Adapting - not always helpful


Adapting / maladapting

When an organ is affected by disease it responds in a way which, during our evolution, has proved to be helpful in minimising the damage and loss of function. Unfortunately this is not always helpful in a particular case because:

  1. 1.evolution has been going on for a long time and so the adaptations developed in a very different world to the one we now live in

  2. 2.evolution follows what is best in most cases on average but this is not necessarily the best way for our particular situation

  3. 3.evolution is only “interested in” survival up to an age necessary for launching the next generation as any illness affecting older people has little effect on survival of the species and so responses have not been optimised for a long life.   Indeed it may be a positive advantage for the species if most of the older members die off quickly as soon as they become less productive. We, of course, have a different agenda but if we are over 40 we have to recognise that evolution is not on our side here.

We do not have much control over the way an organ adapts - it depends on our genes, age and general health.  Previous organ damage by smoking, alcohol, viral illness or some long term (chronic) diseases such as diabetes can limit the organ’s ability to adapt beneficially.

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