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Transhumanism and a Cure for Depression – Article by Arin Vahanian

Transhumanism and a Cure for Depression – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


In the quest to transcend humankind’s limits and take humanity to its next level of development physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, much is written and discussed about topics such as life extension and human augmentation. And this is for good reason, as humans have strived, since the beginning of time, to overcome their limits, do more, and be better. This includes, of course, living longer and healthier, which is among the most noble of all human goals.

However, in the midst of all this, there is a topic that is seldom discussed in Transhumanist circles, and that is the topic of depression, a condition which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), affects more than 300 million people worldwide.

Making matters worse is the fact that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, a major contributor to disease, and in some cases, leads to suicide.

Given these facts, one would think more should be done to combat the plague of depression, but alas, we appear to be stuck with outdated treatments for a condition that cripples large segments of humanity and for many, threatens the very possibility of living longer and healthier.

Contrary to what many people may believe, an individual suffering from depression cannot simply “snap out of it,” and there is, as of yet, no established cure for depression, as there is for diseases such as smallpox. Indeed, depression is a particularly thorny problem to solve for many reasons, which include the fact that diagnosing it isn’t as cut and dried as other conditions, but also that the treatments for it have thus far not been very efficacious.

Those treatments include pharmacological (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft), non-pharmacological (cognitive behavioral therapy), and technological (cranial electrotherapy stimulation) solutions. However, if we are honest with ourselves, the data reveals that what we have been doing hasn’t been very effective, given that depression is on the rise worldwide. According to the WHO, the total estimated number of people living with depression worldwide increased by 18.4 percent between 2005 and 2015 to 322 million. Even if this increase is due to better and more accurate diagnoses, the incidence of depression isn’t decreasing, which is cause for concern.

Given these statistics, it is time to do something other than what has been done before. It is time for a new approach and a new way of thinking when it comes to treating and curing depression. Transhumanism may offer that light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, Transhumanism may very well be humanity’s best hope for a cure for depression, because it leaves no stone unturned in the quest to live a life of fewer limits, as well as improved health, and greater happiness and fulfillment. Imagine what could be done to solve depression if we approached treatment and a cure not in the standard ways, but by harnessing the full power of science and technology to do whatever it takes to assist the hundreds of millions of people who are suffering.

For instance, why is the technology of deep brain stimulation approved for treating Parkinson’s Disease, which, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation, affects 10 million people worldwide, but not approved for treating depression, which affects more than 300 million people globally? Scientific and technological breakthroughs should be leveraged to relieve the suffering of all people, and not just a few. This is the promise of Transhumanism – that all humans are worthy of a cure for what ails them, and therefore, all people inflicted with depression should get the help they need so that they can transcend the condition that threatens to wreck their lives.

Why is it that the most commonly-prescribed treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which are the SSRIs Paxil and Zoloft, require daily dosing for many weeks to months, and have little to no effect in curing PTSD? On the other hand, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), has been proven to treat PTSD successfully in two to three sessions, yet it remains illegal as a Schedule 1 drug. This is the promise of Transhumanism – that we should look for creative, out-of-the-box ways to relieve suffering, which includes pharmacological, non-pharmacological, technological, and scientific methods.

If we are really serious about curing depression, as opposed to just putting bandages on a gaping wound in humanity’s well-being, we will have to do much more than we are doing right now, and we will have to reassess the way we are treating depression.

But why focus on depression, besides the fact that it destroys the lives of many millions of people and the treatments so far have been ineffective in curing it? Because depression does not care whether you are young or old, whether you are black or white, whether you are rich or poor, and whether you are physically healthy or not. Depression is an equal-opportunity destroyer of life. While heart attacks and pancreatic cancer may end lives quickly, depression ends lives slowly, ruthlessly robbing people of their happiness, sadistically stripping away their dignity, and mercilessly beating and drowning them in a dark, dreary swamp with little hope for a better future.

