Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Longevity.
Hits New High - 2005 Data
One hundred and twenty years, as far as we know, is the longest that anyone has ever lived. A man in Japan, Shirechiyo Izumi, reached the age of 120 years, 237 days in 1986, according to documents that most experts think are authentic. He died after developing pneumonia.
Long lives always make us wonder: What is the secret? Does it lie in the genes? Is it where people live or the way the live - - something they do or do not do? Eat or do not eat? Most of the scientists who study aging, gerontologists, say the secret probably lies in all of the above - - heredity, environment, and lifestyle.
But gerontologists also ask other and more difficult questions. For example, if the 120 year old had not finally succumbed to illness, could he have lived on and on? Or was he approaching some built-in biological limit? Is there a maximum human life span beyond which we cannot live no matter how optimal our environment or favorable our genes?
Whether or not there is such a limit, what happens as we age? What are the dynamics of this process and how do they make life spans short, average, or long? Once we understand these dynamics, could they be used to extend everyone's life span to 120 or even, as some scientists speculate, to much greater ages?
And finally for all of us, the most important question: How can insights into longevity be used to fight the diseases and disabilities associated with old age to make sure thie period of life is healthy, active, and independent?
Average life span and live expectancy in the United States have grown dramatically in this century, from about 47 years in 1900 to about 75 years in 1990. This advance is mostly due to improvements in sanitation, the discovery of antibiotics, and medical care. Now, as scientists make headway against chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease, some think it can be extended even further.
* White males/females click here for this report
Maximum human life span seems to be another matter. There is no evidence that it has changed for thousands of years despite fabled fountains of youth and biblical tales of long-lived patriarchs. However, very recently, the dream of extending life span has shifted from legend to laboratory. As gerontologists explore the genes, cells, and organs involved in aging, they are uncovering more and more of the secrets of longevity. As a result, life extension may now be more than the stuff of myth and the retardation of disease and disability, realistic goals.
In 1989, at Veterans Administration hospitals in Milwaukee and Chicago, a small group of men aged 60 and over began receiving injections three times a week that dramatically reversed some signs of aging. The injections increased their lean body (and presumably muscle) mass, reduced excess fat and thickened skin. When the injections stopped, the men's new strength ebbed and signs of aging returned.
What the men were taking was recombinant human growth hormone (GH), a synthetic version of the hormone that is produced in the pituitary gland and plays a critical part in normal childhood growth and development. Now the researchers are learning that GH, or the declind of GH, seems also to play a role in the aging process in at least some individuals.
The idea that hormones are linked to aging is not new. We have long known that some hormones decline with age. Human growth hormone levels decrease in about half of all adults with the passage of time. Production of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone tends to fall off. Hormones with less familiar names, like melatonin and thymosin, are also not as abundant in older as in younger adults.
New territory, unexplored or only sketchily mapped, lies ahead. As gerontologists isolate and characterize more and more longevity - and aging-related genes in laboratory animals, insights into genes and gene products important in human aging will emerge. Comparable human genes will be identified and mapped to chromosomes.
This information will be useful in designing both genetic and non-genetic interventions to slow or even reverse some aging-related changes. Already, for example, a study by Helen Blau of Stanford University has shown that muscle cells can be geretically modified and injected into muscle where they will produce and secrete human growth hormone. Non-genetic strategies will include the development of interventions to reduce damage to cellular components, such as proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids.
Normal aging will be more closely defined. For instance, at NIA's Gerontology Research Center, the behavior of the cells that line blood vessels during aging is now providing clues to the stiffening of blood vessels that occurs with age as well as insights into vascular disease. As key biomarkers of aging are identified, researchers will be able to use them to test interventions to slow aging. Studies will begin to delve more deeply into differences in aging between the sexes and among ethnic groups.
In short, gerontologists will be charting the paths ans
intersections of genetic, biochemical, and physiologic
aging. What they find will reveal some of the secrets of
aging. It may lead to extended life spans. It will very
certainly contribute to better health, less disability, and
more independence in the second fifty years of life.
