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When I read recently that Canadians
are living longer than they used to and
that we share such longevity with only
a few other countries in the world, I
decided to pursue this information
and determine the reasons for our
good fortune. Statistics Canada reports
that, as a result of its census of 2007,
the Canadian life expectancy was 80.7
years, 78.3 years for men and 83.0 years
for women. At age 65, seniors, having
escaped the health and safety risks of
their youth, had a life expectancy of
another 20 years.
I never knew my grandfathers. Both
died at about the time of my birth. But
then that wasn’t unusual. At the time
of their deaths, the life expectancy of
Canadians was only about 60. I can
now probably look forward to seeing
my grandchildren going to university.
With our expectations of a longer life,
we can also expect an increased risk for
the pain and disability that can come
with age-related chronic conditions
such as arthritis, visual and hearing
impairments, certain cancers, vascular
diseases and dementia.
Living
Longer
Living
Healthier
Medical Discoveries In Our Lifetime:
1930-2012
Health
1930-1940
Beginning in the decade of the 1930s,
insulin
, whichwas discovered in 1922 at
the University of Toronto by the young
Drs. Frederick Banting and Charles Best,
was now being used throughout the
world for Type 1 Diabetes, saving mil-
lions of children and adolescents who
otherwise would have died from their
disease.
Until the 30s, there was no effective
drug to treat infections.
Sulfa
(sulfona-
mide), discovered in 1932, was the first
drug used to treat and prevent infec-
tions in humans.
Scottish bacteriologist Sir Alexander
Fleming’s work during the 1930s in dis-
covering
penicillin
, a product of mould
which had antibiotic properties, finally
led to its production as a medicine dur-
ing the Second World War. More than
10 million persons had died during the
First World War, many of them from
wound infection for which there was
no cure.
Also during the ‘30s
,
vaccines for
diphtheria, pertussis (whooping
cough),
tetanus, yellow fever
and
typhus
were
in common use. In 1937, the first
blood
bank
was established in Chicago, lead-
ing the way to modern collection, stor-
age and use for donated blood.
1940-1950
In 1943, microbiologists Albert Schatz
and Seiman Waksman discovered the
antibiotic
streptomycin,
which was
used in the treatment of tuberculosis
and other infections. The first commer-
cially produced vaccine for
influenza
was used in 1945.
Autism
was first identified by Leo Kan-
ner and research began regarding this
common disorder.
New medical technology for diagnos-
ing and treating many diseases using
radioactive byproducts, as well as the
increased availability of plasma and
blood for surgical cases, led to many
saved lives.
Fluoridation
of water supplies is insti-
tuted in many North American cities,
reducing dental decay.
1950-1960
Although adult
seatbelts
were first
installed in a few vehicles beginning
in 1952, most countries did not require
mandatory use until the 1970s, and
child restraint not until years later. On-
tario was the first province to enact the
law for adults in 1976.
In 1952, Paul Zoli developed the first
pacemaker
to control irregular heart
conditions. Researchers in Great Britain
first described the structure of the
DNA
molecule.
The first
kidney transplant
was per-
formed in 1955.
Jonas Salk in the USA developed the
first
polio vaccine.
1960-1970
The
Sabin oral polio vaccine
was discov-
ered in 1962 and, over the years, polio
has been eradicated in North America
and in most developed nations. Rotary
International continues its successful
aim of eradicating the disease entirely,
by Robert MacMillan MD