Jul
18
2020

Key Factors for Centenarians

A study from Washington State University (WSU) showed some of the key factors for centenarians to survive. The publication of the study goes back to June 17, 2020. In general, it was common knowledge that genetics plays a role in 25% to 35% of centenarians for their survival. That is to say, the remainder is the result of lifestyle factors. It is important to realize that the environmental factors play a significant role in the survival of centenarians, said Rajan Bhardwaj, a second-year WSU medical student. He and his research team determined what allowed centenarians to reach an age of 100 or above. Briefly, they identified the following factors that were necessary.

Three factors identified by the Washington State University study

  • walkability of the neighbourhood, which encourages regular exercising
  • belonging to the higher socioeconomic class
  • a high percentage of working population in the neighborhood (a mixed population) was also important

In the discussion the authors of the WSU study said that “blue zones” of centenarians had been mentioned before in the literature. To clarify, these are areas in the world where more than the average of centenarians live. Dan Buettner used the term “blue zones” in a National Geographic article about where centenarians were located.

The blue zones

He wrote a book about the location of the 5 blue zones. Notably, they are located in Sardinia (Italy), the islands of Okinawa and a group of Seven Day Adventists in Loma Linda. California. In addition, the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, and the island of Icaria, Greece complete the 5 blue zones. Specifically, Dan Buettner described the following characteristics of the lifestyle of centenarians.

  • They engage in regular physical activity
  • Mostly eating a plant-based diet including legumes
  • Calorie intake is moderate
  • Moderate intake of alcohol, mostly wine
  • Having a purpose in life
  • Engaged in family life
  • Having an active spiritual life
  • Reducing stress
  • Engaged in social life

Other attributes of centenarians

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a presentation in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2019 where he stated that centenarians are positive thinkers. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. In particular, the topic of his talk was “Positive Psychological Attitudes of Centenarians “. Dr. Hertoghe is an endocrinologist in Belgium. He took an interest in people above the age of 100. These people, he felt, are special people with a very optimistic outlook on life. Dr. Hertoghe went on to say that centenarians have a will to live. Indeed, they adapt to changes; they have a sense of purpose, and they stay active.

More positive attributes of centenarians

Other psychological features, by the same token, show that they have a positive mood and they avoid stress and anxiety. Another key point is that they have self-determination. It must be remembered also that they are very sociable, have close family ties, love their relationships and often have a strong religious faith. In addition, there is a connection between their basic values, beliefs and spirituality. Truly, centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. For one thing, centenarians have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old.

In the following I am reviewing some of the details that Dr. Hertoghe gave.

The will to live

For one thing, it takes courage to grow old, and all centenarians have this. They say “Life is worth living”. Essentially, they have a certain resiliency in a world that has an obsession about youth. Despite negative experiences they had to overcome they do not give up and they enjoy life as much as they can. A Finnish study examined 400 individuals aged 75-90 and followed them for 10 years. Group 1 who wished to live less than 5 years had a mortality rate of 68%. Group 2 wished to live for 5-10 years. They had a mortality of 45.6%. The last group, group 3 wanted to live more than 10 years. Surprisingly, their mortality was only 33.3%. Be careful what you wish for!

Adaptability

In other words, this describes the capacity to overcome adversity and your ability to adjust. In a study of 7400 Chinese centenarians’ resilience to changes was measured with psychometric psychological tests. The majority of subjects did not qualify for being resilient. However, 9% of male centenarians and 6% of female centenarians had the resiliency where they qualified for high adaptability. This high resilience group had a 2%-4% lower mortality risk. They had a 36%-55% higher probability of not developing cognitive impairment. That is to say, they rated themselves to be in good health and having a “good life” satisfaction. These resilient centenarians had a 7%-12% higher probability of not developing a physical disability. In essence, these high resilient centenarians had no short-term health decline.

Remaining active

If a centenarian remains active and moves about several hours per day, the body functions are preserved. Anna Mary Robertson Moses who was known by her nickname “Grandma Moses” took up painting at age 78. She died at age 101 in 1961.

Positive emotions

One study of 54 Ashkenazi Jewish older adults (aged 98-107) compared those with positive emotions to those with negative emotions. The researchers noted that a positive attitude about life allowed centenarians to live longer.

A study involving 2282 Mexican Americans aged 65 to 99 showed that positive affect scores were a predictor for the following. Subjects with a high positive affect had a 52% lower probability of becoming physically disabled. They were 36% less likely than the negative controls to lose their walking speed. In addition, they were 47% less likely to die during the two-year observation period than their negative controls.

