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Aging and Death


Death is marked by the end of blood circulation, the end of oxygen transport to organs and tissues, the end of brain function, and overall organ failure. The diagnosis of death can occur legally after breathing and the heartbeat have stopped and when the pupils are unresponsive to light. The two major causes of death in the United States are heart disease and cancer.

Other causes of death include stroke, accidents, infectious diseases, murder, and suicide. While most of these phenomena are understood, the concept of stroke may be unclear. A stroke occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is impaired or stopped, severely diminishing some neurological function. Some cases of dementia result from several small strokes that may not have been detected.

Some people seek to thwart aging and death through technologies such as the transplantation of organs, cosmetic surgery, and cryopreservation (deep-freezing) of the recently deceased in the hope that a future society will have found the means to revitalize the body and sustain life.



Hazzard, William. Principles of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

Nuland, S. How We Die: Reflection on Life's Final Chapter New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.


National Institute on Aging. Building 31, Room 5C27, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2292, Bethesda, MD 20892. (301) 496–1752. <http://www.nih.gov/nia/health/health.htm.> (March 15, 2003).

United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging. (800) 677–1116. <http://www.aoa.dhhs.gov/> (March 15, 2003).

Louise Dickerson


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—The scientific study of aging with regard to its social, physical, and psychological aspects.

Life span

—The duration of life.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adrenoceptor (adrenoreceptor; adrenergic receptor) to AmbientAging and Death - Theories On Aging, Diseases Associated With Aging, Death