Archive for the ‘ageing’ Category

Every hour you run extends your life span by seven hours, a new study has revealed.

Scientists say that running just one hour a week is the most effective exercise to increase life expectancy.

This holds true no matter how many miles or how fast you run, the researchers claim.
For those that take this advice to heart and run regularly, they say you can extend your life span by up to three years.

The study, conducted at Iowa State University, reanalyzed data from The Cooper Institute, in Texas, and also examined results from a number of other recent studies that looked at the link between exercise and mortality.

Scientists found that the new review reinforced the findings of earlier research.
At whatever pace or mileage, a person’s risk of premature death dropped by 40 percent when he or she took up running.

This applied even when researchers controlled for smoking, drinking or a history of health problems such as obesity.

Three years ago, the same team conducted a study that analyzed more than 55,000 adults, and determined that running for just seven minutes a day could help slash the risk of dying from heart disease.

They followed participants over a period of 15 years, and found that of the more than 3,000 who died, only one-third of deaths were from heart disease.

Co-author Dr Duck-chul High-mileage runners also questioned if they were overperforming and if, at some point, running would actually contribute to premature mortality.
After analyzing the data in the new study, scientists determined that hour for hour, running statistically returns more time to people’s lives than it consumes.
In The Cooper Institute study, participants reported an average of two hours running per week.
The amount ran over the course of 40 years would add up to fewer than six months, but it could increase life expectancy by more than three years.

The researchers also determined that if every non-runner who had been part of the reviewed studies took up the sport, there would have been 16 percent fewer deaths over all, and 25 percent fewer fatal heart attacks.

Other types of exercise were also found to be beneficial. Walking and cycling dropped the risk of premature death by about 12 percent.

Dr Lee says scientists remain uncertain as to why running helps with longevity.

But he says it’s likely because the sport combats many common risk factors for early death, including high blood pressure and extra body fat, especially around the middle.

It also raises aerobic fitness, one of the best-known indicators for long-term health.
Running, however, does not make you immortal and the life expectancy rates don’t increase beyond three years.

Improvements in life expectancy generally plateaued at about four hours of running per week, Dr Lee said. But they did not decline.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4405252/Every-hour-run-adds-7-hours-lifespan.html#ixzz4e5eSXAzj

By Jacqueline Howard

Whether you call them gray hairs or stress highlights, world-renowned animal scientist and autism advocate Temple Grandin wants you to know that dogs may get them prematurely, too — possibly when stressed, such as being left at home alone.

Premature graying in dogs may be an indicator of anxiety and impulsivity, according to a study published in this month’s edition of the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, in which Grandin served as a co-author.

Camille King, an animal behaviorist and owner of the Canine Education Center in Denver, noticed a few years ago that many impulsive and anxious dogs seemed to be prematurely turning gray. When King told Grandin about her observations, Grandin said she encouraged King to lead the research.

“The first thing I thought of when she told me that were the presidents, and how they age and get prematurely gray,” said Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University, referring to American commanders in chief.

“The fact that presidents turn prematurely gray was one of the things that made me encourage her to do the study,” Grandin said. “Basically, (the study findings) validated what she had seen in years of doing dog behavior work.”

The study, conducted at Northern Illinois University, involved 400 dogs, 4 years old or younger, with non-white-colored hair so the researchers could adequately determine degrees of graying.

“Normally, dogs wouldn’t be gray at age 4,” Grandin said.

The study, conducted at Northern Illinois University, involved 400 dogs, 4 years old or younger, with non-white-colored hair so the researchers could adequately determine degrees of graying.

“Normally, dogs wouldn’t be gray at age 4,” Grandin said.

Next, the researchers compared the survey responses with how much gray hair appeared on the dogs’ muzzles in their photos.
Grandin helped the researchers build a scoring system to measure the degrees of grayness: A score of 0 is “no gray;” 1 is for gray on the front of the nose only; 2 is for gray hair halfway up the muzzle; and 3 is “full gray.”

It turned out that a high grayness score was significantly and positively predicted by survey responses that indicated both high anxiety and impulsivity.

“Essentially, the results indicate that for each standard deviation increase in the measured trait, either anxiety or impulsiveness, the odds of being in a higher rating category of muzzle grayness increase 40% to 65%,” said Thomas Smith, a professor at Northern Illinois University’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, who was a co-author of the study.

Smith added that he was initially skeptical that a dog’s premature muzzle grayness might be linked to anxiety and impulsiveness.

“However, when we analyzed the data, the results actually were striking,” he said. “I was surprised.”
A similar association between stress and premature graying possibly could be found in other mammals, outside of humans and dogs, but more research is needed, Grandin said.

