Science has figured out how to freeze the aging process

Medical advances and living standards have extended the average human longevity from 48 years in 1955 to 71 years today, and the elderly are now the fastest growing segment of society. But while our life spans are improving, our health spans are not, writes science journalist Sue Armstrong in “Borrowed Time: The Science of How and Why We Age” (Bloomsbury), out now.

“Over the past 50 years, health care hasn’t slowed the aging process so much as it has slowed the dying process,” she writes, quoting gerontologist Eileen Crimmins.

But now scientists are working to reverse or halt the aging process, which could one day prevent ailments like cancer and heart disease, allowing the elderly a new lease on life. “At the moment,” Armstrong says, “people face the prospect of 15 to 20 years of ill health at the end of their lives. The aim … is to keep you healthy and independent until right near the end.”

First, it’s important to understand what’s happening under our skin as we get older.Over time, our cells keep dividing to help our bodies grow and repair themselves. But after about 50 divisions or so, the cells stop dividing — a mechanism that helps protect us from cancer.

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