Summit County doctor asks, ‘Is 100 the new 80?’
Special to the Daily
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 100,000 people are now over 100 years of age, and it is estimated that in the year 2050 there will be close to a million centenarians living in the United States. Some prognosticators have suggested that eventually obesity will slow the longevity trend, but for the last hundred years or so, longevity has increased about two years per decade. Average longevity for a male was 46 in 1900 and is now somewhere around 76. If we look back 100,000 years to early man, longevity probably only increased 10-20 years until two centuries ago, and has accelerated markedly since then. This increase in longevity has inspired much attention and research.
Author Dan Buettner wrote a book called “The Blue Zones” which highlights five areas in the world — Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California; and Ikaria, Greece — where longevity exceeds the average in the United States and Europe by around a decade. His mission is to bring knowledge of the environmental and social characteristics common to these areas to the rest of the world, with the goal of improving longevity. These factors include: a diet low in meat, physical activity consisting mostly of working with the land, connection to family, a close social structure, and having purpose and meaning in life.
In my opinion, Buettner’s premise is not entirely accurate. These agrarian cultures have lived and eaten the same way for thousands of years and yet it is only within the last few centuries that longevity has accelerated. Additionally, longevity is increasing everywhere in the world regardless of lifestyle. Agrarian cultures began around 20,000 years ago. If one were to apply the two-year per decade longevity rate starting with the origins of this time period, people would now be living to 2,000 years of age!
So what explains this advancement in longevity? The truth is, no one really knows. Some of the trend is likely a combination of many little factors, but ultimately it is a mystery. Some might say it is the next step in human evolution; or to put it in spiritual terms: the evolution of human consciousness. The important point here is that — for whatever reasons — we are all living longer, and it makes sense to take the best possible care of our bodies, minds and souls while we are living. We should do this in order to maximize all that life has to offer and to remain as healthy as possible in our advancing years. As the great jazz pianist, Eubie Blake said after his 100th birthday, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” Embrace life and live to the fullest!
Dr. Lawrance George practices family medicine at High Country Healthcare Silverthorne. He will discuss, “Aging Well: Is 100 the New 80?” on Saturday, Aug. 8 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. as part of High Country Healthcare’s “Walk with a Doc” weekly education series. Walkers of all ages and abilities (plus well-behaved, leashed dogs) should meet at the Summit Medical Building (360 Peak One Drive) next to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center for a walk-and-talk on a nearby recreation path. For more information, visit www.highcountryhealth.com.
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