The new study appears to extend what has been previously seen in people — the relationship between stress and gray hair — to dogs, said Matt Kaeberlein, a professor and co-director of the University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project, who was not involved in the new study.

“There are a few things about this study that I really like. One is that it nicely illustrates another way in which dogs and humans are similar, specifically in this case, the way we interact with our environment to experience stress. I like the innovative approach of applying facial image recognition to dogs,” Kaeberlein said.

“I do think it’s important to keep in mind that while hair graying is a useful ‘biomarker’ of aging and experienced stress, it is not particularly precise. We should avoid interpreting causation from correlation,” he said about the study. “Many dogs and people get gray hair for reasons unrelated to their perception of stress or anxiety, so while anxiety (or) stress appears to cause hair graying, gray hair is not necessarily caused by anxiety or stress. In other words, just because your dog gets gray hair doesn’t mean she or he is stressed out.”

For instance, more research is needed to determine how much genetics might play a role not only in premature graying in young dogs but also how a dog might respond to stress, Grandin said. She added that additional research could also determine how much of the study results were influenced by anxiety and impulsivity, respectively.

“There’s probably some genetic influence where some dogs that are impulsive and anxious don’t turn gray. You see, that would be your genetic interaction, but when you take a big population of dogs, it statistically comes out that anxious and impulsive dogs are more likely to start turning gray before age 4,” Grandin said.

“Genetic factors are important, but genetic factors also can be modified by experience, so you can’t just say an animal’s hard-wired genetics, it’s not. It’s both. Both genetics and the environment are important,” she said.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/23/health/stress-dogs-gray-hair/index.html

by Philip Perry

Researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California have discovered a way to turn back the hands of time. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte led this study, published in the journal Cell. Here, elderly mice underwent a new sort of gene therapy for six weeks. Afterward, their injuries healed, their heart health improved, and even their spines were straighter. The mice also lived longer, 30% longer.

Today, we target individual age-related diseases when they spring up. But this study could help us develop a therapy to attack aging itself, and perhaps even target it before it begins taking shape. But such a therapy is at least ten years away, according to Izpisua Belmonte.

Many biologists now believe that the body, specifically the telomeres—the structures at the end of chromosomes, after a certain time simply wear out. Once degradation overtakes us, it’s the beginning of the end. This study strengthens another theory. Over the course of a cell’s life, epigenetic changes occur. This is the activation or depression of certain genes in order to allow the organism to respond better to its environment. Methylation tags are added to activate genes. These changes build up over time, slowing us down, and making us vulnerable to disease.


Chromosomes with telomeres in red.

Though we may add life to years, don’t consider immortality an option, at least not in the near-term. “There are probably still limits that we will face in terms of complete reversal of aging,” Izpisua Belmonte said. “Our focus is not only extension of lifespan but most importantly health-span.” That means adding more healthy years to life, a noble prospect indeed.

The technique employs induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). These are similar to those which are present in developing embryos. They are important as they can turn into any type of cell in the body. The technique was first used to turn back time on human skin cells, successfully.

By switching around four essential genes, all active inside the womb, scientists were able to turn skin cells into iPS cells. These four genes are known as Yamanaka factors. Scientists have been aware of their potential in anti-aging medicine for some time. In the next leg, researchers used genetically engineered mice who could have their Yamanaka factors manipulated easily, once they were exposed to a certain agent, present in their drinking water.

Since Yamanaka factors reset genes to where they were before regulators came and changed them, researchers believe this strengthens the notion that aging is an accumulation of epigenetic changes. What’s really exciting is that this procedure alters the epigenome itself, rather than having the change the genes of each individual cell.


The mechanics of epigenetics.

In another leg of the experiment, mice with progeria underwent this therapy. Progeria is a disease that causes accelerated aging. Those who have seen children who look like seniors know the condition. It leads to organ damage and early death. But after six months of treatment, the mice looked younger. They had better muscle tone and younger looking skin, and even lived around 30% longer than those who did not undergo the treatment.

Luckily for the mice, time was turned back the appropriate amount. If turned back too far, stem cells can proliferate in an uncontrolled fashion, which could lead to tumor formation. This is why researchers have been reticent to activate the Yamanaka factors directly. However, these scientists figured out that by intermittently stimulating the factors, they could reverse the aging process, without causing cancer. The next decade will concentrate on perfecting this technique.

Since the threat of cancer is great, terminally ill patients would be the first to take part in a human trial, most likely those with progeria. Unfortunately, the method used in this study could not directly be applied to a fully functioning human. But researchers believe a drug could do the job, and they are actively developing one.

