Entries in Longevity (15)


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


Castration May Hold Key to Longevity in Men, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(INCHON, South Korea) -- Call it making the best of a potentially bad situation. Eunuchs -- castrated men -- live nearly 20 years longer than other men, a new study has found.

The study of over 80 eunuchs from the Chosun Dynasty, which ruled in Korea from 1392 to 1897, looked at the world's only known record of eunuchs' lives and compared them to genealogical records of other men of similar social rank. The researchers cross-checked their results with other royal records.

They found that the average lifespan of a Korean eunuch was about 70 years, 14 to 19 years higher than non-castrated men of similar social standing.

Three of the 81 eunuchs lived to be over 100 years old. The researchers calculated that the rate of centenarians among this group of eunuchs was at least 130 times higher than the current rate in developed countries.

"Our study supports the idea that male sex hormones decrease the lifespan of men," wrote Kyung-Jin Min, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Inha University in Inchon, South Korea, and lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

This study does not prove that castration directly increases human longevity, said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois in Chicago, who studies longevity but was not involved with the study. "It may not have anything to do with being eunuchs," he said, adding that this study did not adjust for lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and stress.

Previous studies have shown that castration -- which removes the source of male sex hormones -- increases lifespan in animals. But studies in humans haven't been conclusive. One past study found that castrati singers did not live significantly longer than non-castrated singers. Another study has shown that castration increased longevity by 14 years in mentally disabled, institutionalized men. That increase in lifespan is similar to the findings in the Korean eunuch study.

Women reach the age of 110 ten times more often than men, said Dr. L. Stephen Coles, a co-founder of the Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group, who was not involved with the study. In a research group of 67 confirmed centenarians, he said, only three are men.

There may be several reasons for a sex difference in lifespan, experts said.

Females may have an advantage in longevity because they have a back-up X chromosome, Coles said. A women's body is a mixture of cells, half containing an active X chromosome from her mother and the other half from her father, he said. If there is a defect on one X chromosome, half of her cells will be unaffected.

Male sex hormones may have a negative effect on the immune system, wrote study author Min in the paper. "Male sex hormones also predispose men to adverse cardiovascular attacks."

While research seems to link male sex hormones to shorter life spans, experts remind us that quality of life matters more than quantity.

"I would not recommend becoming a eunuch," Coles said, "Or taking drugs to reduce your sex hormones." Reducing testosterone levels in men or women would severely affect one's sex drive, he said.

The findings that the absence of male sex hormones may improve longevity runs counter to a growing trend in the anti-aging industry, Olshansky said.

Some companies claim a healthier longer life can be enhanced by the introduction of growth or sex hormones at levels that existed when you were younger, he said.

 "There's no evidence that introducing hormones at levels that existed when you were younger make you live longer," Olshansky said, "This study suggests that you're better off without them."

Testosterone therapy may be recommended for certain men who lack testosterone, Coles said. A source at the National Institutes of Health said a clinical trial is currently underway to see if testosterone is safe and beneficial for elderly men with low testosterone levels.

What advice do experts have for people who want to live to a ripe old age -- and might not be in the frame of mind to consider castration?

Avoid smoking, Coles said, because we know that nicotine is highly addictive and that tobacco smoke causes cancer.

A healthy diet and exercise are also important for longevity, Olshansky said. While there is no universal prescription for exercise, he recommended, "Avoid being horizontal, be vertical, and keep moving!"

But what also really helps when it comes to living longer, he said, is to "choose long-lived parents."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Restricted-Calorie Diet May Not Lead to Longevity

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- To Merrill Averill and Paul McGothin, two 60-something marketing executives from Ossining, N.Y., a rumbling tummy equates to the fountain of youth. They practice an extreme calorie restriction because they believe that eating less is the secret to living longer. Now a new study published in the online version of the journal Nature casts doubt on that idea.

In the late 1980s, scientists set out to test the theory that dietary restriction could extend the life span of long-lived primates, as decades of studies had found it did in mice and other lower organisms. If true, this would strongly imply that the same assumptions could be made about humans.

Two independent teams -- one at the U.S. National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., and the other at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in Madison, Wis., each placed rhesus monkeys on diets that contained 30-percent fewer calories than normal and have periodically provided updates on the health and longevity of the animals.

As the latest Nature dispatch found, the NIA monkeys fed a calorie-restricted diet didn't live any longer than monkeys on a higher-calorie diet. No matter what they ate, maximum lifespan seems to hover around 40 years of age. Half the monkeys that began the study as youngsters were still alive, but the researchers say, based on survival patterns, they predict the remaining calorie-restrictors and controls will all live to be about the same age.

