Are the elderly guaranteed to die to cancer or heart disease

If a person lives long enough and avoids other diseases like fractures or sepsis, are they guaranteed to eventually get cancer or heart disease and die of it?

My point is that, are heart disease and cancer guaranteed to happen if you live long enough? Are there other diseases (Alzheimers maybe) that are guaranteed to happen if you live long enough?

You may need to be more specific. I think we can say with reasonable certainty that if someone doesn’t die of anything other than X, then X must be what kills them.

In the extreme case, if we allow “anything other than X” to include either atomic decay, heat death of the universe, or the “big crunch” as appropriate, then your statement is a certainty: If “the end” doesn’t kill them, then something else must have, and we’ve disallowed everything except heart disease and cancer, so it must be one of them.

Alternatively, you might be asking: “Given that we could eliminate all causes of death other than heart disease and cancer, would immortality be possible?” I still think it would be a hard question to answer: certainly there’s some nonzero chance of never acquiring HD or C in a “standard lifetime,” (certainly people die at very old ages of other things: accident, stroke, Alzheimers, pneumonia…). But it seems that over “infinite” time, yes, you’d be guaranteed in a practical sense to get whatever diseases were left.

Another interesting possible take on your question: “If we could eliminate all causes of death other than HD & C, what would average life expectancy be?” That might have a factual answer, which I don’t know but would love to hear.

I think generally speaking it might be truer to say “if you don’t die of anything else you die of pneumonia”, probably partly because you get one of those other things. Of course that’s not the kind of disease that heart disease or cancer is, but they used to call it the “old man’s friend” for a reason.

When Jean Calment died at the age of 122, no specific cause of death was given. I suppose she might have actually died of a heart attack or cancer, but she might have died of stroke, pneumonia, or other causes too.

Since cancer is largely a matter of sufficient mutations accumulating within cells, and thus to a degree the result of chance processes, I would say that it is not inevitable except in a probabilistic sense.

As for heart disease, I don’t know how inevitable it is.

I started a thread a while ago about this very subject. Basically, pneumonia is the one that will eventually catch up to everyone (if you’ve managed to avoid heart disease, cancer, etc). Granted that is a gross oversimplification but that’s my opinion on the subject - and it seems that Zsofia agrees too.