It is inhuman to ignore the plight of those suffering from depression and to give up the fight for a brighter, happier future for every individual on Earth. Transhumanism not only offers hope for a better future through inspiring and motivating humans to transcend their limits, but it also encourages us to look at problems from many different angles, and to dedicate our efforts toward actually resolving the challenges that humanity is facing.

Many Transhumanists are, understandably, focused on life extension and reversing aging, since life is the most precious thing we have. But life is a lot less beautiful when one is trapped in an inescapable labyrinthine nightmare, enfeebling one’s mind and tormenting one with endless movie-like scenes of their perceived past failures. In a sense, some people with depression feel there is not much point in attempting to extend their lives when they are continuously engulfed in profound sadness.

But the truth of the matter is that it is not people suffering from depression who have failed; it is we as a society who have failed them.

One of the ways we can rectify this situation and offer a real solution for those battling depression is by advocating for and creating breakthrough technologies and medicines that will successfully treat and cure this dreadful condition that has ruined so many precious, promising lives. Transhumanism is not just about advocating for life extension, it is also about advocating for a better quality of life through leveraging advances in science and technology to treat conditions such as depression.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

The First Step Toward Reversing Aging and Curing Disease – Article by Arin Vahanian

The First Step Toward Reversing Aging and Curing Disease – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


The dawn of every new year brings renewed hope and numerous promises made by individuals across the world to improve their lot in life, whether through increased exercise, a new diet, or a career change. However, according to extensive research conducted on the topic, most of these resolutions are seldom kept long-term, and many people eventually revert back to old habits and modes of thought.

While failing to keep a promise to oneself to find a new job may not have catastrophic consequences for that person, an entire society or parts of the world falling short of goals such as reversing climate change may have disastrous implications for the rest of the world.

However, this article isn’t necessarily about saving the world. It’s about a topic that is very near and dear to me; specifically, personal responsibility, especially when it comes to longevity.

Whether we read about this topic, discuss it with others, watch interviews with experts and laypeople, or read polls, almost everyone would agree that the idea of living longer and healthier is very appealing to them.

Why is it, then, that observing people’s actions reveals that many of us do things that will prevent us from living longer and healthier? Why do so many people who claim longevity is important to them turn around and engage in behaviors such as overeating, smoking tobacco products, not exercising regularly, and so on?

Thankfully, there are some people out there who take longevity and health seriously, and these individuals eagerly follow new developments and hope for the scientific breakthroughs that will finally reverse aging and cure debilitating diseases that have plagued humankind for so long.

However, the first step toward curing disease and reversing the process of aging does not start with the chemists who come up with new medicines or the gerontologists who study aging or the governments that fund projects; it starts with the individual.

If you don’t believe me, simply take a closer look the next time you are at a restaurant or supermarket and observe what many people are purchasing and putting in their bodies. You may well be shocked at the sorts of things we are consuming on a daily basis. Several decades ago, there was a fear that humanity would face starvation on a global scale, but that threat never materialized. In fact, we now have far more food than we know what to do with. Indeed, our problem isn’t that we do not have enough food, it is that we have too much food, and too much of what we consume is unhealthy, thus reducing our life span and health span.

Even if we may not want to admit it, the first step toward living a longer and healthier life is entirely in our hands.  The actions we take on a daily basis determine, in no small part, whether we can put ourselves in a situation to take advantage of the advances in medicine and technology that may cure us of disease and reverse the process of aging in our bodies and minds.

In my humble opinion, it is irresponsible for someone to neglect their health and well-being while at the same time waiting and hoping for a cure for aging or disease. There is, currently, no magic pill one can take that will cure them of poor health or magically reverse aging. Thus, the impetus is on each person to do all they can to take care of themselves and their health, while the organizations and individuals that are working on curing disease and reversing aging come up with the requisite scientific and technological breakthroughs. In fact, we could even argue that in addition to managing one’s health and diet very closely, we should do more to support the organizations and individuals dedicated to curing disease and reversing senescence, but that is perhaps another topic for another time.

