• Question: why do we die??

    Asked by whstephanie to Anil, Blanka, Cees, Emma, Mike on 4 Jul 2012.
    • Photo: Michael Cook

      Michael Cook answered on 4 Jul 2012:

      Lots of things can cause a human being to die, but the primary reasons are normally that our heart stops beating and we stop breathing air. Oxygenated blood keeps all of our systems working, and without that we can’t live!

      If you mean why can’t we live forever, well, that’s a bigger question! But there is a sort of maximum limit on how long we can live – although some parts of our body are regenerated and made new by our bodies (like our skin and hair) other parts can’t be replaced, and so over time they become worn out and don’t work as well. Humans can still live for a very long time (it’s quite likely that your generation will see lots of people live to age 100!) but unfortunately not forever!

    • Photo: Blanka Sengerova

      Blanka Sengerova answered on 4 Jul 2012:

      As we get older, the body cannot as readily make new cells and the cells that are present die (scientifically this is called apoptosis). Some organs can regenerate whilst you’re alive but you gradually lose the capacity as you get older, so eventually you die of organ failure or when bits of the body start becoming used up.

      Philosophically speaking, once we reproduce, we have done what we need to do to pass on our genes and it’s OK to die. In fact, older members of a species are a burden to the species because they use up resources so it’s a natural progression that older members of a species die. Of course human society no longer works this way…

    • Photo: Emma Trantham

      Emma Trantham answered on 4 Jul 2012:

      I think Mike and Blanka have beaten me to it with really good answers!

      Generally we die because something stops working:

      -our heart stops beating so blood carrying oxygen doesn’t get round our bodies any more
      -we stop breathing for some reason meaning blood doesn’t pick up any oxygen
      -another organ ‘fails’ like our liver or kidneys meaning that lots of toxins build up (but generally this still kills us by stopping us from getting oxygenated blood around our bodies)