Entries in Lifespan (10)


Study: Rock, Pop, Rap Stars Die Young

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though their music may never die, rock, pop and rap artists do.  And according to a new report in the British Medical Journal, they die young.

The study, led by Mark Bellis of the Centre for Public Health in Liverpool, found that the average lifespan of American musical superstars in these three genres is only 45.  European stars, meanwhile, don't even make it to 40 -- they die, on average, at age 39.

You don't have to think very hard to come up with high-profile examples of musicians who lived fast and died young: Amy Winehouse, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain are all part of "the 27 Club" -- famous musicians who died at age 27.  

Whitney Houston passed away earlier this year at the age of 48.  And the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, lived to celebrate his 50th birthday -- apparently a ripe old age by pop star standards.

Bellis said it's hard to pin down exactly how many years someone's life may be cut short when he or she shoots to fame in the music world.  That's because "rock god" and "rap impresario" are fairly recent job descriptions, and many of the musicians who now top of the charts are still relatively young.

"We can show how much higher or lower the chance of dying is compared to a similar person in the population if they weren't a pop star," he explained.  "So for instance at the extreme, a North American pop star 40 years after fame has a chance of survival of only around 87 percent of what would be expected in the matched general population."

Bellis said his team reviewed the lives of nearly 1,500 rock, pop and rap stars, including artists who found success on top 40 charts and in international popularity polls.  They gleaned details about their deaths, personal lives and childhoods from websites, published biographies and anthologies.

During a 50-year period, from 1956 to 2006, 137 of their subjects -- almost 10 percent -- passed away.  Solo performers were twice as likely to die before their time as someone who played in a band.  Gender and the age they skyrocketed to fame didn't affect life expectancy but ethnicity did: Non-white stars were the most likely to die at an early age.

The most common causes of death?  Many died of cancer and cardiovascular disease, which Bellis pointed out could very well be the result of living a hard-charging life.  

The younger a star died, the more likely it was the death was related to a risky behavior like drugs and alcohol, or violence or suicide.  Nearly half of those who died as a result of drugs, alcohol or violence had at least one unfavorable factor in their childhoods -- for example, child abuse, domestic violence, or a close family member with mental illness.  Four out of five dead stars with more than one of these childhood experiences died violently or from substance abuse.

What Bellis found interesting is that in the past, researchers suspected fame and fortune encouraged stars to throw caution to the wind.  But it could be that risk-taking and wild behavior predate fame as a way to cope with a difficult past.

"A career as a rock or pop star may be attractive to those escaping an unhappy childhood, but it may also provide the resources to feed a predisposition to unhealthy and risky behaviors that may not necessarily be available to other people so easily," he said.

He also said he suspects musicians who play with bands live longer because their bandmates help buffer negative influences and provide emotional support.

Bellis said the results of his study and the short lives of pop divas and guitar heroes should serve as a lesson for aspiring musicians: "It is important that children recognize that substance use and risk-taking may be rooted in childhood adversity rather than seeing them as symbols of success."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Professor Measures Lifespan in 'Microlives'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ever wonder how long you'll live? Most of us have at one time or another.
Health professionals often remind us that our lifestyle choices affect our longevity. Now a college professor has come up with a novel -- if unconventional -- way to measure how we take time off our life spans.
Writing about his findings in the British Medical Journal, David Spiegelhalter, a professor of statistics at the University of Cambridge, coins the term "microlife" -- which equals a half-hour of your life expectancy.
According to Spiegelhalter, time sure does fly!
Each time you smoke a cigarette, have more than one alcoholic drink, watch two hours of television or eat a hamburger you lose a microlife, or half an hour off your lifespan.
However, Spiegelhalter adds that microlives are gained by exercise, reducing alcohol intake, eating fruits and vegetables, and taking statin drugs that control cholesterol.
The professor admits his system is more for popular than for scientific consumption. Even so, he says it can be useful for health professionals.
Maybe thinking of a burger as thirty minutes off your life is just another way to curb your appetite.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Olympians Live Longer, Study Finds

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Not only does Michael Phelps have more gold medals than you, he’ll probably live longer, too.  A new study found Olympic medalists live an average of 2.8 years longer than their fellow countrymen.

“Olympic medalists live longer than the general population, irrespective of country, medal or sport,” study author Dr. David Studdert of the Melbourne School of Population Health in Australia wrote in the study of 15,000 medalists from nine countries, published Thursday in the journal BMJ.

Athletes who competed in cardiovascular-intense events such as cycling and rowing had the same survival advantage as those in less-intense sports such as golfing, according to a separate study of 9,000 athletes published in the same journal.  Athletes who participated in high-injury risk events such as boxing, rugby or ice hockey, on the other hand, had an increased risk of death compared with other Olympians.