Monkeys that started the diet in their youth did show a trend toward a delay in the onset of age-associated disease. Interestingly, the strict diet appeared to decrease the risk of cancer and possibly diabetes but slightly increased the risk of cardiovascular disease.

"It is likely that calorie restriction alters cellular pathways that contribute to cancer differently than it does those pathways leading to metabolic dysfunction," said Dr. Julie Mattison, an author of the paper. "Given the experimental design, it is possible that pathways leading to cancer are impacted earlier or to a greater extent than others."

And the dieting monkeys also enjoyed improved health. For example, eating a restricted diet made them slimmer than those in the control group, and if they began the diet in middle age (16-23 years old for monkeys) they had lower blood fat and blood sugar levels compared to the non-dieters. Male dieters of all ages had lower cholesterol levels than the controls.

These latest findings are at odds with the WNPRC study in which calorie-restricted monkeys have far outlived the controls. Floyd Chilton, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University Medical Center, said the study design might account for some of the disparities.

For one thing, the Wisconsin monkeys subsisted on a diet that shared many of the same unhealthy aspects of a typical Western diet, such as a high amount of sugar, whereas the NIA primates were fed a much healthier diet and were also given vitamin supplements.

"The NIA monkeys were already eating so healthy to begin with, the calorie reduction may not have provided much more of a health advantage," Chilton said.

Mattison said this could be a limitation. "Certainly quality of the food and the nutrient composition/ratios could factor into the equation. Because calorie restriction is causing a metabolic stress, it is reasonable to speculate that a nutritionally complete and balanced diet would be better for the organism, regardless of the quantity," she said.

Another difference: The NIA monkeys were given two meals a day on a schedule while the Wisconsin monkeys ate whenever they pleased. Both groups were also genetically quite diverse; since each study included a relatively small number of individuals -- 70 divided between calorie restriction and control groups -- the genetic variations might have further skewed results.

Whatever the mechanisms may be, Chilton says the two primate studies are heroic and should be respected for being the first long-term investigations to provide clues about how humans might respond to eating a sparse diet. Nevertheless, the debate will certainly continue.

As for Averill and Paul McGothin, they say these recent findings don't shake their faith in calorie restriction in the least. They plan on continuing with the diet and spreading the gospel through their organization, CR Society International.

"At my recent physical exam my doctor told me I am in remarkable shape," McGothin says. "That's all the proof I need."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secret to Active 80s? Fitness-Heavy 40s

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- Whether you are spry in your 80s might depend on how active you were in your 40s, a new study shows more clearly than ever before.

Specifically, the study, published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that exercising in midlife staves off a range of dangerous diseases, even some cancers and cognitive conditions.

“It has been known for decades that people who are more fit live longer, but what has been unclear is that people who are fit live better,” says Dr. Jarett Berry, lead investigator and assistant professor of medicine at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

Studies in the past have found a clear relationship between fitness and mortality. This new study observed men and women older than 65 and enrolled in Medicare, and found that those with higher midlife fitness levels had fewer chronic diseases decades later in life.

The researchers measured the fitness levels of those in the study with exercise treadmill testing. They then separated patients into groups depending on their fitness level. For the next 26 years, the researchers looked at whether the patients developed certain kinds of chronic disease. The diseases monitored were: heart failure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon and lung cancer.

“In general, we saw if you increased your fitness by 20 percent, you would decrease your disease burden by 20 percent,” Berry said.

Higher midlife fitness also appeared to delay the development of the chronic diseases; those with a higher level of midlife fitness spent a greater proportion of their final five years of life with a lower burden of chronic disease, suggesting an improvement in not only quantity, but quality of life.

“The benefit of fitness persists to the end of life,” Berry says.

Health experts not involved with the research say it is further proof that a little exercise in midlife can have big benefits later.

“The best time to take off extra weight is before chronic disease develops because many of these conditions can be prevented,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “Losing weight is often more difficult after diagnosis of these conditions because many of them limit activity.”

Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, said, “Developing a healthy lifestyle, which include making the right food choices and getting regular activity, is essential to quality of life now and in the future.”

And Dr. Gerard E. Mullin, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, believes that physicians should start writing for exercise just like they would for a new prescription drug.

“As physicians,” he said, “we all should carry pre-printed exercise prescription pads to promote disease-fighting physical activity.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


This Just In: Healthy People Live Longer, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Unhealthy habits, like smoking and being overweight, have long been linked to heart disease and cancer, America’s top killers.  The reverse of that coin -- the impact of healthy habits on preventing disease and death -- has been a mantra in the medical community. Now a new study adds weight to that, finding that healthful behaviors, like exercising and eating a balanced diet, can reduce the risk of early death by up to 76 percent.