No one knows for sure why women tend to outlive their male counterparts but it couldn't hurt men to start practicing some life-lengthening habits common to women.
Its generally accepted that women tend to live longer than men.
In fact, they live seven years longer on average, according to Howard S. Friedman, PhD, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and Leslie R. Martin, PhD, professor of psychology at La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif., co-authors of The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study.
Why the gender disparity? Though experts continue to study both the male and female lifespan, the discrepancy between the two remains somewhat of a mystery. Over the past century, this difference has increased slightly with women gaining about a year more than men, says Friedman. Understanding all the causes is maddeningly difficult because so many things are changing.
Though science lacks a definitive explanation for why women live longer, experts do have some theories and they range from womens genes to mens dare-devilish dispositions.
Battle of the Sexes: Blame It on Biology
Heres one simple explanation for why women live longer: Biology. Men have three times more heart disease than women, says Georgianna Donadio, PhD, program director for the National Institute of Whole Health in Wellesley, Mass. This is believed to be due to the difference between estrogen and testosterone.
Women have more estradiol, the most important type of estrogen found in the body, which helps make blood vessels less vulnerable to damage, thereby offering some protection against vascular damage and heart disease.
Another recent study found that men are more likely to die from cancer than women due to the fact that more men develop cancer in the first place, likely because of, among other factors, carcinogenic exposures, metabolism, and susceptibility.
And heres a fact you probably didnt know about females: Women have less oxidative stress because women produce more antioxidants, according to Donadio.
Bad Habits Vs. Better Habits
The disparity between womens health and mens health may also be explained through the choices men and women make.
Guys are greater risk-takers. In general, men are bigger participants in vigorous sports and physically dangerous activities, which can lead to injuries and even death. Traditionally, men also go to war in greater numbers than women.
Men take health risks, too. Then there are those everyday risks. About 23 percent of men are smokers compared to only 18 percent of women, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Men also drink more heavily and may be more likely to abuse illegal drugs, be involved in violent activities, and engage in other dicey behaviors like driving too fast, adds Martin.
Women are better neighbors. Females have been found to be better at reaching out and connecting with others, which can actually boost their health. Women express their emotions and reduce stress through communicating needs and feelings more than men, says Donadio.
The Longevity Project findings actually indicate that social differences may explain a lot. In The Longevity Project, we found that men were at very high risk of dying after losing their wives, said Friedman. There is the old joke that the six words that appear in every mans obituary are, he is survived by his wife. Widowed men often lose their key link to other people and the person who most helped them stay mentally and physically healthy.
On the other hand, women who lost their husbands still did well health- and longevity-wise for the most part. The reason? They may have been able to turn to their friends and children for support and social connections.
While no one knows for sure why women tend to spend more
days on this Earth, its a pretty good bet that the
answer is a combination of factors. And remember: Some of
them are in your control.
This Special Report summarizes the differences in longevity and death rates between men and women at the international level.
The World Health Report, published every year by the World Health Organization (WHO), is the most authoritative source of information on life expectancy and mortality patterns in every country around the world. The most recent World Health Report summarizes the number of male and female deaths (reference 1):
This table shows that for all three major categories of death, males are at greater risk of death.
Suicide, a subcategory of injuries, also contributes to the mortality imbalance. A recent WHO publication reports that globally, the suicide rate for males is 24.0/100,000, compared to 3.5/100,000 for females. The report concludes, "The rate of suicide is almost universally higher among men compared to women by an aggregate ratio of 3.5 to 1" (reference 2).
The lifespan gender gap exists in almost every country in the world. The disparity ranges from 3.8 years in Israel to a disturbing 15.4 years in the Russian Federation (see table)
And this disparity is expected to worsen. According to the WHO Global Burden of Disease study, women's life expectancy is expected to increase to about 90 years by 2020 in industrialized countries. As for men, "far smaller gains in male life expectancy were projected than in females" (reference 3).
The greatest disparities are found in the 15-60 year age group, the years when people are most productive to society. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, male mortality in this critical age group surpassed female deaths by substantial margins in all eight regions of the world (reference 4).
