Everyone dies of something. Be it disease, accident, or injury, it happens to us all. But, the one thing you can rest assured you’ll never die of is “old age.”
The all-encompassing term has become an increasingly popular one to use by the average layperson to explain the plethora of ways an older person may have passed away. However, it’s a term medical professionals have come to dislike.
“With advances in medicine and technology we can better and more accurately pinpoint causes of death in people, unlike many years ago when people died and doctors were unsure of the cause,” Nodar Janas, MD, a physician at Upper East Side Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, told Reader’s Digest.
When people use the term, Dr. Janas said they are likely referring to dying of natural causes. However, he importantly added that there is always a medical reason for a cause of death. For people over the age of 65, that typically means heart disease, cancer or chronic lower respiratory disease.
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As LiveScience additionally explained, literally nothing dies just from being old. However, through the aging process, “genetic mutations, diseases, and damaging effects of the environment can foster a specific disorder or disease.” As a human ages, his or her cells cannot function at their peak performance, meaning those cells can’t stave off disease or mutation as they use to. Because of this, older people can more easily succumb to illness or injury that a younger person would survive.
So why do we use this colloquialism so often instead of simply saying someone died? According to Dr. Halpern, we use it more to comfort the living than the dead.
“It’s also a nice way to think about it … you don’t categorize someone as ill when you say that,” Dr. Halpern said. “It has a much more peaceful tone to it. Like, they lived a good life, and died of old age.”
If you’re hoping to add a few more golden years to your life, check out these five tips that Harvard scientists say will help you live longer. But, remember, it’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.