But you don’t have to be an Olympian to benefit from physical activity.  A 2012 study published in The Lancet suggests simply eliminating inactivity could add nearly a year to your lifespan.

“Although the evidence points to a small survival benefit of being an Olympian, careful reflection suggests that similar health benefits and longevity could be achieved by all of us through regular physical activity,” Dr. Adrian Bauman of Sydney University’s School of Public Health and Dr. Steven N. Blair of the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health wrote in an editorial accompanying the studies.  “We could and should all award ourselves that personal gold medal.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity -- such as brisk walking -- weekly for adults ages 18 to 64.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Married People Live Longer Lives, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- When you walk down the aisle, you probably didn't realize that it was lengthening your life.  A new study by the University of Louisville finds that men who stay single die eight to 17 years before married men.  And married women live on average seven to 15 years longer than all the single ladies.

The reason could be that there's more social support and public assistance for married couples.  Marriage is also associated with a healthier lifestyle.  Those in committed relationships tend to drink less, smoke less and get more doctor's check-ups.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Drug Makes Mice Live 44 Percent Longer: Hope for a Human Longevity Pill?

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While the Fountain of Youth is a legend, a fountain of longer life may be real.

According to an article in Thursday's issue of Scientific Reports, researchers have found a new drug that can make mice live 44 percent longer, on average, than similar mice who didn't get the drug. The drug is a synthetic compound called SRT1720, and it was developed by Sirtris, a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Mass.

The New York Times reported that studies are currently testing versions of SRT1720 on humans, the goal being a pill that will make this type of drug's benefits available to the general public.

In 2007, Nightline interviewed David Sinclair and Dr. Christoph Westphal, two of three co-chairs of Sirtris' Scientific Advisory Board. Sinclair was the company's scientific genius, Westphal its primary investor.

The pair shared a passion to capitalize on Sinclair's discovery that resveratrol, an ingredient of red wine, activated the genes that control aging, making mice who received it in his study live 30 percent longer than those who didn't. SRT1720 is designed to imitate resveratrol.

"Think of a Pac-Man controlling things in the cell, and resveratrol binds to the Pac-Man and makes it more active," Sinclair said, "and tells the cell to be more efficient, ramp up metabolic rate and overall health of the cell and [is] resistant to diseases of aging."

"If we are right, these drugs will be enormously successful drugs and treat very important diseases," Westphal told Nightline. "If we're right, this is a game-changer."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fifteen Minutes of Exercise Per Day Adds Three Years to Life, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(TAIPEI, Taiwan) -- A little exercise goes a long way, a new study suggests -- so little that 15 minutes of it per day reduces one's risk of cancer and adds an average of three years to a person's life.

Taiwanese researchers examined more than 400,000 study participants in a 12-year period, where patients self-reported their weekly exercise regimen and were then placed in one of five groups: inactive, low, medium, high or very high exercise activity.

The study, published in this week's Lancet, found that people in the low-exercise group averaged 15 minutes of fitness per day. They reduced their risk of dying from cancer by 10 percent and had a three-year longer life expectancy than the inactive group.

"The 30-minute a day for five or more days a week has been the golden rule for the last 15 years, but now we found even half that amount could be very beneficial," said Dr Chi-Pang Wen, lead author of the study. "As we all feel, finding a slot of 15 minutes is much easier than finding a 30-minutes slot in most days of the week."

With every additional 15 minutes of exercise per day, participants reduced their risk of dying from cancer by another one percent. Wen did not encourage those who follow the "golden rule" of 30 minutes of fitness per day to cut back on their exercise, but he did hope that the findings encourage inactive people to get moving.

"To get started by the inactive is the most difficult challenge or make the couch potato move the first step," Wen said. "We hope this 15-minute message can facilitate the inactive into moving ... the inactive constituted the majority worldwide."

In the study, low levels of fitness represented 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, which was described as any activity that makes a person short of breath but able to carry on a conversation. Examples of such exercises included brisk walking, easy jogging, biking and ballroom dancing.

While the study was based in Taiwan, Wen said he believes the results "can be universally applied."

"Many studies have been performed in different countries in individuals with different ethnic backgrounds to evaluate the health benefits of exercise," said Dr. Anil Nigam, associate professor of medicine at University of Montreal, who also wrote the editorial for the study. "The results are generally quite consistent. Therefore, we have no reason to doubt that similar benefits are achievable in the North American context."

But experts were also quick to point out caveats.

The study was based on self-reported data, which often leaves a margin of error. Some experts also noted the difficulty in determining the cause and effect behind the study.

While the answers to these questions remain a cause of debate, Dr. Paul Thompson, director of the Athlete's Heart Program at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, made a few suggestions on how to work those 15 minutes of fitness into your day.

