The world wide life expectancy doubled in the last 200 years, growing by 2 years each decade. The improvement in medical care and life conditions in the last century caused a accelerated life expectancy growth.
Although many experts announced over time that the life expectancy growth tendency will slowdown, their prognosis was contradicted by reality. If until recently to life to be 100 years old was something worthy of record books, to live to be 100 will represent something normal for people born in this period.
Experts estimate that little girls born in 2011 in the UK have one chance out of 3 to live to be 100 years old, boys having one out of 3. Specialists also estimate that out of the 62 million UK citizens, 11 million will live to be 100. Actually, the number of people to lived this long was 5 times bigger in 2010 compared to 1980.
According to UN data, the number of people who will live to be 100 will grow a lot. Starting from these data, journalists from The Economists estimate that by the end of this century 5 countries will host 1 million citizens who’s ages will be 100 or close to 10. So, China will be the first country to have more than 1 million people of 100 years of age alive at the same time and it will reach this number in 2069, the other four countries being United States, Japan, India and Brazil. If this tendency continues, China and U.S. will have more than 2 million people of 100 years of age alive at the same time in 2100.
And this data raises some questions: can we find out the secret of extreme longevity ? And if yes, can we change our lifestyle so that we can also live to be 100 years old ?
Two Factors that Determine Longevity
Studies made until now show that longevity is conditioned by two factors: genes and lifestyle. The life expectancy of a individual is determined 25% by genetics, and the rest of 75% depends on behavior and lifestyle.
To establish which is the behavior that provides for a longer longevity, researchers identified many communities in the world who’s members lived to be more than 100 years old. And they managed to find a few common features.
Regarding diet, researchers discovered that the members of these communities rarely eat meat, and their diet mostly contains plants and vegetables. Also, the day to day life of these communities include moderate daily physical activity and often social interaction with friends and family members.
Such a example can be found in Greece, where one out of three people live to be at least 90. According to Dan Buettner, a researcher who studied many communities, cancer cases are 20% rarest than with the general population and heart diseases are 50% fewer.
Researchers also discovered that the members of these communities drink a lot of tea with diuretic properties. Buettner explained why this is a good idea: ” Diuretics tend to lower the blood pressure so this explains why heart diseases are rare here”.
Red wine is also part of the diet of the people who live long.
Studying communities from all over the world. Buettner discovered that their life is structured so that the members of the community have to exercise. So we can conclude that physical exercise is also something that we must do.
To sum things up: good diet and exercise can help you live longer.
The Genes of Longevity
Knowing the longevity is 25% conditioned by genetics, scientists did many researches on the people who mange to life more than 100 years to identify the genes responsible and their mechanisms.
Such a study was made by a team of researchers from the Boston University, United States. They studied the DNA of 1,055 people with ages bigger than 100, identifying 150 genetic markers of longevity.
Based on this study researchers reached the conclusion that as we get older than 85, genes play a more and more important role in establishing our life duration. The authors say that they will soon release a test on the market with the help of which anyone will be able to find out if they carry the genes that provide for a long life.
Scientists also started to get the first steps in what prolonging life is concerned and they managed to do so with the help of gene therapy. A team of researchers from the South California University managed to increase the life duration of a organism 10 times by modifying two genes.
In the case of people, the studies that were made these last few years focused on sirtuin, a protein that plays a important role in controlling the cells metabolism. Many scientists think that sirtuin plays a key role in increasing life expectancy.
Experiments done on worms showed that genetically modified specimens to produce more sirtuin lived longer.
Recently, many pharmaceutical companies proved to be interesting in creating a drug to activate this wonder-protein in the human body. If sirtuin is really the element though which a strict diet leads to a longer life, then these drugs might produce the same effect without patients being supposed to culinary restrictions.
The efforts made by doctors and researchers, who allowed us to better understand the factors that lead to a longer life, seem to signal that mankind’s life expectancy will continue to increase. Thanks to the non stop progress, the 21th century will be remembered by history as the time where people older than 100 years ceased to be a exception.