“This study shows that aging is a very dynamic and plastic process, and therefore will be more amenable to therapeutic interventions than what we previously thought,” Izpisua Belmonte said. Of course, mouse systems and human one’s are far different. This only gives us an indication of whether or not it might work. And even if it does, scientists will have to figure out how far to turn back the clock. But as Izpisua Belmonte said, “With careful modulation, aging might be reversed.”

In Australia, a University of Sydney study has linked improved cognitive function with stronger muscles using a steady regime of weightlifting exercises. Published in the Journal of American Geriatrics, the study used a system known as SMART (Study of Mental and Resistance Training). A trial was done on a group of patients age 55 to 68, suffering MCI (mild cognitive impairment). This condition is not as serious as full-blown dementia, as people affected only have mild cognitive symptoms not severe enough to disable them from normal daily life.

People who have MCI though are at high risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s with 80% going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease within 6 years. The World Alzheimer Report 2016 has reported that 47 million people globally are affected by dementia related diseases, with an expected three-fold increase by the year 2050. The cost of care is high for these patients, with a focus only on extending the quality of life for those living with dementia.

Weight Training Improves Cognitive Functions

The aim of the study was to measure the effects of different physical and mental activities on the human brain. Researchers examined 100 people affected by MCI. They were divided into four groups, and assigned the activities as seen below:
•weightlifting exercises
•seated stretching exercises
•real cognitive training on a computer
•placebo training on a computer

The weightlifting trial lasted for 6 months with exercising done twice a week. As the participants got stronger, they increased the amount of weight for each exercise. The exercises were done while trying to maintain 80% or greater at their peak strength.

Surprisingly, only the weight training activity demonstrated a measured improvement in brain function. The stretching exercises, cognitive training, and placebo training did not yield any results. This proved a link between muscle strength gained through physical training and the improved cognitive functions. According to Doctor Yorgi Mavros, lead author of the study, there was a clear relationship between mental functions and increased muscular strength. And the stronger the muscles got the greater the mental improvement.

In an earlier study, researchers scanned the brains of older adults after 6 months of weight training. The results mirrored the SMART trial with measured brain growth. Although previous studies have been done that show links between exercise and improved brain functions, the SMART system went into detail on the types of exercise required to get the best results. This study was a first in showing evidence of a link between strength training and improved cognitive functions for people with MCI who were 55 or older.

Delaying or Stopping Aging in the Brain

People increase their chances of brain impairment by not exercising. Exercise can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but also improves cardiovascular health and some other cognitive processes like multitasking.

Doctor Mavros is a strong advocate for encouraging resistance exercises as people start to grow older. The result could be a much healthier aging population. Mavros stressed the need for exercising at least 2-3 time per week at a high enough intensity in order to get the maximum cognitive benefits.

Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh of the University of Sydney wants to discover the underlying process of muscle growth and brain growth and its effect on cognitive performance. The next step is deciding how to prescribe optimal exercise programs to individuals with mild cognitive impairment, and to those who want to prevent MCI.

The authors of the study pointed out that the mechanism behind weight training and improving cognitive impairment has not yet been determined and future study may uncover the secret of delaying or even stopping degenerative aging effects of the brain.

http://www.worldhealth.net/news/stronger-muscles-improved-cognitive-function/

by Elsa Vulliamy

The world’s oldest man has been named as Indonesian Mbah Gotho, who is 145 years old, with documentation that says he was born in 1870.

Mr Gotho said he began preparing for his death in 1992, even having a gravestone made, but 24 years later he is still alive.

He has now outlived all 10 of his siblings, his four wives and his children.

Though his age is impressive, Mr Gotho told a regional news network: “What I want is to die.

For the past three months he has needed to be bathed and spoon-fed, and is becoming increasingly frail.

Mr Gotho has official documentation which shows his age, and the Indonesian records office says it has confirmed his birth date as December 31 1870.

If this is correct, this would earn him the title of the oldest person ever, a title currently held by French centenarian Jeanne Calment, who was 122 when she died – 23 years younger than Mr Gotho.

If the documents cannot be independently verified, however, Mr Gotho will not go down in the record books.

There are a number of people who claim to have broken Jeanne Calment’s record, such as Nigerian James Olofintuyi, who claims to be 171, and Dhaqabo Ebba from Ethiopia, who claims to be 163, but without verifiable documents they cannot be given her title.

The centenarian, from Central Java, says he spends his time listening to the radio, as his eyesight is no longer good enough to watch television.