"Climb stairs, park in the far corner of the lot, towel off vigorously; there are a myriad number of ways we can engineer exercise into our lives," Thompson said. "I get a kick out of the folks who join the gym and then take the elevator up two flights or hire someone to do the lawn."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Living to 100: Nature vs. Nurture Debate Continues

Paul Thomas/Photodisc(BRONX, New York) -- According to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society done at New York City's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, people who live to be 95 or older don’t necessarily do it by eating healthier, exercising or avoiding drinking and smoking.  

The authors interviewed almost 500 Ashkenazi Jews, mostly women, who were on average 97 years old.  They asked them about their lifestyle habits when they were 70 years old (in the 1970s) and compared the data to lifestyle habits of the general U.S. public obtained through a national survey performed in the mid 1970s as well.  

The findings indicate that the centenarians reported a similar level of alcohol consumption, physical activity, and of a low-calorie diet as the general population.  The authors conclude that “people with exceptional longevity are not distinct in terms of lifestyle factors from the general population," suggesting that “nurture” may not be as important for long life as "nature."

It must be noted, however, that the lack of difference in lifestyle habits between the groups tested in the study is questionable, considering that the study relies on the recollection of the participants about their lifestyles 30 years prior to the study.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Past Smoking Trends, Obesity to Blame for Shorter Lifespans in US

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Americans have shorter lifespans compared to people in other high-income nations, and smoking and obesity are to blame, according to a new report.

Despite spending more money on health care than any other country, the report by the National Research Council found that life expectancy in the U.S. has been rising but slowly in comparison to countries like Japan and Australia. 

One main culprit for this lag has been America's past with smoking.  The report says mortality rates are still being affected today by smoking habits 30 to 50 years ago, when smoking was more widespread in the U.S. than in Europe or Japan.

Reductions in smoking in the U.S. over the last 20 years, however, will likely counter these findings in the upcoming decades, when the benefits begin to register.  The report predicts that men's life expectancies will improve fairly quickly as a result.  Mortality rates for women in the U.S., on the other hand, are predicted to decline slowly because women's smoking behavior peaked later than men's.

Obesity is also to blame for the lag in life expectancies, possibly accounting for a fifth to a third of the shortfall in the U.S., according to the report.  If obesity rates continue to rise, it could offset any improvements to come from reductions in smoking.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Too Much Screen Time Means Health Decline

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- People who spend hours glued to a TV or computer screen on a daily basis could be shortening their lifespan, according to a new investigation reported in Tuesday's Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

According to the study conducted by a group of international researchers, anyone who devotes more than four hours daily on screen-based entertainment such as TV, video games or surfing the web, ups their risk of heart attack and stroke by 113 percent and the risk of death by any cause by nearly 50 percent compared to those who spend less than two hours daily in screen play -- and this is regardless of whether or not they also work out.

The researchers surveyed more than 4,500 Scottish adults to find out how much time they spent parked in front of a TV, computer or gaming screen when not at work.  (Scottish work and recreation habits jibe with the rest of the modern Western world, including the "American idle".)  Then they analyzed their medical records for four years to find out how many of them succumbed to health problems or died during that time period.

Dedication to couch potato-style recreation translated into a greater incidence of poor health even after allowing for factors such as physical activity, age, sex and smoking.

"Assuming that leisure-time screen time is a representative indicator of overall sitting, our results lend support to the idea that prolonged sitting is linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and premature mortality," notes the report's lead author, Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College in London.  "Doing some exercise every day may not compensate for the damage done during very long periods of screen time."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Walking Speed Predicts Who Will Live Longer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PITTSBURGH, Pa.) -- Seniors who can still walk at a relatively speedy pace have a good chance of living to an even riper old age, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

When researchers at the University of Pittsburgh pooled the data from nine large studies that involved more than 34,000 seniors, they were able to correlate walking speed in people 65 or older with expected longevity.

At the beginning of each study, subjects were timed at their normal, comfortable walking pace for about 13 feet and periodically retested for up to 21 years.  Anyone who could ambulate, even if they used a cane or walker, was included.

The faster an older person can walk, the longer they can expect to live and, according to the researchers, walking with some pep in your step appears to be a better predictor of who survives than simply looking at someone's age and sex.

"It's a real part of the human experience to see that when someone slows down with age, they may not be doing as well as they once were," said lead researcher Dr. Stephanie Studenski.  "One of the major goals of this study was to quantify this experience for practical and clinical purposes."

Studenski notes that the act of placing one foot in front of the other requires the cooperation of many body systems including the heart, lungs, blood, bones, muscles, joints, nerves and brain -- and all of these systems synchronize, coordinate and integrate in a way that allows each individual to choose their own ideal walking speed, a speed that remains remarkably constant throughout life unless it's affected by medical issues.

For this reason, scientists consider how quickly a person walks, when correlated with age and sex, a reflection of their underlying health.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio