This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

August 30, 2017

Can Humans Live Forever?

Previously, it was believed that the human life span could be no more than 115 years (Vijg and Le Bourg); yet according to this new study published by Karger AG in the journal Gerontology, human longevity will depend more on human efforts to extend life span than on some finite number of years already lived by one person. Connected with NORC (founded as the National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago, the Russian Academy of Sciences Federal Research Center, and Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University in Moscow, the Russian-American researchers Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova (and an additional co-author) have provided valuable insights into the nature of the human lifespan.

Documenting the human lifespan
Though it seems that the death rates of people at age 100 have stayed the same in recent decades, several people are known to have lived longer than 115 years. In fact, the maximum reported age at death in 2017 has exceeded 115 years: the Italian supercentenarian Emma Martina Luigia Morano (November 29, 1899 to April 15, 2017) lived 117 years and 137 days. Now, the oldest living person is Violet Brown, a 117-year-old Jamaican woman.

Who cares and why
Having this information is important for geriatricians (people who study and take care of persons who live into their 90s, 100s, and more), but it is also for demographers, actuaries, and the public. For gerontologists, having this information is vital to their work, to caring for these aging citizens. For demographers, the information allows governments to ensure that there are services for these folks. For actuaries, it helps insurance companies and other businesses to serve them. Finally, the general public is usually interested for their own planning and quality of life.

Significant decline in the death among younger age groups
Looking at the data, we can see the effect of medical advancements and higher standards of living among younger age groups. You would think that this same decline would be seen across the age spectrum. Sadly, that reduction is not the case. However, just because most centenarians are not living longer, does not mean that no one can. And, "studies of more recent and more reliable data suggest that mortality continues to grow exponentially with age, even at extremely old ages".

Women typically live longer
About 85 percent of centenarians are women; and, according to Dr. Thomas Perls, professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston University and Boston Medical Center, at ages 110 and older, that number grows to 90 percent.

What makes the difference?
The principal advantage appears to be genes; there is a combination that appears to have just the right variations in at least 130 genes, making them very rare. However, not surprisingly, the conventional wisdom is still probably best: keep fit, eat a vegetarian diet, avoid cigarettes and alcohol, and manage your stress; do that and you are much more likely to reach your full longevity potential.

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