When asked the secret to a long life, he said: “The recipe is just patience”.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/worlds-oldest-person-man-mbah-gotho-indonesia-145-years-old-a7213191.html

Thanks to Jody Troupe for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

By Amy Ellis Nutt

A recent study by Yale University researchers, published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine, concluded that “book readers experienced a 20 percent reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow-up compared to non-book readers.”

The data was obtained from a longitudinal Health and Retirement Study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. The study looked at 3,635 subjects, all older than 50, whom the researchers divided into three groups: those who didn’t read books, those who read up to 3.5 hours a week and those who read more than 3.5 hours a week.

The findings were remarkable: Book readers survived almost two years longer than those who didn’t crack open a book.

Accounting for variables such as education level, income and health status, the study found that those who read more than 3.5 hours weekly were 23 percent less likely to die during that 12-year period. Those who read up to 3.5 hours — an average of a half-hour a day — were 17 percent less likely.

In other words, just like a healthy diet and exercise, books appear to promote a “significant survival advantage,” the authors concluded.

Why or how that’s the case remains unclear; the research showed only an association between book reading and longevity, not a causal relationship. But the findings are not so surprising. Other recent research showed that reading novels appears to boost both brain connectivity and empathy.

Book buying has increased annually during the past few years. At least 652 million print and electronic books were sold in the United States in 2015, according to Nielsen BookScan, the main data collector for the book publishing industry.

The bad news: Americans barely crack the top 25 when it comes to which countries read the most books. India, Thailand and China are ranked one, two and three by the World Culture Index, while the United States comes in 23rd, behind countries such as Egypt, Australia, Turkey and Germany.

The better news is that 80 percent of young adults in America read a book last year, compared with 68 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Unfortunately, the Yale researchers said longevity was not increased by reading newspapers.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/08/09/the-best-reason-for-reading-book-lovers-live-longer-say-scientists/?campaign_id=A100&campaign_type=Email


Jennifer Lemon, Research Associate, Department of Biology, McMaster University. A dietary supplement containing a blend of thirty vitamins and minerals–all natural ingredients widely available in health food stores–has shown remarkable anti-aging properties that can prevent and even reverse massive brain cell loss, according to new research. It’s a mixture scientists believe could someday slow the progress of catastrophic neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s.

A dietary supplement containing a blend of thirty vitamins and minerals — all natural ingredients widely available in health food stores — has shown remarkable anti-aging properties that can prevent and even reverse massive brain cell loss, according to new research from McMaster University.

It’s a mixture scientists believe could someday slow the progress of catastrophic neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s.

“The findings are dramatic,” says Jennifer Lemon, research associate in the Department of Biology and a lead author of the study. “Our hope is that this supplement could offset some very serious illnesses and ultimately improve quality of life.”

The formula, which contains common ingredients such as vitamins B, C and D, folic acid, green tea extract, cod liver oil and other nutraceuticals, was first designed by scientists in McMaster’s Department of Biology in 2000.

A series of studies published over the last decade and a half have shown its benefits in mice, in both normal mice and those specifically bred for such research because they age rapidly, experiencing dramatic declines in cognitive and motor function in a matter of months.

The mice used in this study had widespread loss of more than half of their brain cells, severely impacting multiple regions of the brain by one year of age, the human equivalent of severe Alzheimer’s disease.

The mice were fed the supplement on small pieces of bagel each day over the course of several months. Over time, researchers found that it completely eliminated the severe brain cell loss and abolished cognitive decline.

“The research suggests that there is tremendous potential with this supplement to help people who are suffering from some catastrophic neurological diseases,” says Lemon, who conducted the work with co-author Vadim Aksenov, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at McMaster.

“We know this because mice experience the same basic cell mechanisms that contribute to neurodegeneration that humans do. All species, in fact. There is a commonality among us all.”

In addition to looking at the major markers of aging, they also discovered that the mice on the supplements experienced enhancement in vision and most remarkably in the sense of smell — the loss of which is often associated with neurological disease — improved balance and motor activity.

The next step in the research is to test the supplement on humans, likely within the next two years, and target those who are dealing with neurodegenerative diseases. The research is published online in the journal Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis.

Journal Reference:
1.J.A. Lemon, V. Aksenov, R. Samigullina, S. Aksenov, W.H. Rodgers, C.D. Rollo, D.R. Boreham. A multi-ingredient dietary supplement abolishes large-scale brain cell loss, improves sensory function, and prevents neuronal atrophy in aging mice. Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/em.22019

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160602095204.htm

By Marlene Cimons

Mary Harada’s father lived to 102, healthy and sharp to the end. She wouldn’t mind living that long, if she could stay as mentally and physically fit as he was. “He died sitting in his chair,’’ says Harada, 80, a retired history professor who lives in West Newbury, Mass. “He was in excellent shape until his heart stopped.’’