Nurses’ Health Study and Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study

Two studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study measured optimism. The researchers found that those with the highest optimism scores had a 1.5-fold higher probability in women and 1.7-fold in men to survive to age 85. This was compared to a control with the lowest optimism scores. Dr. Hertoghe provided 19 more studies that showed the effects of positive emotions regarding long term survival. For brevity reasons I will not dwell on them here.

What is the centenarian spirit?

When people are older than 100 years, they often have a mix of humor and eccentricity; they express emotions openly and they are happy people. They accept the death of spouses, siblings and significant others.

By the way, humor has a strong predictive survivor value. In a study that researchers conducted over 15 years, there was a clear positive effect of humor regarding mortality. A sense of humor reduced the all-cause mortality by 48% in males. In women humor lowered mortality regarding cardiovascular disease by 73%. Humor reduced death due to infections in women by 83%. Men had a non-significant reduction of all‐cause mortality by 12% and a significant lower mortality due to infections by 74%. Dr. Hertoghe cited three more publications that showed the power of humor in reducing disease and disability.

The fasting mimicking diet helps you to reach a longer life

clinical trial with 100 subjects was undertaken by Dr. Longo and his research team. He measured markers after 3 cycles of a fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month. They found that the FMD reduced aging markers, improved diabetes and reduced susceptibility for cancer and cardiovascular disease. In another publication Dr. Longo and co-authors describe how autoimmune diseases can be improved by the use the fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

Another publication by Dr. Longo describes that “age-related disorders including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke” can be prevented by fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

Even cancer prevention and cancer treatment can be helped by the fasting mimicking diet.  The FMD makes chemotherapy more tolerable.

Key Factors for Centenarians

Key Factors for Centenarians

Conclusion

As we reviewed the factors that lead to longevity, we learnt that engaging in regular moderate exercise is one of the key factors. But belonging to the higher socioeconomic class and living in a mixed neighborhood with people from all walks of life is also important. We also reviewed the blue zones according to Dan Buettner. Mostly eating a plant-based diet including legumes with moderate calorie restriction prolongs your life. Add to this moderate intake of alcohol, mostly wine, and having a purpose in life. Augment this further with being engaged in family life, having an active spiritual life and reducing your stress level.

Living longer is a matter of fulfilling these longevity factors

With all of this you are on your way to become a centenarian. A review by Dr. Hertoghe in a lecture given at an Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas in 2019 added more criteria centenarians have. He provided references regarding the will to live, being adaptable, remaining active and harboring positive emotions. The more of these factors you can adopt, the longer you will live. At the same time, you will avoid getting diseases like heart attacks, strokes or cancer, which leads to a longer and healthier life.

The above text contains parts of this blog. The part about the fasting mimicking diet was published here before.

Jan
11
2020

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a presentation in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2019 where he stated that centenarians are positive thinkers. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. The topic of his talk was “Positive Psychological Attitudes of Centenarians “.

Dr. Hertoghe is an endocrinologist in Belgium. Dr. Hertoghe took an interest in people above the age of 100. He felt that these people are special people with a very optimistic outlook on life. He went on to study the literature about this topic in detail and this is what this talk was about.

The oldest man, Gustav Gerneth died at 114 years 7 days in Germany (Oct. 22, 2019). The oldest female is Japan’s Kane Tanaka at 117 years (birthday Jan. 2,1903).

So, what is their secret to age that well? Here is what Dr. Hertoghe found out about centenarians.

Attributes of centenarians

Centenarians have a will to live. They adapt to changes; they have a sense of purpose, and they stay active. Other psychological features show that they have is a positive mood and they avoid stress and anxiety. Another important attribute is self-determination. They are very sociable, have close family ties, love their relationships and often have a strong religious faith. There is a connection between their basic values and beliefs and their spirituality. Centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. Centenarians have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old.

In the following I am reviewing the details that Dr. Hertoghe gave. He covered 13 subtopics regarding causes of longevity in centenarians.

The will to live

It takes courage to grow old and all centenarians have this. They say “Life is worth living”. They have a certain resiliency in a world that has an obsession about youth. Despite negative experiences they had to overcome they do not give up and they enjoy life as much as they can. A Finnish study examined 400 individuals aged 75-90 and followed them for 10 years. Group 1 who wished to live less than 5 years had a mortality rate of 68%. Group 2 wished to live for 5-10 years. They had a mortality of 45.6%. The last group, group 3 wanted to live more than 10 years. Their mortality was only 33.3%. Be careful what you wish for!

