A new study by scientists from Harvard, USC, Columbia and the University of Illinois found that researching longevity rather than disease would save 7.1 trillion dollars over the next 50 years. (1)
The study suggested that researching health rather than disease would increase the number of healthy adults over 65 by 11.3 million by 2060, while investing in and studying diseases would deliver almost no increase in the number of healthy older adults. (1)
Longer Life, Better Life?
While lifespan has increased over the past 50 years, the main driver of our current state of longer life expectancy is due to costly medical interventions. The study showed that disabled life expectancy is rising faster than total life expectancy. This means that, while we are living longer, we are not living longer in good health. The number of adults over 65 that are dependent on ongoing medical care is rising rapidly. The truth is, the rising costs of elderly care without a growing population of healthy seniors is financially unsustainable.
For example, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive condition in the nation, draining an estimated $214 billion in 2014 with estimates going up to $1.2 trillion by 2050. (2)
In addition to these staggering numbers, in 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated $220 billion in unpaid care to Alzheimer’s patients. (2)
What is amazing about this condition is that according to a 2014 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, Alzheimer’s risk was linked to a rise in fasting blood sugar levels still within normal ranges of 95 mg/dL. (3) It is well established that pre-diabetes and type II diabetes (levels over 126 mg/dL) are in most cases reversible with diet and exercise and could literally save our economy.
Ayurveda and Longevity
One of the main premises of Ayurveda is to not treat the disease, but instead to treat the individual who has the disease. In fact, the study of longevity – called rasayana – is itself one of the eight branches of Ayurveda. Interestingly, rasayana is actually the study of the body’s lymph – a system that western medicine routinely gives little attention to until one is diagnosed with cancer.
Signs of Change
Google has announced plans to launch a company called Calico, dedicated to researching longevity. With $54 million in cash, Google has the muscle to make a huge dent in our health care costs and contribute to more robust, high-quality-of-life-focused longevity.