“It’s common sense,” said study author Quanhe Yang, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Diseases and Stroke Prevention. “We know what increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. And if you can prevent or postpone those risk factors from developing, it will really reduce your risk long term.”

Yang and colleagues used surveys to probe seven measures of healthy living -- smoking, physical activity, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, diet and weight -- in nearly 45,000 adult men and women between 1988 and 2010. They found people who were “ideal” on six or more of the parameters were 76 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 51 percent less likely to die from other causes, including cancer.

“We can prevent cardiovascular disease by preventing the risk factors from occurring in the first place,” said Yang. The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 600,000 Americans each year, according to the CDC. While each healthy living parameter independently affected the risk of death due to heart disease, having an ideal blood pressure was the biggest contributor, reducing the risk by 40 percent.

“There are about 68 million people with hypertension in the U.S.,” said Yang. “If you could bring that down by 10 percent, you could prevent 14,000 cardiovascular events.”

Not smoking and eating an ideal diet reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 13 percent each, Yang said. But less than one percent of the U.S. study population ate an ideal diet consisting of fruits, veggies, fish, whole grains with limited sodium and sugar.

Although smoking has declined since 1988, blood sugar -- a marker of diabetes -- and weight have risen steadily. Only 2.1 percent of the study subjects were ideal on six or more parameters. They tended to be younger, female and more educated. The majority of subjects were healthy on three of the seven parameters.

Yang said he hopes to see smoking continue to decline, and weight and diabetes level off. He also hopes to see the proportion of people with ideal physical activity and diet increase.

“If we can shift the whole population towards ideal cardiovascular health metrics, we will really reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and death,” said Yang.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Oldest Twins in World Celebrate 102nd Birthday

Comstock/Thinkstock(BRECON, Wales) -- The oldest twins in the world had their cake and ate it too when they celebrated their 102nd birthday Wednesday. Ena Pugh and Lily Millward of Wales chalked up their centenarian health to “laughter and a good joke.”

The twins’ families presented the sisters with the most recent edition of the Guinness Book of World Records so they could check out their new entry, according to the UK’s The Sun. Pugh and Millward were born on January 4, 1910, making them the oldest pair on the planet.

Born to farmers in Garthbrengy, near Brecon, Wales, Millward and Pugh were two of 10 children. They are the only siblings still living, and both sisters’ husbands died about 20 years ago. The twins have 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren between them. The sisters reportedly talk on the phone every day despite both having significant hearing loss, and only recently have their weekly shopping and tea sessions slowed down because Millward broke her hip after a fall.

Nevertheless, the women were together on their birthday, and expressed gratitude for being blessed with happiness and good health.

“We used to work on the farm all day, but we would enjoy ourselves,” Millward told the Wales News Service. “It was a lot of fun and sociable. We’ve been very lucky and we have always had good health.”

But even in an era of complex exercise regimens, perfect diets and juice cleanses, it is genes more than lifestyle that play a major role in whether a person will reach centenarian proportions.

“At higher and higher ages, genetics play a larger and larger role,” said Dr. Alan Shuldiner, director of endocrinology, diabetes and nutrition at University of Maryland. “Many centenarians eat unhealthy diets, smoke, never exercised. I suspect genetics is a large reason why they have lived 204 years between them.”

About 84,000 centenarians live in the United States, and that number is expected to grow to 10 times that by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While a study back in 2010 found that genes played a direct effect into a long life expectancy, 30 percent of the centenarians studied had a lifestyle that played a large role in their longevity.

Those lifestyle factors include the ones we should all know by now: exercise, a healthy diet, keeping weight off, not smoking, limiting alcohol, staying social and keeping the cognitive function fresh with reading and crossword puzzles.

Longevity is a complex process, said Dr. Heidi Tissenbaum, professor in the program of gene function and expression at University of Massachusetts Medical School.

“Although there are many that say a positive attitude is good, as well, thus far, studies on centenarians have shown that there is not one environmental factor that stands out,” she said.