Adaptability

This describes the capacity to overcome adversity and your ability to adjust. In a study of 7400 Chinese centenarians’ resilience to changes was measured with psychometric psychological tests. The majority of subjects did not qualify for being resilient. Only 9% of male centenarians and 6% of female centenarians had the resiliency where they qualified for high adaptability. This high resilience group was associated with 2%-4% lower mortality risk. They had a 36%-55% higher odds of not developing cognitive impairment and they rated themselves as being in good health and having a “good life” satisfaction. These resilient centenarians had a 7%-12% higher probability of not developing a physical disability. Short-term health decline was not associated with these high resilient centenarians.

A sense of purpose

Centenarians can still contribute to society. Tao Porchon-Lynch turned 100 in 2014. She opened the Westchester Institute of Yoga in 1982 and is still practicing yoga. There are many ways how centenarians express a sense of purpose. Males often work in their old job, but only part-time. They may help with babysitting the great-grandchildren. Others do volunteer service. Still others may enrol in a university and study what they always wanted to do.

In a 2016 publication people older than 65 were followed between February 2011 and November 2014. Those who had neither hobbies or a purpose in life did not fare well. They had a risk of mortality of 2.08-fold compared to those with a sense of purpose. Dr. Hertoghe provided 9 more references regarding studies that showed the same finding.

Remaining active

If a centenarian remains active and moves about several hours per day, the body functions are preserved. Anna Mary Robertson Moses who was known by her nickname “Grandma Moses” took up painting at age 78. She died at age 101 in 1961.

Positive emotions

One study of 54 Ashkenazi Jewish older adults (aged 98-107) compared those with positive emotions to those with negative emotions. The researchers noted that a positive attitude about life allowed centenarians to live longer.

A study involving 2282 Mexican Americans aged 65 to 99 showed that positive affect scores were a predictor for the following. Subjects with a high positive affect had a 52% lower probability of becoming physically disabled. They were 36% less likely than the negative controls to lose their walking speed. In addition, they were 47% less likely to die during the two-year observation period than their negative controls.

Nurses’ Health Study and Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study

Two studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study measured optimism. The researchers found that those with the highest optimism scores had a 1.5-fold higher probability in women and 1.7-fold in men to survive to age 85. This was compared to a control with the lowest optimism scores. Dr. Hertoghe provided 19 more studies that showed the effects of positive emotions regarding long term survival. For brevity reasons I will not dwell on them here.

Better stress management

Centenarians avoid excessive stress and attempt to relax instead.  It has been known since the ground-breaking work by Dr. Hans Selye that stress undermines longevity. By using relaxation methods intermittently one can reduce the stress response, which normalizes the excessive ACTH production in the pituitary gland and the concomitant cortisol production in the adrenal glands.

Self-determination

Long-living people have a strong willpower and are determined to succeed with what they want. They have a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Centenarians have concerns for others, but they also have a healthy regard for themselves. Dr. Hertoghe provided 4 references to illustrate this, but for brevity reasons I will omit them here.

Social involvement

Centenarians have an active social life. They are involved with their family, with the community including often church communities. Sociability has a 2.3-fold higher probability of survival (mortality reduced by 57% due to sociability).

Practicing religion

Those who are centenarians were often raised in religious families. They developed a strong faith in God. A common theme among centenarians is that they trust in God and believe it is His will that they lived a long life. They also believe that eventually God will call them “home” when He is ready for them. Centenarians who practice religion have a strong belief in an afterlife, which sustains them to live and they accept death when it comes. In a 2017 study 18,370 participants aged 50 and older were interviewed in 2004 and followed for all-cause mortality to 2014. Regular church attendants had a mortality that was 40% less than those who did not attend. Dr. Hertoghe provided 20 more references that showed similar findings.

Spiritual involvement

Attributes of spiritual involvement are high ethical principles, resilience and hope that everything will turn out OK. Dr. Hertoghe cited from 7 different references that the average effect of spirituality leads to a 2- to 4-fold greater survival over 17 years.

A feeling of freedom

This makes centenarians less concerned what other people think of them. Dr. Helen Langner, a psychiatrist, still does a part-time psychiatric practice at age 100. She says about a feeling of freedom: “In old age, there’s often a sense of personal freedom because there is less pressure of a career or the responsibilities of work or raising a

family. It can and should be a time for people to do the things that are important to them and a time to enjoy. “

A feeling of youth

Many centenarians are young at heart. Even though they may look physically old, they don’t feel old in their heart.

