It's never been a better time to be alive. At least as far as medical advances go. Life expectancy has steadily increased for close to 200 years. The upward trend in life expectancy during the 19th and 20th centuries was due to improvements in housing and sanitation. But from the mid-20th century, the trend continued largely due to advances in science, drug development, and research. 

Today, the average life expectancy continues to increase. Stats analyzed by the World Health Organization showed global gains of life expectancy by as much as 5 years. (For the years between 2000 and 2015.)

Pinpointing where developments have caused increased longevity differs over the years. However, overall, some of the largest advances in combating mortality come from proper treatment for the following:

Hodgkin’s lymphoma
stomach, lung, breast cancer
rheumatic heart disease 
peptic ulcer disease

(Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation)

Often, there is a delay between when the public becomes fully aware of when the tide shifts in a certain direction. This is true when it comes to finding both preventions and cures for long-standing diseases. This is likely due to such news being covered first in scientific journals. And then trickled down to other news outlets as breakthroughs go through the clinical trial phase. Once it gets to awaiting FDA approval, news sources begin to cover what might have been years in the making. Some estimates put the journey between discovery to your medicine closet at as long as 12 years

So what is happening right now on the medical front that just might save or extend your life in a couple years? Here are two exciting new developments that could be instrumental in the future. 

1. An improvement in vaccines.

It should not come as a big surprise that cows are the promising light for vaccine development. After all, it was not too long ago that we were introduced to the idea of antibodies found in cow’s milk. Now, preliminary studies are pointing to cow antibodies as being able to treat a wide range of infectious diseases and ailments. In a study by scientists at Scripps Research Institute, cows – when injected with HIV proteins – were found to produce "antibodies that block HIV infection." 

There is still a lengthy distance to traverse before creating an HIV vaccine for people, which would be the long-term goal. In the short term, cow HIV antibodies are being looked at for possibly reducing virus levels in those who are infected. 

But there is a broader application for this research. Scientists hope that within 5 to 10 years, cow antibodies could be used to treat malaria, autoimmune disorders, and certain cancers. 

2. Going back to plants for innovative medical solutions.

Drug resistant infections have been on the rise and present a troubling problem for drug developers. 

Mostly, antibiotics are a life saver. And pneumonia and tuberculosis are no longer the death-threatening sicknesses they once were. However, stats are telling an alarming tale. An estimated 700,000 people die yearly from infections that are resistant to antibiotics. One former WHO director-general has likened the rise of drug-resistant infections to that of a slow-motion tsunami. 

Cassandra Leah Quave believes the solution is returning to plant derived drugs that often have a long history of effective and safe use. Quave, a medical ethnobotanist at Emory University,  believes that this is a new era of medicine. An era where previously helpful compounds are now losing their effectiveness against microbial infections. 

Ethnobotany is the study of traditional plant knowledge. Quave says, "Humankind shares a long and extensive history in which nature was the major source of cures for various maladies." The advantages of pursuing this line of research is the ability to find and isolate potential chemical properties. This field has famously helped provide us with medicinal superstars, such as aspirin, ephedrine, and morphine.