“Clearly genetics play an important role and the fact that this is seen in twins confirms that, no less genome sequencing findings,” said Dr. Eric Topol, director of Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego. But he notes, “Laughter didn’t get known as the best medicine by accident!”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Presidents Often Live Longer Than Expected, Says Researcher

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- When President Obama celebrated his 50th birthday this year, there were the inevitable comments about how much he's aged only three years into his presidency.  The common assumption has always been that presidents age faster while in office -- and die younger as a result.
Now, a University of Illinois researcher has found that many U.S. presidents actually live longer than their peers.  In fact, 23 of 34 former presidents who died of natural causes lived several years longer than expected.  Among recent presidents, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford were both 93 when they died. Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush are both alive and well at 87.
There's no doubt that presidents appear to age faster while serving in office -- but graying hair and wrinkling of skin are normal for men their age.  And, as the researcher, Jay Olshansky, notes, "We don't die of gray hair and wrinkles."
There are some advantages most presidents have that contribute to a longer life:  They're usually college educated, wealthy and have the best medical care available.
So it should come as no surprise that of the last eight presidents, seven lived longer than expected.  The exception -- Lyndon Johnson who died of a heart attack at 64.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could A Worm Hold the Key to Living Longer?

ABC News(EDINBURGH, Scotland) -- Do you dream of looking like your 30-year-old self when you hit 60?

Well, the secrets to the fountain of youth may be bubbling up in a nearby lab -- and you have a roundworm to thank for it.

By studying the critter -- about the size of a comma -- biochemist Cynthia Kenyon and her team have pinpointed a combination of rare genes that seem to counter the effects of aging.

Kenyon, the director of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging, presented her research on prolonging youth in Edinburgh, Scotland at TEDGlobal 2011.

Roundworms are elderly and wrinkled at 10 days and by the time they reach two weeks, they're dead. Kenyon found that by masking the DNA's daf-2 gene, her team could extend the roundworms' lives sixfold.

The secret: A mutation to the daf-2 gene slowed down the aging process. A mutated worm took two days to age as much as a normal worm.

"You have something you never thought was possible," Kenyon told ABC News. "These worms should be dead, a long time ago....But they're not dead. They're moving. They're young."

In Kenyon's lab, one roundworm that was 90 in human years looked and acted like a 30-year-old.

"If you look in nature, you see that different kinds of animals can have really different life spans," she said during her TED presentation. "There are some tortoises that are called blandings turtles. They've been found to be 70 years old, and when you look at these 70-year-old turtles, you can't tell the difference just by looking between those turtles and 20-year-old turtles."

Kenyon said that the daf-2 gene might also affect human lifespan. Though she said more research needed to be done, one study showed that people who lived to 100 were more likely than others to carry mutations in the gene.

Kenyon said it was possible that youth-boosting drugs could be 15 years away.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cancer Survival: Longer Lives Bring Long-Term Issues

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- When Nicole Malato, a 34-year-old human resources manager from Toms River, N.J., was diagnosed with cancer of both breasts in May, she wondered not just about how quickly her surgeon could remove the tumors, but also what subsequent chemotherapy, radiation and hormone-blocking drugs would do to her heart, her bones and her brain decades from now.

As the mother of a 2-year-old boy, her goal was "to see him graduate," she said.

From the time she learned the lumps she felt were cancerous, Malato opted for a double-mastectomy.  But she also made sure her doctors knew she was thinking about the long-term physical, psychological and social consequences of her cancer and her treatment, and the risk of recurrence.

The so-called survivorship movement, with its focus on long-term treatment effects and helping patients' maintain a good quality of the life by addressing their fatigue, sexuality and stress, is an outgrowth of people living longer with cancer and after cancer treatment.

Malato was fortunate; she found understanding doctors, joined support groups providing camaraderie and some needed perspective and poured her feelings into a blog, which also has kept friends and relatives in the treatment loop.

But for many U.S. cancer patients, survivorship issues have yet to be fully incorporated into their care, according to a report based on 1,043 breast cancer survivors' experiences with the disease.  The survey from the nonprofit Cancer Support Community's Cancer Survivor Registry, while not scientific, offers a window into the unmet needs of the nation's 2.5 million breast cancer survivors, including younger patients such as Malato, who might be facing decades of treatment.

Doctors aren't screening cancer patients for signs of emotional and social distress, despite patients' frequent anxiety or depression about their diagnosis, treatments and ability to cope.  Nor are they discussing the long-term effects of treatment, said Joanne S. Buzaglo, senior director of the Cancer Support Community's Research and Training Institute in Philadelphia.

She said the survey also found that despite the Institute of Medicine's recommending in 2005 that all cancer patients receive a survivorship care plan that summarizes their treatment and informs them about needed future screenings, conditions for which they're at risk and recommendations about diet, exercise and finding social and emotional support, only 10 percent of the survey respondents had such a plan, "although practically all of them would have liked one."

Survivorship considerations begin the moment you get diagnosed," said Dr. Mary L. Hardy, medical director of the Simms/Mann UCLA Integrative Oncology Program in Los Angeles.  "From the very minute you hear those three horrible words, 'You have cancer,' you should start being empowered, because an empowered patient is much more likely to be a successful patient."

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

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