Healthspan Happenings: Population Problems, Blood Thinners, and the Dangers of Vaping


Welcome back to Healthspan Happenings, our weekly rundown of what’s going on in the world of longevity research and the science of aging. This week, we’re talking about the risk of overpopulation, the relationship between blood thinners and dementia, and some startling research about vaping and healthspan.


If you think that longer lifespans will worsen the population problem…


You’re a part of the majority. However, a recent argument asks us to question what we mean by a “population problem” or a “population explosion.” Even though rhetoric about overpopulation is everywhere, statistics show that we’re not even replacing the current human population in many parts of the world. For example, if two people have only one child, then they are actually lessening the global population.

Now this isn’t to say that we should introduce a one-child policy. But as the author of this piece states, “Unlike bacteria, humans’ carrying capacity comes less from environmental restrictions and more from our own economic behavior.” What would happen if we managed to make everyone immortal? Well, the population curve would still plateau based on current reproductive trends. Perhaps we lessen our fears of overpopulation. Then,  we can open ourselves up to focusing on the development of healthspan-extending interventions.


If Alzheimer’s is a plumbing problem…


What would happen if we changed the water and not the pipes? Some research suggests that enlarging our arteries (or pipes) could help mitigate Alzheimer’s. But a new study takes a different approach by focusing on the viscosity—or the thickness—of the blood. Here, researchers discovered a clear link between dementia and atrial fibrillation (a condition that occurs when the heart’s rhythm is out of sync). They found that taking blood thinners might actually decrease the risk of dementia.

Like many of these early stage findings, the researchers have just as many questions as answers. They do not know the mechanism at work or even if the relationship is causal. The article urges for “additional efforts…to increase the use of blood thinners among older people with atrial fibrillation.” However, we can’t forget that blood thinners come with risks as well.


If vaping is the cleaner way to smoke…


The dust might actually just take longer to settle. Chronic exposure to e-cigarette vapor stiffens the aorta 2.5 times more than the regular aging process, says a recent study from West Virginia University School of Medicine. Stiffened arteries can be disastrous for your cardiovascular health. And that’s one of the reasons why many people aim to make their arteries more elastic.

Vaping has surpassed all other forms of tobacco use in middle- and high-schoolers. However, we’re still trying to figure out the long-lasting effects of these practices. Considering the young age of this market, researchers might not see vaping-related side effects for decades to come. Let the longitudinal studies begin.