What is the centenarian spirit?

When people are older than 100 years, they often have a mix of humor and eccentricity; they express emotions openly and they are happy people. They accept the death of spouses, siblings and significant others.

By the way, humor has a strong predictive survivor value. In a study that researchers conducted over 15 years, there was a clear positive effect of humor regarding mortality. A sense of humor reduced the all-cause mortality by 48%. In women humor lowered mortality regarding cardiovascular disease by 73%. Humor reduced death due to infections in women by 83%. Men had a non-significant reduction of all‐cause mortality by 12% and a significant lower mortality due to infections by 74%.

Dr. Hertoghe cited three more publications that showed the power of humor in reducing disease and disability.

Jeanne Louise Calment 

As an illustration for humor Dr. Hertoghe introduced Jeanne Louise Calment to the audience. She was a French woman who broke the record for being the oldest centenarian in the world.  Jeanne Calment died on August 4, 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. She was asked by someone: “Why do you live so long?” She replied: “Because God has forgotten me…” Next question: “How do you consider your future life?” “Very, very short”. Last question:” What do you think of your wrinkles?” “The only wrinkle I have is the one I am sitting on”.

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Conclusion

Centenarians have certain attributes that make them more resilient than others who die earlier. They have a will to live, an ability to adjust, a sense of purpose and they stay active. Their psychological make-up is such that they have a positive mood and they tend to avoid stress and anxiety. They have a sense of self-determination. They are very sociable, have close family ties, love relationships with people around them, and often have a strong religious faith. Their spirituality has a connection to their basic values and beliefs. Centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. They have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old. But they also have humor as documented above with the oldest woman that lived. She was 122 years and 164 days old when she died in 1997.

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Aug
25
2018

The Downside Of Living To 100

A review article has examined longevity and reviewed the downside of living to 100. In their 80’s about 10% of the population live in nursing homes, but among centenarians 55% are residing in nursing homes. They are often very lonely, as their social circles have shrunk as they aged.

Common diseases of older people

Osteoarthritis makes it difficult for people to get around, it causes chronic pain and it can also be the reason for falls. In 1990 there were 213.4 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000. 26 years later, in 2016 there were 232.1 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000 people.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been falling, because less people smoke cigarettes now. Statistics show 1667 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 1990, but only 945 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 2016.

Diarrhea and common infections have dropped sharply from 8951 per 100,000 in 1990 to 3276 per 100,000 in 2016.

What other common diseases do older people get?

There are a number of common diseases that affect the elderly.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hips and the knees are common, but it can affect every joint in the body. In the end stage knee replacements or hip replacements may be necessary. But before a total knee replacement or total hip replacement can even come into consideration, the person’s heart needs a thorough checkup to ensure that it is safe for the patient to undergo surgery under a general anesthetic.

Heart disease

Older people often have heart disease.

When coronary arteries are narrowed, heart attacks occur. Cardiologists can place stents, so that previously narrowed coronary arteries receive normal blood flow. Following such a procedure the patient may live for another 10 to 15 years.

There are also heart valve calcifications. The aortic valve is particularly endangered. A heart surgeon may be able to replace a diseased aortic valve by a porcine valve.

The nervous system of the heart transmits electrical signals from the sinus node to the muscle fibers, which can get diseased. Heart rhythm problems may necessitate the insertion of a pacemaker.

Finally, the heart may enlarge, but pump less blood than before. This condition is congestive heart failure. The 5-year survival for this condition is only 50.4%. Unfortunately there is very little the doctor can do for patients like this.

Cancer

The older we get, the more DNA mutations we accumulate. At one point cancer develops. If the diagnosis happens at an early stage there is a good chance that surgery can remove a cancerous growth, and the patient survives. But there are cancers that are notoriously difficult to recognize in the early stages. These are: cancer of the pancreas, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and certain types of leukemias.

Respiratory diseases

Those who smoked earlier in life may develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronically disabling lung disorder. Often these individuals have to carry an oxygen tank with them wherever they go. The 5-year survival rate for people with COPD is 40 to 70%.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone is brittle. Spontaneous bone fractures can occur at the wrists, the upper thigh bone (femoral fractures) or in the vertebral bones. Women in menopause are hormone deficient and this contributes to calcium depletion of the bones. Lately research has shown that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 are necessary for a normal calcium metabolism. Briefly, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 and 5000 IU of vitamin D3 every day are the necessary dosage that the body can absorb calcium from the gut, eliminate it from the blood vessels and deposit it into the bone. Calcium is present in milk products and milk. If a person does not consume enough milk products a supplement of 1000 mg of calcium daily does make sense.