In the industrialized countries of North America and Europe, there are twice as many male deaths as female deaths among persons 15-60 years old. In the former Soviet countries of eastern Europe, the gender disparity in this age group is greater than 2:1.
The greatest sex-specific disparities in lifespan are to be found in the countries of the former Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, the resulting economic instability had an adverse effect on longevity. Male life expectancy plummeted from about 63.5 years in 1990 to 58 years in 1995. In contrast, female life expectancy dropped by only 2 years during the same period---from about 73.5 to 71.5 years. The drop in male life expectancy was so precipitous that the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) convened a special conference to investigate the causes (reference 5).
It is true that women are more likely to suffer from certain conditions than men, such as osteoporosis and immune disorders. But the loss of life, for which men are at greater risk, must be considered the greatest loss of all. As Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently put it, the right to life is "the most precious of rights."
Men's Health Consistently Lags
All around the world, the lifespan of men lags behind that of women. This generalization applies to the three major categories of death, in virtually every country, and in all age groups.
The disparities of men's health are especially acute for males in the 15-60 year age group, and in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The condition of men's health is in dire straits.
Source: Department of Health and Human Services: Health, United States, 1998, Table 28.
Contact: Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General, World Health Organization Avenue Appia 20, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland. Cost for airmail postage: 80 cents
1. World Health Organization: World
Health Report 2001, Annex Table 2, Geneva, Switzerland: WHO,
2001. www.who.int/whr/2001/main/en/annex/ index.htm
My wife recently asked me, Why do you assume youll die before me?
Her question caught me by surprise. But its true, I have made that assumption. So, I answered, as matter-of-factly as I could, with one word: statistics.
I knew that, on average, women live longer than men. In fact, 57% of all those ages 65 and older are female. By age 85, 67% are women. The average lifespan is about 5 years longer for women than men in the U.S., and about 7 years longer worldwide.
Its not hard to see the gender gap among the elderly. A glance around most nursing homes or assisted living facilities in the U.S. often tells the story: women will usually outnumber men, and the magnitude of the difference is often striking. Im also told that when a man moves into a residential setting dominated by the geriatric set, he tends to be popular; and thats especially true if he still drives.
Advertisers know this as well. I recently saw an ad for an organization called A Place for Mom that helps families find assisted living or other services for senior citizens. And while they help men as well as women, the name of the company reflects how much bigger the elderly female market is.
So why do men, on average, die first?
There are many reasons why the ratio of men to women (which is roughly equal in young adulthood) starts to favor women over time. Among the most powerful factors? Men tend to;
What we can do to help men live longer
While theres not much that can be done about some of these factors, others are modifiable. For example, since men tend to avoid medical care far more often than women, getting men to report symptoms (including depression) and go for regular follow-up for chronic medical problems (such as high blood pressure) could counter some of the tendency for them to die younger.
Its also worth noting that the survival gap between men and women reflects an average tendency among large numbers of people. In fact, plenty of wives predecease their husbands. Individual risk factors (such as smoking, diabetes, or a strong family history of breast cancer) can outweigh the general tendency for women to live longer.
Perhaps well be more successful in the future in avoiding preventable, premature death among men (and women) and, because many of these efforts will have a bigger impact on men, the gender gap among the elderly may eventually narrow. Until then, my wife and I will do what we can to stay healthy. But, statistics dont lie. Ill probably die first.
Related Information: A
Guide to Mens Health Fifty and Forward
See how your lifestyle can affect you in the years to come by answering just 12 quick questions. Your expected age will show in the tabulator in the upper left corner. Keep in mind your answers may increase, decrease, or have no affect on your expected age. (Note: What we recommend is to give truthful answers but before you go to the next question, click on items you might consider changing and see if it adds any years for you. Then, return to your original answer. Example: By going from "Somewhat active" to "Walk at minimum 30 minutes 4 days per week", I could add two healthy years to my life. - Gordon Clay)
Longevity, n. uncommon extension of the fear of death. - Ambrose Bierce
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