MrsGreenThumb

I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Centenarians


Yesterday I met a remarkable lady, she was 101 years old. Her grandson and his wife stayed with her because she decided at 99 that she needed a little help. I was amazed at how cogent her questions were. She certainly hadn't lost many brain cells.

Since I've always said I wanted to live until at least 95 so nothing would happen without me, I decided to do a little research. Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of our population. The second fastest is the age group 85+.

Currently, there are about 40,000 centenarians in the United States, or a little more than 1 centenarian per 10,000 in the population; 85% of them are women, 15% are men.

More and more people are now able to achieve their individual life expectancy potentials. This is a dramatic change from the turn of the 20th century, when many people died prematurely especially in infancy and the average life expectancy was 46 years. Families on average would lose a quarter of their children to infectious diseases. With the advent of clean water supplies and other public health measures, much of this high childhood mortality disappeared resulting in an average life expectancy of 64 years by 1960.

By the first decade of the next century, there will be as many seniors as there are people under the age of 20. An important component of senior's ability to achieve extreme age is their relatively high level of education, income and attention to good health habits.

There are several geographical areas that have claimed inhabitants with extreme longevity, but after closer examination, these claims have been found to be false. These regions of purported exceptional longevity still merit careful study however. Though claims of extreme age are untrue, there still may be an unusually high prevalence of very old fit people in these regions. In the Tibetan mountains for instance, octogenarian and nonagenarian elders, impressively many of them men, still herd live stock and still lead physically strenuous lives.

One important finding shows that nearly all of the centenarians were independently functioning at least to the age of ninety. Many centenarians could come from ethnic backgrounds (e.g. Celtic, French/Acadian, Scottish) that predispose them to extreme longevity. This hypothesis is based upon the supposition that extreme old age does in fact run in families.

There are likely two types of genes influencing longevity. One is the type that has already been discovered; that is, "disease genes" that have variations that make it more likely for a person to develop a specific disease. Centenarians are more likely to lack such variations. The other type of gene, as of yet not discovered has been called a "longevity enabling gene." Such genes would influence aging at its most basic levels, thus affecting the rate of aging and how it increases a person's susceptibility to age-related diseases.

It is suspected that the ability to live to 100 results from getting a combination of factors correct. These factors, such as specific genetic traits or certain health related behaviors might be quite common. However, like the lottery, it is getting the right combination of these factors and behaviors that becomes the rare event. It makes sense that the actual factors and the correct combination of those factors varies from one person to the next. Some factors such as lacking a genetic predisposition to early heart disease or smoking tobacco are likely more potent and important than others.

A long healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits. If you adopt the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are you may live up to a decade longer.

So what can you do? “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop laughing.” Cultivating a sense of humor is one of the best ways to stay youthful. Appreciating humor can keep you “mentally fit” and add fun and enjoyment to your life. It is a great stress reliever. Keep you mind active. My aunt and uncle did the crossword puzzle in the newspaper everyday well into their 90's. Exercise, it doesn't have to be a half hour walk. Recent research indicates that even a small amount of exercise makes a big difference in health and fitness. As actress Helen Hayes put it, “If you rest, you rust.”

And last but not least, stay positive. Keep life's events in perspective. And drinking a little green tea can't hurt. L'chaim...to life!

9 Comments:

Blogger Dawn said...

Thank you for another interesting and thought provoking post! I have a remarkable mother of 83 years old. She has the most amazing, positive attitude and this has given her the strength to overcome so many things that could have potentially crushed her ... including the loss, three years ago, of her son/my brother. She lives alone and is for the main part very independent. My sister and I thank God every day for being blessed with this remarkable mother. Indeed, L'chaim, to you and yours - to 120!

October 01, 2006 1:52 PM  
Blogger Abandoned in Pasadena said...

You always post such interesting things and I'm glad that just a little exercise helps because that's all I seem to get on a regular basis...and I do like green tea.

October 01, 2006 5:02 PM  
Blogger PEA said...

I found this post very interesting, never realized the percentage in the states was as high as it is for people living to 100! My mom is now 75 and is as active as a 30 year old...eats well, exercises daily, etc. Like she says, if she stops doing all that, she'll get old:-)

October 02, 2006 7:20 AM  
Blogger Motherkitty said...

I have no intention of going down without a fight. I see plenty around us on their last legs who are younger than us. I don't look my age and I certainly don't act my age. Anyway, I really want to find out what happens and life can't go on without me. Let's see, if I live another 36 years that would make it 2042. I'm going to aim for 2050, or another 44 years. I think I can do that. Can you? I would certainly miss our daily phone conversations.

October 02, 2006 8:08 PM  
Blogger Thy said...

yay.

i'm vegetarian so im naturally forced to eat vegetables.

and i like healthy food. green tea is good. saturated fats bad. etc.

October 03, 2006 8:03 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Thank for the post. I didn't realize that women are that much more likely to live to be a hundred. Very fascinating.

October 04, 2006 6:28 PM  
Blogger Franny said...

That was a really good post - kinda like picking up a magazine and getting a lot of important information!

FYI, I have little doubt that you'll make it to 95 and beyond!

October 05, 2006 5:41 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Came by to say hello. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.

October 06, 2006 6:23 AM  
Blogger Alipurr said...

Great post! My husband's grandmother is 90 and very independent. She volunteers at the hospital, local community clinic, goes to an excercise class, and has a spades playing group of friends that she meets with regularly. She is amazing, she doesn't look 90.

I agree about the positive attitude and laughing. That always helps. And the keeping life and life's struggles and stresses in perspective. I am sure the sedentary lifestyle of lots of people will not help much.

I love Psalm 103....Bless the Lord, O my soul,....who renews our youth as the eagle

and the one that says a merry heart does good like a medicine

October 08, 2006 1:22 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home