If you take a multivitamin or exercise regularly, you’re already familiar with life extension.

Life extension is the practice of slowing or stopping aging with the goal of extending the number of healthy years.

There are a number of approaches to achieving this goal. Dietary and exercise interventions are probably the most common, but these have not proven to offer dramatic lifespan improvements.

For dramatic improvements, researchers are currently pursuing four main areas:

  • Genetic therapy: Scientists have identified genes associated with aging. By turning off such genes or enhancing the effects of genes that promote health, they could create effective anti-aging therapies.
  • Caloric restriction: By reducing the number of calories laboratory animals consume while ensuring adequate nutrition, scientists have consistently shown that caloric restriction extends healthy lifespan. While there have been no large-scale human trials, many life-extensionists practice caloric restriction.
  • Telomere therapy: Telomeres cap chromosomes in cells and get shorter with each cellular division. When they’re gone, cells die. Telomere therapy aimed at slowing or stopping telomere shortening could prolong cell life. Since cell death underlies aging, this strategy could prove successful.
  • Hormone therapy: From estrogen and testerone to melatonin, hormones play an important role in health and aging. Using hormone replacements or supplements may therefore help people extend their healthy years.