Of course, by focusing on personal responsibility, I do not wish to ignore the numerous situational and socioeconomic factors that may contribute to people being unable to fully take responsibility for their health. Some people, due to conditions such as extreme poverty, are not in a position to take control of their lives in the way those of us in developed countries are able to. Similarly, though, I do not wish to ignore the plight of many residents of developed countries who face hardships (of the medical variety or otherwise) every day that prevent them from fully taking the advice in this article. Life is not black-and-white, but rather, gray, and I would never advocate for the law of the jungle in any society.

Thus, I also want to make clear that we as a society should do whatever we can to ensure that people who need medical care receive the care that they need, in a cost-effective and dignified manner. In a world of abundance, there is no reason why people suffering from curable conditions (or otherwise) should go untreated, and no reason why anyone should be bankrupted by medical bills. However, these are not the persons I have dedicated this article to. A tragedy of modern life is that so many people are easily able to make changes in their life that would lead to a healthier and longer life, but instead choose to not do so, and continue engaging in destructive behaviors.

Regardless of your views on disease and aging, it is not unreasonable to say that we should, at the very least, do whatever is in our power to take care of our own health.

Therefore, the next time you think about gorging yourself on donuts and guzzling the soda offered at the next company party, you might want to reconsider, because what many people are eating and drinking is literally killing them.

The next time you decide to sit at home and watch TV instead of doing 20 minutes of light exercise at the park or the gym, remember that lethargy has consequences.

The next time you tell yourself “I’ll quit smoking someday,” or “I’ll start exercising when I have more time,” please pause for a moment and ask yourself whether you are really being honest.

I do not wish to insinuate that we should try to be perfect all the time when it comes to health, diet, and exercise. Indeed, there is no way to get it right all the time, and the occasional piece of cake or glass of beer won’t derail your journey toward good health if you’re consistently and methodically taking good care of yourself. Rather, what I believe we should strive for is doing the best that we can on a daily basis, and if we need to make minor changes, to take small steps toward improvement every day.

There is a famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi that goes, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I agree wholeheartedly, and would add that we must be the change we wish to see in ourselves. Because no one is more responsible for your own personal well-being than you. And no one can do as much for your own longevity as you can.

Arin Vahanian is Director of Marketing for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Exercise is Currently the Best Way to Slow Down Aging – Article by Michael Falk

Exercise is Currently the Best Way to Slow Down Aging – Article by Michael Falk

Michael Falk


Editor’s Note: In this article, Mr. Michael Falk explains how exercising slows down aging. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

                   ~ Kenneth Alum, Director of  Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, January 25, 2018

We have all heard that exercise is good for our health. However, it can not only keep you healthy, it can also slow down some aspects of aging. Some researchers even think that it might be possible to use this knowledge to develop new therapies against aging. While waiting for that to happen, we need to exercise in order to slow down the effects of aging.

How important is it to keep fit?

So, how beneficial is exercising? Well, one of the best studies conducted on this subject showed that women will live 5.6 years longer and men 6.2 years longer if they exercise between 1 and 2.5 hours per week [1]. This makes exercise a better lifestyle choice than any other, at least as long as you’re not counting avoiding downright dangerous behavior, such as smoking.

The main benefits of physical activity may come from better health for the heart. Exercise lessens the risk for many types of heart disease [2]. It is even more beneficial for people who already suffered age-related conditions, including stroke and coronary heart disease, and it is more effective than any known drug in preventing repeated episodes [3].

The key improvements also include increased muscle strength, stronger bones, better weight control, and improved cognitive function. This means less risk of age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, as well as lethal falls, which are a major risk for the elderly.

The conclusion is that exercise helps with a lot of different aspects of your health in several ways, and we can summarize its effects as improving quality of life and increasing healthspan.

How much exercise do you need?

