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Published on: November 15, 2016
by Gary Rotstein for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Not everyone gets to live into their 90s and even fewer get to do so in healthy manner.
A new report from the Population Reference Bureau (www.prb.org), a private, nonprofit research outfit, looks at some of the things figured out in recent years about healthy aging and long life spans. While acknowledging everyone knows factors like smoking, diet and physical activity can make a big difference in health and longevity, the report highlighted various findings from research funded by the National Institute on Aging, including:
• People 95 or older are more extroverted, have more positive attitudes toward life and experience less emotional distress than is the case with the general adult population.
• A person in his or her 90s has a big advantage over peers in making it to 100 if they have a history of resiliency in adapting to adverse conditions.
• Social isolation is a big risk factor for premature death among older adults — as much of a detriment as smoking.
• About 15 percent to 25 percent of longevity is determined by genetics instead of lifestyle factors a person can control.
“While genetics play an important role in longevity, people’s life experiences — from birth through old age — also shape their chances of living to 100 and beyond,” said the PRB report, “Longevity Research: Unraveling the Determinants of Healthy Aging and Longer Life Spans.”
It noted that among centenarians, more than 80 percent of them had lived without major age-related disease until at least age 80. The oldest-old group of Americans were found to view life positively and display less anger or neuroticism.
“Those with exceptional longevity are a very select group, with different health profiles compared with those who die at younger ages,” the report said.
So chances are, if you know people in their 90s, they’re probably pretty special. And there are likely to be some things you can learn from them, if you pay attention.
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