Our average life expectancy has increased from 45 years in the 1850s to nearly 80 years today as a result of medical science. Researchers believe that our life spans will continue to grow, but there is an eventual hard limit.
Advances in medicine that are driving this lengthening life span range across a vast spectrum, including diagnostic developments, medical devices, prescription drugs, and procedures. These medical interventions are joined with healthier lifestyles, a more holistic approach to medicine, and more accurate and earlier diagnoses.
We will take a look at how medical science and technological advances have contributed to our lengthening lifespans.
Healthy Lifestyles and Life Expectancy
We are increasingly more conscious of the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Such a lifestyle comes in the form of improved diet and nutrition, exercising regularly, maintaining our mental and emotional health, and regularly assessing our health.
The healthy lifestyle trends that started with the 1970s running craze and subsequent 80s aerobics craze have more recently grown into fitness and healthcare wearables that allow consumers to monitor their personal health–keeping track of steps, activity, sleep, heart rate, stress, and other vital signs.
The wearables of today span multiple medical and health functions, from fitness trackers to smart health watches, including wearable ECG devices, and blood pressure monitors, biosensors, and more. These devices can collect physical and medical data with various levels of usefulness. They can monitor, analyse, and even predict health and mental well-being when paired with mobile and desktop applications.
The covid pandemic accelerated a growing trend toward telehealth and remote monitoring. This trend can be leveraged to move us in the direction of preventative healthcare for conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
There are now several wearable makers in the healthcare space, including Interplex, that has been a supplier to many manufacturers and disruptive wearable companies. They have a diabetes monitoring system that can help keep patients’ blood sugar levels more standard.
Wearables and Health Diagnoses
Wearables are no longer new to the market, and their usefulness and quality have consistently improved. They collect multiple data points related to one’s health, and when applying professional analysis to the collected data, they are now able to make early detection possible, which helps with disease prevention and in proposing better treatments. Currently, medical laboratories are providing up to 70% of lab testing to physicians in order to provide accurate diagnoses and treatment plans.
Clinical lab testing results for diagnostic decision-making are an essential part of clinical medicine. The selection of laboratory tests available to doctors has grown exponentially since they first surfaced in the 1920s. Now a wide array of tests can diagnose, screen for, and research disease, while others can monitor treatments and therapies to ensure effectiveness. It is now possible to design tests and equipment that fit the exact specifications needed for medical diagnosis, and this has moved into the area of genetic diseases.
Advances seen in medical equipment and treatment protocols have contributed to improvements in patient outcomes. A particular area of advancement is in surgical treatment. This advancement is mainly in a movement toward more precise surgical operations as well as minimally invasive procedures.
Equipment now being used can make cuts with lasers with high precision enabling delicate surgeries to be performed on the brain or eye, or they can even focus radio or other waveforms that ultimately produce surgical-like outcomes below the skin, without the surgeon having to make a single incision.
With these advances, minimally invasive but advanced laparoscopic surgery (keyhole), hysteroscopic surgery, and myomectomies are just a few of the procedures that have resulted from advancements in medical technology. Other medical fields have benefitted from these advances, including neurology, interventional equipment, and cardiology.
Beyond surgical precision and minimal invasiveness, mobile medical technologies are advancing, bringing medical technology and equipment into more hospitals, doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and even homes, making a significant contribution to medical treatment and health outcomes.
Healthcare professionals are increasingly using mobile medical equipment and devices from medical workstations to specialised equipment for telehealth, to deliver medical care to their patients wherever they may be (both patients and medical professionals).
Through the increase in transportable and telehealth solutions, mobile medicine is expanding the reach of healthcare far beyond the traditional hospital and clinical setting. The fields of teleradiology, telenephrology, and telepsychiatry are just a few examples of mobile medicine that have now become more commonplace and will likely continue to grow over the next decade. With advancing technology, more of these “tele” medical fields will be available and contribute to a significant change in the medical industry.
In the future, doctors with specialties will be able to practise much of their medicine from anywhere in the world, not needing to see their patients in person directly. This will be aided by virtual reality, augmented reality, and machines capable of testing, diagnosis, and even surgery from afar. The possibilities are endless in this space, and with 5G and soon-to-be 6G, much of this advancement we will likely see over the next two decades.
Advancements in low-cost sensor tech, dependability, increased data storage and transmission capabilities, and low power consumption has meant that new devices will be possible that can change how we view medicine. With the increasing number of IoT devices coming to market that are connecting our homes, businesses, supply chains, and vehicles, we will also see similar devices for ourselves.
These devices will initially monitor specific health issues, allowing us to identify when a specific problem is occurring and potentially deal with it automatically. This is already happening with Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs).
ICDs are being implanted into patients. In the case of a cardiac event, they are informing medical professionals of a problem and providing a shock to the patient that will restart their hearts and save their lives.
These kinds of devices will expand with the IoT and become more common for many of our common ailments.
In the future, we will likely see devices with multiple functions, such as monitoring, aiding, and preventing devices all in one, able to identify many different ailments when they first become a problem and treat them before they grow in severity.
Much of the life expectancy gains we have seen over the past 150 years have been due to improvements in infant mortality and the advent of antibiotics and immunizations. Now that 1 in 5000 Americans is 100 or over, researchers are investigating the ageing process and how to slow it.
According to biologist Andrew Steele, the author of Ageless, we have been treating medicine in an unsystematic way. We have been focused on the endpoints of ageing, problems like heart disease and cancer, but not addressing the fundamental causes for these maladies.
But this is changing, and medicine is slowly shifting to a holistic approach where we first understand these hallmarks but then come up with treatments that intervene with them directly. This would mean a switch to preventative treatments, which can proceed earlier in life and stop people from getting age-related diseases in the first place.
For example, treatments for cellular senescence (chronic inflammation) already exist that target many redundant cells by killing them, preventing them, or removing them from the body, along with a toxic set of molecules that accompany them, contributing to cancer and heart disease.
These drugs have been shown to help extend the lives of mice, with fewer cancers, cataracts, and heart disease, even making them less frail as they age. Eventually, these same drugs may be given to humans.
We have made several advances in medical science that have extended our lifespans and made us healthier. The technology we are now creating is directly impacting our health, being more connected with our doctors, and allowing us and them to receive information sooner–keeping us healthier.
In the coming decades, we will likely use genetic engineering to prevent genetic diseases from appearing at all. It is an exciting time for the medical field, and we, as patients, will most certainly be the beneficiaries.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely the author’s opinion and not investment advice – it is provided for educational purposes only. By using this, you agree that the information does not constitute any investment or financial instructions. Do conduct your own research and reach out to financial advisors before making any investment decisions.
The author of this text, Jean Chalopin, is a global business leader with a background encompassing banking, biotech, and entertainment. Mr. Chalopin is Chairman of Deltec International Group, www.deltec.io.
The co-author of this text, Robin Trehan, has a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s in international business and finance, and an MBA in electronic business. Mr. Trehan is a Senior VP at Deltec International Group, www.deltec.io.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text are solely the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Deltec International Group, its subsidiaries, and/or its employees.