Now I might just get the stash cut down a bit.
Reaching 100 is easier than suspected
By LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer
1 hour, 59 minutes ago
CHICAGO - Living to 100 is easier than you might think. Surprising new
research suggests that even people who develop heart disease or
diabetes late in life have a decent shot at reaching the century mark.
"It has been generally assumed that living to 100 years of age was
limited to those who had not developed chronic illness," said Dr.
William Hall of the University of Rochester.
Hall has a theory for how these people could live to that age. In an
editorial in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine, where the study
was published, he writes that it might be thanks to doctors who
aggressively treat these older folks' health problems, rather than
taking an "ageist" approach that assumes they wouldn't benefit.
For the study, Boston University researchers did phone interviews and
health assessments of more than 500 women and 200 men who had reached
100. They found that roughly two-thirds of them had avoided
significant age-related ailments.
But the rest, dubbed "survivors," had developed an age-related disease
before reaching 85, including high blood pressure, heart disease or
diabetes. Yet many functioned remarkably well -- nearly as well as
their disease-free peers.
Overall, the men were functioning better than the women. Nearly three-
fourths of the male survivors could bathe and dress themselves, while
only about one-third of the women could.
The researchers think that may be because the men had to be in
exceptional condition to reach 100. "Women, on the other hand, may be
better physically and socially adept at living with chronic and often
disabling conditions," wrote lead author Dr. Dellara Terry and her
Rosa McGee is one of the healthy women in the study who managed to
avoid chronic disease. Now 104, the retired cook and seamstress is
also strikingly lucid.
"My living habits are beautiful," McGee said in an interview at her
daughter's Chicago apartment. "I don't take any medicines. I don't
smoke and I don't drink. Never did anything like that."
Until late 2006, when she fell in her St. Louis home, McGee lived
alone and took care of herself. Now in Chicago, she is less mobile but
still takes walks a few times weekly down the apartment building
hallways, with her daughter's help.
McGee credits her faith in God for her good health. She also gets lots
of medical attention -- a doctor and nurse make home visits regularly.
Genes surely contributed -- McGee's maternal grandparents lived to age
100 and 107.
But while genes are important, scientists don't think they tell the
whole story about longevity.
A second, larger study of men in their 70s found that those who
avoided smoking, obesity, inactivity, diabetes and high blood pressure
greatly improved their chances of living into their 90s. In fact, they
had a 54 percent chance of living that long.
Their survival decreased with each risk factor, and those with all
five had only a 4 percent chance of living into their 90s, according
to Harvard University researchers.
Those who managed to avoid lifestyle-related ailments also increased
their chances of functioning well physically and mentally two decades
The study followed 2,357 men for about 25 years or until death,
starting in their early 70s. About 40 percent survived to at least age
90. Among survivors, 24 percent had none of the five risk factors.
"It's not just luck, it's not just genetics. ... It's lifestyle" that
seems to make a big difference, said lead author Dr. Laurel Yates of
Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital.
"It's get your shoes on, get out there, and do some exercise," she
said. "These are some things you can do" to increase the chances of a
Yates said it's never too late to adopt a healthier lifestyle, though
the findings don't address whether waiting until age 70 to stop
smoking, lose weight and exercise will increase longevity.
Hall noted that the United States has more than 55,000 centenarians,
and that Americans 85 and older are the country's fastest-growing
group of older adults.
He said the new research underscores how important it is for doctors
to become adept at treating the oldest of the old, who are "becoming
the bread and butter of the clinical practice of internal medicine."
- posted 14 years ago