyle consisting of a positive attitude toward aging together with a truly well balanced diet to be the cornerstone of such success. As a doctor, however, he cautions against too much "doctoring." He believes passionately in encouraging patients to become responsible for their own well-being. Too many people are satisfied with a periodic checkup that reveals no urgent threat and are willing to coast along indulging themselves with alcohol, smoking, stessful lifestyles and debilitating eating habits.

Much emphasis upon the principle "Use it or Lose It" is based on Dr. Bortz's conviction that the tendency to slough off in mental activities, physical exercise, sexual intimacy, and the many other functions that "challenge" the individual are impediments to enjoying the fruits of what longevity can offer.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:The Wellness Encyclopedia.
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