Take care of Yourself and Your Physique! You may live beyond 90 years, perhaps even beyond 100 years!
Do you want to live to age 90 (or even longer)? You have far more control over your longevity and life expectancy than you may think. We’re a nation living longer and longer. Over the next 30 years, the number of Americans age 90 and above is expected to triple, and an NIH-funded research study called 90+ at the University of California Irvine is trying to learn all it can right now from a group of men and women who’ve already managed to get there. Sure, your genetics and family history factor into how long you will live (if your parents lived long, healthy lives, that increases your odds). But your lifestyle choices may be more important than your genes. In fact, your genes probably make up less than 30 percent of what determines how long you will live.1 The rest of your odds for longer life stems from your environment and your own lifestyle choices. And the good news is, you have lots more control over those.
A number of years ago, CBS published a story by Leslie Stahl on 60-minutes about living 90 and beyond. Some of the findings were staggering and there seemed to be less definitive reasons why some people age a certain way and others maintain a level of independence. All in all, it was about staying active, maintaining social connections, and considering everything in moderation.
What allows people to live 90 and beyond? Believe it or not, drinking the occasional cup of coffee or glass of wine may be one of the ways to increase your life expectancy. According to UC Irvine’s trailblazing 90+ Study, people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee live longer than those who abstain.
Factors associated with longer life: exercise, moderate drinking of alcohol and caffeine, social engagement, and our favorite: putting on a few pounds as we age. The 90+ study’s focus is now on memory and dementia. What they’ve learned — and what they haven’t — drew us back, as did the 90+ers. The 90+ Study is the longest continuing research effort focused exclusively on the distinctive health and lifestyle issues of Americans in their 90s or older. Launched in 2003 and based at the Clinic for Aging Research & Education in Laguna Woods, Calif., the study collects clinical, pathological and genetic information on more than 1,600 participants. Kawas and her team of researchers look at the types of food, activities and lifestyles are associated with living longer.
“Before the 90+ Study, we knew very little about individuals over 90 because they have been systematically excluded from diagnostic criteria in most studies of aging and dementia,” Kawas says. “There truly isn’t anything like the 90+ Study. The results obtained thus far have provided researchers across the globe with valuable information about aging.”
The research, twice featured on 60 Minutes, also focuses on dementia in people over age 90. The most well-known type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. More than 40 percent of people 90 and older suffer from dementia, but about half of them do not have sufficient Alzheimer’s-related plaque growth in their brain to explain their cognitive loss. Also, about half of the people who die with Alzheimer’s disease pathology in their brain do not have dementia during life.
Now that you understand the factors that contribute to living to age 90 and beyond, get started on living longer by working on one of them each month. For example, you can quit smoking this month, lose weight next month, and get your blood pressure under control the following month. For some of these factors, like high blood pressure and diabetes, you may need the help of your healthcare provider to get your condition under control. For the other factors, you may need information and the support of your friends and family. With more people than ever before are reaching age 90, and if you take steps to preserve your health, you can be one of them!!
- Ruby JG, Wright KM, Rand KA, et al. Estimates of the heritability of human longevity are substantially inflated due to assortative mating. Genetics. 2018;210(3):1109-1124. doi:10.1534/genetics.118.301613
- Leslie Stahl, 60 Minutes, Living 90 and beyond, original air date 2014