She may, in fact, have a good chance of getting there. Longevity experts believe that extreme old age — 100 or older — runs in families, and often is strikingly apparent in families where there are several siblings or other close relatives who have reached that milestone. (Harada’s great-aunt — her father’s aunt — also lived an extremely long life, to 104.)

Moreover, researchers are finding that many of those who live to extreme old age remain in remarkably good condition, delaying the onset of such chronic and debilitating age-related illnesses as cancer, heart disease and diabetes until close to the end of their lives, and a certain percentage don’t get them at all.

“It’s one thing to live to be 100 and quite another to live to be 100 and be in good shape,’’ says Winifred K. Rossi, deputy director of the Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology at the National Institute on Aging. The institute is sponsoring an ongoing study of more than 500 families with long-lived members that involves nearly 5,000 individuals. “Something is going on that has protected them from the bad stuff that causes problems for other people earlier in life.’’

Experts attribute healthy longevity to a combination of good genes and good behaviors. Good behaviors play a greater role than genes in getting you to your mid-to-late 80s — don’t smoke or drink alcohol, exercise regularly and eat healthfully — while getting beyond 90, and to 100 or even older, probably depends more heavily on genes, they say. Families with a cluster of members with exceptional longevity don’t occur by chance, they say, but probably from familial factors they all share.

Growing numbers

Centenarians have become a fast-growing group in this country. In 1980, there were 32,194 Americans age 100 or older. By 2010, the number had grown to 53,364, or 1.73 centenarians per 10,000 people, according to the Census Bureau. This represents a 65.8 percent increase during that period, compared with a 36.3 percent rise in the general population.

Moreover, the number of Americans 90 and older nearly tripled during the past three decades, reaching 1.9 million in 2010, and is expected to more than quadruple between 2010 and 2050, according to the bureau. Globally, the number of centenarians is expected to increase tenfold during that time, according to the aging institute.

This is probably due to numerous factors, among them improved health care, dietary changes and reduced rates of smoking.

“When I started practicing, it was rare to see someone of 100, but now it’s not that strange at all,’’ says Anne B. Newman, director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Pittsburgh. “More people have had the opportunity to get there,’’ largely because of advances in public health and medicine.

But as the numbers of very old have increased and the examination of human genetics has become more sophisticated, researchers have been trying to discover the genetic and biological factors that contribute to a life span of 100 or older and why some centenarians stay healthy for so long. Not surprisingly, what they are finding is complicated and far from a one-size-fits-all answer.

“Aging is not simple,’’ says Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine at Boston University and director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center. “There are many different biological mechanisms involved in aging, so it makes sense that there are different genes involved. We are still in the infancy of figuring this out.’’

Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has been conducting several studies that focus on inherited genetic and biological influences that promote longevity.

In 2003, for example, his team discovered that centenarians, especially women, and their offspring have significantly higher HDL, or good cholesterol, which protects against heart disease, hypertension and metabolic syndrome, a series of risk factors that raise the chances of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Health & Science
Do you think you’ll live to be 100? The answer may be in your genes.
By Marlene Cimons December 14, 2015
Mary Harada’s father lived to 102, healthy and sharp to the end. She wouldn’t mind living that long, if she could stay as mentally and physically fit as he was. “He died sitting in his chair,’’ says Harada, 80, a retired history professor who lives in West Newbury, Mass. “He was in excellent shape until his heart stopped.’’

She may, in fact, have a good chance of getting there. Longevity experts believe that extreme old age — 100 or older — runs in families, and often is strikingly apparent in families where there are several siblings or other close relatives who have reached that milestone. (Harada’s great-aunt — her father’s aunt — also lived an extremely long life, to 104.)

Moreover, researchers are finding that many of those who live to extreme old age remain in remarkably good condition, delaying the onset of such chronic and debilitating age-related illnesses as cancer, heart disease and diabetes until close to the end of their lives, and a certain percentage don’t get them at all.

[Tech Titan’s Latest Project: Defying Death]

“It’s one thing to live to be 100 and quite another to live to be 100 and be in good shape,’’ says Winifred K. Rossi, deputy director of the Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology at the National Institute on Aging. The institute is sponsoring an ongoing study of more than 500 families with long-lived members that involves nearly 5,000 individuals. “Something is going on that has protected them from the bad stuff that causes problems for other people earlier in life.’’

