What is the Supercentenarian’s Secret for a Long Life?

by A-Badgero

Walter Breunin is the U.S's oldest undisputed American-born man on record. Walter died in 2011 at the age of 114 years, 205 days. His secret to a long life? "If you keep your mind busy and keep your body busy, you're going to be around a long time."

A supercentenarian is a person who is aged 110 years or older. Currently there are 70 verified living supercentenarians in the world and approximately 167 pending cases needing verification. Never before in history have so many people been recorded living for so long.

With all the oldest people being of ages 113 and older many ask the question, “What is their secret?”  What kind of life style permits you to live that long?  Jeanne Calment, the world’s oldest person to ever live, lived to the ripe old age of 122 and did so despite smoking 2-3 cigarettes every day since age 21 and eating about a kilo of chocolate a week. The only similarities that these people have had in their lifestyles is all of them have a strong social network. With lots of visitors and friends to see these people are highly motivated and have a reason to get up in the morning.

There are many reasons why people as a whole are living much longer than our ancestors. The main reason and difference in our lifestyle from the past is the huge advancements made in medical science. Child birth, once an extremely dangerous endeavour, is now a simple procedure usually completed without many complications. The invention of vaccinations and better sanitation practices have saved us from death by minor infections and disease epidemics.

The main advantage these long lived individuals have had is that their parents lived long lives as well – longevity is inherited so the longer your relatives and parents live the better chance you have for extended continuation in this world. One thing the majority of the world’s supercentenarians have in common is that they are women, among the 70 oldest people in the world only 4 of them are men.

Women have long been known to live a bit longer than men but there are many factors and theories as to why.

One clear advantage women have over men when it comes to health is that they usually develop health issues like heart disease and stroke in their 70s or 80s while men tend to contract these medical issues earlier, in their 50s and 60s. Women’s hearts tend to be more active primarily due to the menstruation process which releases the estradiol hormone, a powerful form of estrogen that provides tons of energy causing the heart to work at a greater level then men’s.

Testosterone can increase LDL cholesterol levels in the body which is the unhealthy type of cholesterol while estrogen can help increase HDL cholesterol which is considered to be the good kind and is known to be very helpful with improving one’s biological age. Also men have a tendency to engage in more dangerous activities and behaviours than women. Mainly in their teens and 20s they go through what is referred to as a “testosterone storm”.  Their testosterone levels tend to spike and become erratic, this can induce dangerous behaviours and a desire for risk. Driving fast while not wearing a seatbelt, drinking or smoking excessively, being aggressive with weaponry and so on, all of this can lead to an early death. Men are also more likely to suffer from such afflictions such as depression. Suicide rates tend to be higher in men due to the fact that they are more likely to be successful at a suicide attempt.

To understand why some people age quicker or slower than others we must first understand aging. Many scientists believe that the aging process is caused by a gradual buildup of many small individual faults in the body, damage to a DNA strand, deranged protein molecules… it all adds up.  The reason we are able to live as long as we do is due to our bodies’ effective  mechanisms to maintain and repair our cells but these mechanisms are not perfect and they do make mistakes and it is a build up of these slip-ups that causes us to grow old.

Science writer Thomas Kirkwood believes that the reason women live longer may be due to their purpose as animals. Same as for most animal species it is the female body that is important for the success of reproduction of the species. The female’s body needs to be better at repairing damage in order to be strong enough to sustain her own health and her offspring. The man’s reproductive role is much less dependant on his continued good health which may be why inherently their bodies are not as good at repairing damage.

Before a person can be added to the list of supercentenarians they must provide three pieces of ID that prove their age. Dr. Stephen Coles, a Los Angelos researcher, is currently in search of a woman who supposedly lives in Saskatchewan, Canada and is said to be 113 years old. He is hoping to add her to Gerontology Research Group’s comprehensive database of the world’s oldest people and award her the title of Canada’s oldest person. Once located, Dr. Coles wishes to meet with her and ask her some questions about her lifestyle. Details such as whether she smoked or drank regularly will be important information to record for the study.  Because longevity is inherited they would also like to get a DNA sample so they can determine what these long livers have that ordinary people lack.  Perhaps these supercentenarians are our key to uncovering a real life fountain of youth or even the secret of immortality.

Read more:

Oldest Authenticated Supercentenarians | BLTC Research

Top 10 Oldest People Ever | Listverse

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