The National Institute on Aging’s Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) is America’s longest-running scientific study of human aging. The NIH began the study in 1958, when the science of aging was still very new.
This is a long-term study of more than 1,300 residents of Baltimore, Maryland, and they range in age from their early 20’s into their 90’s. This study follows the participants for decades, examining them every 2 years.
Today, the BLSA is known the world over, and has generated thousands of scientific papers. It has also made major contributions to our understanding of what it means to get older.
There is still much to learn from this ongoing study, however there are two major conclusions which can be drawn from the study. The first, and perhaps most important fact is that although aging as a chronological factor cannot be changed, the changes that occur with aging do not always lead to diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or dementia. A surprising number of health problems that usually occur in old age are not an inevitable result of the aging process, but instead are a result of disease processes.
Second, there is no such thing as a predictable timetable of human aging, as we all age differently. In fact, in terms of changes there are more differences among older people than among younger people. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and disease processes all affect the rate of aging between and within all individuals.
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To learn more about this fascinating study, go to https://www.blsa.nih.gov/