( Martin Tognola for The Washington Post)
Experts attribute healthy longevity to a combination of good genes and good behaviors. Good behaviors play a greater role than genes in getting you to your mid-to-late 80s — don’t smoke or drink alcohol, exercise regularly and eat healthfully — while getting beyond 90, and to 100 or even older, probably depends more heavily on genes, they say. Families with a cluster of members with exceptional longevity don’t occur by chance, they say, but probably from familial factors they all share.

Growing numbers
Centenarians have become a fast-growing group in this country. In 1980, there were 32,194 Americans age 100 or older. By 2010, the number had grown to 53,364, or 1.73 centenarians per 10,000 people, according to the Census Bureau. This represents a 65.8 percent increase during that period, compared with a 36.3 percent rise in the general population.

Moreover, the number of Americans 90 and older nearly tripled during the past three decades, reaching 1.9 million in 2010, and is expected to more than quadruple between 2010 and 2050, according to the bureau. Globally, the number of centenarians is expected to increase tenfold during that time, according to the aging institute.

This is probably due to numerous factors, among them improved health care, dietary changes and reduced rates of smoking.

“When I started practicing, it was rare to see someone of 100, but now it’s not that strange at all,’’ says Anne B. Newman, director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Pittsburgh. “More people have had the opportunity to get there,’’ largely because of advances in public health and medicine.

But as the numbers of very old have increased and the examination of human genetics has become more sophisticated, researchers have been trying to discover the genetic and biological factors that contribute to a life span of 100 or older and why some centenarians stay healthy for so long. Not surprisingly, what they are finding is complicated and far from a one-size-fits-all answer.

“Aging is not simple,’’ says Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine at Boston University and director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center. “There are many different biological mechanisms involved in aging, so it makes sense that there are different genes involved. We are still in the infancy of figuring this out.’’

The average American can expect to live for about 80 years. But that may change as scientists develop new ways to prolong human life. In this game, you will have access to seven promising tools. Play to learn more. Can you make it to 100 years or beyond? VIEW GRAPHIC
Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has been conducting several studies that focus on inherited genetic and biological influences that promote longevity.

In 2003, for example, his team discovered that centenarians, especially women, and their offspring have significantly higher HDL, or good cholesterol, which protects against heart disease, hypertension and metabolic syndrome, a series of risk factors that raise the chances of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

The results, which found HDL levels of 60 and higher within this group — anything lower than 50 raises the risk of heart disease — suggest a heritable trait “that promotes healthy aging,’’ he says. This isn’t surprising, considering that women outlive men overall and — in 2010 — nearly 83 percent of centenarians were female, according to the Census Bureau.

Unusual chemistry

The Einstein researchers also have found that centenarians and their offspring often make unusually large amounts of a peptide (a short chain of amino acids) called humanin, which declines with age in most people and whose loss contributes to the development of Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. This may help explain why those who produce higher levels of humanin enjoy greater protection against those diseases and experience exceptionally long lives. For these individuals, humanin diminishes as they age, too, but the levels are much higher to start with than those of average people.

Barzilai believes the propensity for high levels of both HDL and humanin is heritable: “Offspring of centenarians have higher levels of humanin than their parents. Same with HDL. It declines with age, so it’s more apparent in the offspring.’’

Perls and his colleagues, in a study released almost four years ago, concluded there is no single common gene variant responsible for exceptional longevity. Rather, after examining about 280 gene variations, they discovered a series of gene combinations — nearly two dozen, in fact — that they believe contribute to long lives, “meaning there are different ways to get to these old ages,’’ Perls says. “It’s like playing the lottery. If you get all seven numbers, you’ll hit the jackpot.’’

These genetic groupings also seem to be involved in protecting against developing age-related diseases, since the scientists did not find an absence of disease-causing genes in their study group. “They have just as many as everybody else, which was a big surprise to us,’’ Perls says.

Also, the researchers found that the children of these healthy centenarians stay healthy longer than their same-age counterparts. The offspring of centenarians show 60 percent less heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension, and 80 percent fewer overall deaths when they are in their early 70s, than those who were born at the same time but who do not have longevity in their families.

“They remain incredibly healthy into their 70s and 80s, and their mortality rate is very low, compared to others born at the same time,’’ Perls says.

Perls has studied 2,300 centenarians since 1995, including “super-centenarians’’ of 110 or older, and their offspring. He says about 45 percent of those who reach 100 manage to delay chronic age-related diseases until after they turn 80, and about 15 percent never get them at all.