Alzheimer’s

The older we get, the more likely it is an onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Between the ages of 90 to 94 there is a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 12.7% per year. The group from age 95 to 99 years has a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 21.2% per year. Persons aged 100 years and older have an increase of Alzheimer’s by 40.7% per year. What this means is that essentially there is a doubling of Alzheimer’s every 5.5 years. We do not have all of the answers why this is happening and why Alzheimer’s develops. But we do know that diabetics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. High blood sugar levels and high insulin levels seem to lead to the precipitation of the tau protein in the brain, which causes Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes

When diabetes is not well controlled, there is accelerated hardening of the arteries. This can cause heart attacks and strokes. Longstanding diabetes can affect the kidneys (diabetic nephropathy, kidney damage) and can lead to hardening of the leg arteries. Often the only treatment left is a below knee amputation. Blindness from uncontrolled diabetes is common and pain from diabetic neuropathy as well.

Diabetics have an average life expectancy of 77 to 81 years. However, if they pay attention to their blood sugars and manage their diabetes closely they can live past the age of 85.

Falls and balance problems

As people age, their balance organ is not functioning as well. Also, people with high blood pressure medication may have postural hypotensive episodes that can lead to falls.

There may be a lack of cognitive functioning and misjudging of steps, ledges and irregularities in the floor. When a person has brittle bones from osteoporosis and they fall, a hip fracture is very common. At a higher age surgery for a hip fracture is dangerous. It can have a mortality of 50%.

Obesity

A person with obesity has a life expectancy that is 10 years less than a person without obesity. The reason for this is that with obesity This is so, because the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, arthritis and diabetes is increased.

Depression

Older people often get depressed. It even has its own name: involutional depression. People can get into a state of mind, where they think negatively. Depressed people feel that they have nothing to live for. They lost friends; they are shut in because they can’t drive a car any more. This type of depression needs treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The danger of leaving depression untreated is that the person may get suicidal. In older people depression is often precipitated by physical health problems.

Oral health

When teeth are not looked after, gingivitis and periodontitis can develop. Infected gums can shed bacteria into the blood and this can affect the heart valves. Endocarditis, the infection of heart valves, is a cardiological emergency. Prolonged antibiotic therapy is necessary to overcome this condition.

Poverty

Poverty has real consequences. The aging person may not have access to the optimal medical care facility because of a lack of funds. But even at a younger age there is evidence that people are healthier when they are wealthier.

Shingles

Older people often get shingles, even if they had chickenpox or shingles as a child. This is evidence that the immune system is getting weaker. Shingles in an older person should alarm the treating physician that there could be an underlying cancer. Due to that knowledge a cancer-screening tests should be part of the medical exam. In addition, a varicella vaccine should be offered to the patient to build up immunity.

The Downside Of Living To 100

The Downside Of Living To 100

Conclusion

Living to 100 is often glorified in the press. Maybe you have seen a 90-year old jogger completing a marathon, or you saw an 85-year old couple ballroom dancing. But what they don’t show you is what I summarized here, the less glamorous things about living to 100. You may get a heart attack or a stroke. Osteoarthritis may affect you how you walk. Congestive heart failure may make you get short of breath when you walk upstairs. Then there are various cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early.

If you have smoked in the past, you may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which leaves you breathless.

Other illnesses

Osteoporosis can lead to spontaneous fractures. Because the bone has a lack of calcium, this is difficult to treat and takes a long time to heal.

Alzheimer’s is ever so much more common when you approach the year 100. There are other medical conditions you can get: obesity, diabetes and depression. When you get shingles for the second time, it may mean that your immune system is getting weak and a cancer-screening test should be done.

There are some downsides when you approach the age of 100.

Know your risks and be vigilant

You may keep your physician busy checking out various age-related illnesses, but more importantly, get regular check-ups and tests. Any condition is easier to treat with an earlier diagnosis! The message for anybody reading this is very simple. Prevention through healthy living is something you can actively pursue. Keep your body and your mind busy. Enjoy time with friends and family instead of living a solitary existence. See the glass that is half full instead of viewing it as half empty. Stick to a healthy diet. Knowing all the risks is not a scare but a call to being vigilant. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to enjoy your golden years feeling well and happy.