When it comes to the future of our overall health, some say that technology has both blessed us and cursed us. On the one hand, technological advancements continue to show us amazing ways in which we can beat diseases and improve our quality of life.

On the other hand, it has encouraged a sedentary lifestyle, which has caused obesity rates (and the illnesses associated with them) to skyrocket, and it has contributed to climate changes that are threatening the stability of our ecosystems. Thanks to this paradox, several probabilities, both good and bad, lay in store for us. Here are five of the most surprising:  

  • Obesity rates will continue to rise. By 2020, 77.6 percent of men and 71.1 percent of women are likely to be overweight. Accordingly, in the future, one in five health-care dollars are forecast to be spent on treating obesity-related problems among people ages 50 to 69, according to the Rand Corporation, a non-profit institution that addresses the challenges of the public and private sectors around the world.  This increase in obesity coupled with a growing lack of exercise and healthy eating has led experts to fear that the cancer rate will double by 2050 and the present generation of children will be the first not to outlive their parents.
  • Scientists will come close to a cure for AIDS. A case in Berlin, Germany has given researchers reason to cheer: A 42-year-old who was suffering from AIDS and leukemia underwent a bone marrow transplant that deliberately used bone marrow cells from a donor with a CCR5 mutation. This type of mutation genetically predisposes a person to be immune from the HIV virus; in the two years since the surgery, tests have yet to detect the virus in the patient's blood despite the fact that he stopped taking AIDS drugs after the surgery. Unfortunately, the transplant surgery has a mortality rate of 30 percent, limiting its viability as a widespread treatment, but scientists hope that further research and advancements in gene therapy will bring us closer to a cure.
  • Climate change could trigger a pandemic. The Wildlife Conservation Society recently released a list of 12 deadly diseases for both humans and animals that could strengthen and spread due to global warming: avian flu, babesia (a tick-borne disease), cholera, ebola, intestinal and external parasites, plague, lyme disease, red tides (harmful algae blooms), Rift Valley fever, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, and yellow fever. As temperatures rise, seasons are disrupted, and precipitation levels fluctuate, the potential for these diseases to affect human and wildlife populations that were once climatically out of reach begins to increase.
  • Soon, we'll be able to make our own organisms. J. Craig Venter, a major contributor to the human-genome-mapping project, recently spliced together man-made substances to create the genome of a living organism. If it proves to be viable, Venter predicts that by combining different manufactured genomes, we can create organisms that can cure diseases, among other things.
  • Doctors will be able to grow new organs from your old stem cells. According to a report published by The Lancet , a mother of two living in Spain received a new windpipe fashioned from a donor's trachea and stem cells from her bone marrow. The trachea was stripped of all its cells, and then relined with cartilage and tissue generated from the stem cells to prevent her body from rejecting the transplant. Doctors are hopeful that successful procedures like these will pave the way to the use of a patient's stem cells to create more complex organs such as the heart and liver.