Furthermore, he found that “semi-super-centenarians’’ — that is, those who are 105 to 109 — and super-centenarians don’t develop those diseases until roughly the final 5 percent of their very long lives. “They are dealing with diseases much better than the average person,’’ he says, who is more likely to develop these diseases in the 60s and 70s.

Many eventually die from the same diseases as non-centenarians, “but they do it 30 years later,’’ Barzilai says.

‘An additional 10 years’

Perls says that if you want to know whether you will live to 100, “you don’t have to do all this complicated genetic testing. Just look at your family and your health-related behaviors.’’ If you engage in healthful practices, you could reach your late 80s. “If you have the genes for longevity and you fight them [with risky behaviors], you will chop time off,’’ he says. “But if there is longevity in your family and you don’t do those things, you might get an additional 10 years past 90.’’

Newman agrees. “Don’t underestimate how powerful lifestyle is in longevity,’’ she says. “Even if longevity runs in your family, your life expectancy still will be more influenced by how you take care of yourself. If you have a centenarian parent, don’t count on living to 100 if you smoke, drink, eat a high-fat diet, and are sedentary and sleep-deprived.’’

Mary Harada thinks less about her genes and more about the unexpected event — breaking a bone, for example — that could make her a burden to her adult children.

“I don’t spend much time thinking about how long I’m going to live,’’ she says. “Whatever happens, happens. I spend more time thinking about how long I’m going to stay in my current house.’’

She has no age-related diseases and always has taken good care of herself. She has been a runner for 47 years, and she lifts weights. She shuns smoking and avoids most processed foods. She lives alone — her husband died last year — and she does most of the maintenance in and around her four-bedroom house, including leaf removal, routine yard work and spending two hours every 10 days in spring and summer mowing a very hilly lawn.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years, and I like living in this house and in this town,’’ she says. “If I could be like my father, and not break anything, I would stay here another five to 10 years. That would be wonderful.’’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/do-you-have-genes-that-will-let-you-live-to-age-100/2015/12/09/1460f234-953d-11e5-a2d6-f57908580b1f_story.html

by Lindsay Peterson

We think of aging as something we do alone, the changes unfolding according to each person’s own traits and experiences. But researchers are learning that as we age in relationships, we change biologically to become more like our partners than we were in the beginning.

“Aging is something that couples do together,” says Shannon Mejia, a postdoctoral research fellow involved in relationship research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “You’re in an environment together, and you’re appraising that environment together, and making decisions together.” And through that process, you become linked physically, not just emotionally.

It’s like finishing each other’s sentences, but it’s your muscles and cells that are operating in sync.

Doctors tend to treat people as individuals, guided by the need to ensure patient confidentiality. But knowing about one partner’s health can provide key clues about the other’s. For instance, signs of muscle weakening or kidney trouble in one may indicate similar problems for the other.

Looking at married couples who were together less than 20 years and couples together for more than 50, Mejia and her colleagues have found striking similarities between partners who have spent decades together, especially in kidney function, total cholesterol levels and the strength of their grips, which is a key predictor of mortality. They presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.

The data came from 1,568 older married couples across the United States. The couples were part of a larger dataset that included information on their income and wealth, employment, family connections and health, including information based on blood tests.

One obvious reason for partner similarity is that people often choose partners who are like them — people from the same stock, with similar backgrounds. But that didn’t explain why there were more similarities between the long-time partners, compared to the others.

To learn more about this element of partner choice versus spending decades together, the researchers analyzed couples by age, education and race. When they accounted for the effect of partner choice, they found that the biological similarities persisted, based on markers in blood tests.

The way Mejia puts it, this likeness includes “something the couples co-created” over time, not just what they started with because they were similar at the beginning.

She’s now studying what may be causing these “co-created” biological similarities. “We’re working on a few things,” she said, such as the effect of partners’ shared experiences and of sharing an environment where they have similar advantages and disadvantages, like the ability to walk in their neighborhoods or find other ways to stay active.

Mejia’s work follows that of Christiane Hoppmann, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver. She and her colleagues found that longtime couples experienced similar levels of difficulty with daily tasks, such as shopping for food, making a hot meal and taking medications. They found the same for depression, and with both depression and daily task difficulties, they found that the couples changed, for better or for worse, in sync.

They also found that the effects crossed over from the mental to the physical. In other words, increases in feelings of depression in one spouse led to more daily task limitations in the other.

