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November 2002

The Endocrinology of Aging and the Brain

Arch Neurol. 2002;59(11):1709-1711. doi:10.1001/archneur.59.11.1709

THERE IS considerable variation in the effect of aging on healthy individuals, with some people exhibiting extensive alteration in physiological functions with age and others little or none. It has been suggested that it might be useful to distinguish between usual and successful patterns of aging.1 Genetic factors, lifestyle, and societal investments in a safe and healthy environment are important aspects of successful aging. Traditionally, the aging process, including the development of physical frailty and a gradual loss in cognitive function toward the end of life, has been considered to be physiological and unavoidable. In recent years, however, it has become evident that it might not be necessary to accept the grim stereotype of aging as an unalterable process of decline and loss.1 As life expectancy increases further in the coming decades, the overarching goal for the coming years should be an increase in years of healthy life with a full range of functional and mental capacity at the last stage of life. Such a compression of morbidity can in principle be achieved in part by healthy lifestyle measures, and these already seem to result in a decline in the prevalence of long-term disability in the elderly population.2

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