(video coming soon)

Health as a Positive Vitality—Not Merely the Absence of Disease

Today medicine is at a crossroads. Although medicine has successfully contributed to the development of the science of disease diagnosis and treatment during the past four decades, it has not been as successful in promoting healthy aging.

A majority of the aging population expects that they will never actually cease being active and will continue to engage in multiple activities, travel the world, meet exciting new challenges, and be available as catalysts for social change as they grow into their 70s and 80s. This is not a health as the absence of disease model, but rather health as a positive, achievable vitality model.

James Fries, MD (Stanford University Medical School researcher in the processes of aging) explains that much of the loss of function associated with disease among older individuals is a consequence of the progressive loss of “organ reserve.” When we are young, there is a reserve of organ function beyond that which is necessary for the baseline requirements of most organ systems.

As we age, however, we lose organ reserve; stresses that we could have once accommodated now exceed our resilience, which results in health crises. Fries emphasizes that organ reserve is related to biological age. As we lose organ reserve, our biological age increases, making us more susceptible to disease. But it does not have to be that way! We can modify how quickly we lose organ reserve and undergo biological aging through changes in lifestyle, environment, and nutrition. It is now recognized that 75 percent of our health and life expectancy after age 40 is modifiable on the basis of such choices.