More exercise does not always improve outcomes. Professional athletes exercise more than the rest of us, and they generally live longer than the average person [4]. However, correlation isn’t causation, and robust individuals are perhaps more likely to become athletes, instead of the other way around. There could even be negative effects from too much exercise, although that is far from certain.

Even moderate exercise leads to better health. Half an hour a day seems to be enough to see positive effects, and it is also a common recommendation for the minimum amount of exercise you should get. The biggest difference can be seen between people who hardly move around at all and people who get at least a little exercise a few times a week. Taking the stairs and walking short distances is clearly better than nothing. In fact, some studies show that even light activity, such as housework, can have an effect on mortality risk.

It should also be noted that there are different types of exercise and that these could have different benefits. Jogging increases your aerobic ability, which should, among other things, lead to better heart health. Lifting weights is an anaerobic exercise that improves strength and should bring other benefits, such as stronger bones. A lot of research about this has been done already, but so far, we don’t definitively know the optimal amount and type of training for each particular type of person.

Drugs to mimic exercise

Some of the positive effects have to do with the anti-inflammatory processes that occur when exercising [5]. Other mechanisms appear to be involved, although more research on these mechanisms is needed.

Since the advantages of exercise are clear, the idea has occurred to some researchers that it may be possible to mimic the effects of exercise without doing the hard work and getting sweaty. Research is now being conducted using drugs that target the same mechanisms to try to get the same benefits of exercise.

This typically involves adjusting a part of the human metabolism, which is not an easy matter. However, there have been at least some tentative breakthroughs already, and last year, a team found a drug that boosted the endurance of mice by roughly 70 percent [6]. Where this might lead in the future is not clear, but some positive effects may come from this research.

Will exercise lead to longevity?

Even though exercise is beneficial for your health, there is no guarantee it will keep you alive until you reach 100, although staying fit will almost certainly improve your chances. This is why if we want to remain in good health and live longer, we need to develop rejuvenation biotechnology and therapies that address the aging processes directly. That said, if you want to increase your chances of living long enough to see these therapies arrive, then exercise is the best option you have right now.

Literature

[1] Schnohr, P., Lange, P., Scharling, H., & Jensen, J. S. (2006). Long-term physical activity in leisure time and mortality from coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and cancer. The Copenhagen City Heart Study. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation, 13(2), 173-179.

[2] Jakovljevic, D. G. (2017). Physical activity and cardiovascular aging: Physiological and molecular insights. Experimental Gerontology.

[3] Naci, H., & Ioannidis, J. P. (2013). Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: metaepidemiological study. Bmj, 347, f5577.

[4] Lemez, S., & Baker, J. (2015). Do elite athletes live longer? a systematic review of mortality and longevity in elite athletes. Sports medicine-open, 1(1), 16.

[5] Fan, W., Waizenegger, W., Lin, C. S., Sorrentino, V., He, M. X., Wall, C. E., … & Auwerx, J. (2017). PPARδ Promotes Running Endurance by Preserving Glucose. Cell Metabolism, 25(5), 1186-1193.

[6] Dimitrov, S., Hulteng, E., & Hong, S. (2017). Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β 2-adrenergic activation. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 61, 60-68.

About Michael Falk

Michael Falk is a communication specialist with 15 years of experience writing about healthcare and technology. He has been an advocate of longevity research since 2013, when he started his longevity blog Unggamma (www.unggammal.se).

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

In 2014, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting increased healthy human lifespan through fiscally sponsoring longevity research projects and raising awareness regarding the societal benefits of life extension. In 2015 they launched Lifespan.io, the first nonprofit crowdfunding platform focused on the biomedical research of aging.

They believe that this will enable the general public to influence the pace of research directly. To date they have successfully supported four research projects aimed at investigating different processes of aging and developing therapies to treat age-related diseases.

The LEAF team organizes educational events, takes part in different public and scientific conferences, and actively engages with the public on social media in order to help disseminate this crucial information. They initiate public dialogue aimed at regulatory improvement in the fields related to rejuvenation biotechnology.