Ageing and age-related diseases
Efforts towards achieving an increased healthy lifespan have a long history and have inspired mankind over the centuries. In one of the earliest known literary works, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero sets out on a long and dangerous journey to search for the secret of eternal life to be found in a plant somewhere at the bottom of an ocean.
Today, in view of the worldwide ageing population, understanding the biology of healthy ageing is more relevant than ever. Healthy brain ageing is a major determinant of quality life-long health, since typical age-associated diseases are brain disorders such as cognitive decline, dementia or stroke. Stroke is the third most common cause for disability and invalidism in Europe. Apart from the element of personal tragedy, this situation also has socioeconomic implications: costs for preventive measures, treatment, rehabilitation as well as care consume 4% of the national health budgets. This figure is expected to rise with increase in life expectancy.
A major goal of the European Community is to find ways to ensure that increase in longevity is also accompanied by an improvement in disease-free life expectancy. The question is how can preventive and therapeutic measures delay the onset of typical age-associated diseases? To answer this question, we need to better understand the roots of health and disease in later life.