Hoppmann and Denis Gerstorf, of Humboldt University in Berlin, suggest that a key factor here could be physical activity. For instance, if a depressed partner refuses to leave the house, the other may feel compelled to remain at home, too. The longer the two remain sedentary, the more vulnerable they become to a range of problems, from worsening depression to diabetes, that can limit their ability to function from day to day.

But the news in these partner studies is not all bad.

William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, has found evidence of the power of optimism. He and his research colleagues studied optimism, in addition to health and activity limitations, in 2,758 older couples in a national dataset. Optimism scores came from a test that measured their level of agreement or disagreement with statements such as “in uncertain times, I usually expect the best.”

The researchers found that over a four-year period, when one partner’s optimism increased, the other partner experienced fewer illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis compared to people whose partners did not become more optimistic. So, “the fact that (your spouse) increased in optimism is good for you,” even if your optimism didn’t rise, Chopik said.

He isn’t sure why this is happening in their study, also presented at the Gerontological Society meeting. He and his colleagues had accounted for age, gender and education differences. He speculates that optimists are more likely to live healthy lives and use their influence over their partners to get them to live healthier, too.

Chopik is currently studying how two partners’ levels of cortisol, a hormone related to stress, change and become coordinated over time. He plans to compare couples whose relationships span at least 40 years to those who have been together for less than two.

These investigations of how couples affect each other’s health are relatively new, particularly the research into the biological changes, and the researchers are still searching for explanations.

Nevertheless, they say, the implications for health care are clear. People in relationships don’t experience chronic health problems on their own. When a spouse comes in with a problem, the other spouse could be part of the cause — or the solution.

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/05/22/478826744/longtime-couples-get-in-sync-in-sickness-and-in-health

Five places in the world are now considered so-called “Blue Zones” – geographic areas where people are living much longer and more active lives. The first Blue Zone identified was Sardinia’s Nuoro province, which researchers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain found to have the greatest number of male centenarians. Four other Blue Zones have since been identified by National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner and his team of longevity researchers. In these Blue Zones people are reaching the age of 100 at a much greater rate than anywhere else in the world. So what exactly sets these places apart from the rest? In his book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Dan Buettner discusses the lessons he learned from the people inhabiting the Blue Zones and what specific lifestyle characteristics allow these people to live longer and better lives.

Ikaria, Greece

The tiny Mediterranean island boasts nearly non-existent rates of dementia and chronic disease and an isolated culture with a focus on socialization. Residents often drink goat’s milk and herbal teas and eat a Mediterranean diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and olive oil. Because this population is comprised traditionally of Greek Orthodox Christians, many fast for nearly half the year (caloric restriction has been linked to a slowing of the aging process in mammals). They also exercise by gardening, walking, or completing yard work but also nap regularly.

Loma Linda, CA

It may be surprising that one of the Blue Zones is located in the U.S., but Loma Linda is home to about 9,000 Seventh-day Adventists who form an extremely close community. Many Seventh-day Adventists adhere to a vegetarian diet rich in fruits and vegetables and consume water and nuts in lieu of soda and unhealthy snacks. They also spend time with family and friends, particularly during the weekly 24-hour Sabbath, and give back by volunteering.

Nicoya, Costa Rica

Besides their diet, the secret to a longer life for Nicoyans may be in their sense of purpose and strong social connections. They eat a traditional diet of fortified maize and beans, drink water with the country’s highest calcium levels, and eat a light dinner early in the early evening. Nicoyan residents often live with family members for support and strongly wish to contribute to a greater good. Their physical work keeps them fit and is embraced in everyday life.

Okinawa, Japan

Although this area is experiencing a decline in life expectancies from the influence of factors like fast food, older residents have consumed a plant-based, soy-rich diet most of their lives and eat pork only for infrequent ceremonial occasions in small amounts. Okinawans spend time outside every day and nearly all grow or have grown gardens (a source of vitamin D and fresh vegetables). It is also traditional to form a moai, or social network, for emotional and financial support.

Shuri Castle in Okinawa, Japan

Shuri Castle in Okinawa, Japan

Sardinia, Italy

Sardinia has nearly 10 times more centenarians per capita than the U.S., which could be attributed to a combination of genetics and a traditional lifestyle. The rare genetic M26 marker is common in this population and has been associated with longevity; due to the geographic isolation of the island, this gene is not prevalent in other areas worldwide. Sardinians eat a plant-based diet with pecorino cheese made from grass-fed sheep that is high in omega-3 fatty acids and drink wine in moderation. Laughter may be good medicine on this island – men in particular here are known for their afternoon laughing sessions in the street.

View of Cala Domestica beach, Sardinia, Italy

View of Cala Domestica beach, Sardinia, Italy