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J Physiol Anthropol. 2007 May;26(3):365-72.

Senescence, aging, and disease.

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The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 432-1364, USA.


All over the world people are surviving into their seventh and later decades of life more frequently today than ever before in human history. Some remain in good health, while others show chronic degenerative conditions (CDCs), frailty, and relatively rapid mortality. Thereafter, multiple factors promoting health and well-being become ever more complex as we age. After attainment of reproductive maturation, many physiological decrements occurring in concert with age reflect both senescent and disease processes, not simply the passage of time. Senescence is a process that begins with DNA, molecules and cells and ultimately terminates in cellular death, loss of organ function, and somatic frailty. These changes are different from benign changes with age that do not alter function. Both differ from the pathological processes represented by disease. Either disease or senescence may be age-related, but neither is age-determined. Disease results from pathological alterations and it affects all age groups. Diseases need not be related to senescence, which includes alterations due to inherent aspects of organismal biology. Distinctions among senescence, aging, and disease blur for the late-life CDCs because, in addition to disease processes, many CDCs are phenotypic manifestations of senescing DNA, organelles, cells, and organs. During earlier epochs of human evolution, greater environmental exposures and fewer cultural buffers likely lead to greater frailty and mortality before senescence progressed greatly, as they still do for most animals. In modern-day settings, culturally patterned behaviors have allowed human frailty to become disconnected somewhat from mortality, unlike non-human species.

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