Positive lifestyle changes in older age adds years to lifespan

Stockholm.  Making positive lifestyle changes in older age can years to your life, according to new research from Sweden.
The study included 1,810 men and women who were at least 75 years old as part of the Kungsholmen Project, which examined dementia and aging. The researchers at the Karolinska Institutet interviewed participants about their smoking status, alcohol intake, leisure activities, social networks, chronic diseases and other factors. The group was followed for 18 years, during which 91.8 percent died.
They discovered the following:
  • Half of the participants survived longer than 90 years of age
  • Not surprisingly, women and nonsmokers lived longer than men and current smokers
  • Subjects who regularly engaged in physical activity lived a median of two years longer than those who did not
  • Those who consumed alcohol lived a median of 1.3 years more than those who were never drinkers. 

Men and women who had a low risk profile, characterised by healthy lifestyle behaviours; participation in one or more leisure activities and having a rich social network (defined as living with a spouse, being in regular contact with children, and having daily to weekly contact with relatives and friends) or a moderate social network (defined as having two of the three elements of a rich social network) lived a median of 5.4 years longer than those who had a high risk profile that included none of these factors. 

When the subjects were analysed according to gender, men with a low risk profile lived a median of six years longer and women five years longer in comparison with those who had a high risk profile. And in an analysis of those 85 years of age or more, a low risk profile still conferred a median age of death that was 4.7 years older than that of subjects with a high risk profile.
The researchers conclude: “To the best of our knowledge this is the first study that directly provides information about differences in longevity according to several modifiable factors,” the authors write. “Our results suggest that encouraging favourable lifestyle behaviours even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy, probably by reducing morbidity.”
Dr Debora Rizzuto from the Institutet commentsL  “Studies have shown that lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and body weight (both underweight and overweight), can predict mortality in elderly people. 
“However, it is uncertain whether these associations are applicable to the oldest old. Indeed, studies have indicated that the relation between certain lifestyle factors and mortality may differ among those aged 75 or older compared with younger adults.”
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Shopping adds years to lifespan – new study

Washington: If you want to live longer you should spend more time shopping, ccording to a study that was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

shopping.jpgA low-impact physical activity like shopping improves heart health as well as balance and coordination in the elderly, says Kelly D. Horton, a research and policy specialist at the Centre for Healthy Aging in Washington DC. She told HealthDay:

“Shopping provides an enjoyable activity and helps older adults feel included in their community. In addition to physical activity, frequent shopping among older adults has also been related to improved nutrition intake.”

And men seemed to benefit more than women, said the study,  with the men who went shopping once a day being less likely to die by 28 percent. Compared to formal exercise, researchers said that shopping is an easy way for elderly people to get leisurely physical activity.

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Non-smokers live longer


London: Smoking matters more than money and class in determining how long you will live, researchers said.

Smokers from the highest social class are more likely to die early than non-smokers in the lowest class. And smoking also wipes out the longevity advantage that woman normally have over men.

The findings came from a massive study involving more than 15,000 men and women in Paisley and Renfrew. Carried out over the course of 28 years, the findings are reported today in the online edition of the British Medical Journal.

The researchers found that a well-off professional who smokes has a far lower survival rate than a non-smoking low-paid worker of the same sex. Among both men and women, smokers of all social classes ran a much higher risk of dying early than non-smokers from the lowest social classes.

“In essence, neither affluence nor being female offers a defence against the toxicity of tobacco,” said the researchers, led by Dr Laurence Gruer, director of public health science with NHS Health Scotland.

The findings also suggest there is little scope for reducing class-related health inequalities unless smoking rates in the lower social classes can be reduced.

The study began with 8,353 women and 7,049 men aged 45-64 in the early 1970s. These were then divided into 24 groups – male or female, smokers, ex-smokers or never-smokers – and all categorised in one of four social class headings.

After 28 years, 56% of non-smoking women and 36% of non-smoking men in the bottom two social classes were still alive – compared with only 41% of women smokers in the top two classes and 24% of men.

The researchers also found that most deaths from lung cancer were among smokers. There were 842 deaths from lung cancer – 5% of them among those who had never smoked, 9% amongst former smokers, and 86% among current smokers.

The researchers also found that the death rate for ex-smokers was similar to those who had never smoked, suggesting that quitting can make a significant difference regardless of status.

Longevity pill nearer, say scientists


New York: Scientists are a step closer to producing a superdrug to extend lifespan, according to a report in the journal Nature.

In the journal, the researchers from Harvard report that three compounds invented by Sirtris, a pharmaceutical company, have succeeded in activating cellular defenses that slow diseases of ageing in the same way associated with resveratrol, a naturally occurring chemical found in red wine.

The difference is that Sirtris’s synthetic compounds are 1,000 times as potent as the resveratrol in wine. This solves a big drawback with the naturally occurring chemical—wine contains such minute quantities that a person would have to drink hundreds of bottles a day to see any significant benefit.

The potent new pills mimic resveratrol in mice by activating the SIRT-1 gene, which appears to trigger a process called caloric restriction. In many organisms, that process acts to slow down aging and ramp up cellular defenses in the face of a reduced diet during times of scarce food supplies. Sirtris’s new compounds, however, act without the little critters having to reduce their diet.

In past experiments, many of them conducted by Harvard pathologist and Sirtris cofounder David Sinclair, resveratrol has increased the lifespan of mice up to 24 percent, and other simpler organisms such as yeast up to 59 percent. In November 2006, Sinclair and Sirtris scientists that resveratrol could reduce the impact of a high fat diet, increase stamina two fold and significantly extend lifespan of mice.

Skeptics have long claimed that aging is too complex to be regulated by a small number of genes, though Sinclair and other leading longevity scientists such as Leonard Guarente of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cynthia Kenyon of the University of California at San Francisco keep refining and supporting their argument that it is.

Investors have believed the Sirtris story enough to pony up $103 million in private rounds and $63 million in an IPO last May. Sirtris’ stock today has risen as much as 6 percent—roughly twice the rise in the S&P 500 index.

The current paper does not target longevity specifically, but demonstrates that Sirtris’s pills may slow a major disease of aging, diabetes type II, which afflicts 18 million Americans.

The pills improved insulin sensitivity, lowered plasma glucose levels, and increased the function of mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell that is associated with healthy and long-living cells.

Sirtris recently started human trials using a super-potent version of resveratrol, and so far the drug is reported to be producing positive results. The synthetic compounds are both more potent and more stable chemically.

They also are better candidates for Food and Drug Administration approval since in many cases a synthetic compound concocted in a lab can be more consistently manufactured and standardized for doses than products based on a natural compound.

The three “New Drug Entities” described in today’s paper will begin human trials in the first half of 2008.

Scientists prolong the life of mice

Madrid: Researchers in Spain discovered a way to make mice live up to 16% longer – equivalent to an extra 12 years on the average human lifespan.

Mice with elevated levels of a protein called p53 appeared younger, healthier and were more resistant to the development of cancers, according to a study by scientists at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre.

Their discovery will accelerate the development of new drugs that fight cancer while extending healthy youth and lifespan. The protein p53 is known as “the guardian of the genome” because it makes sure that damaged cells destroy themselves and do not divide uncontrollably to cause tumours.

Scientists have long speculated that boosting our body’s levels of p53 could help us live longer, but early studies found it actually accelerated ageing.

But not according to the findings of Dr Manuel Serrano, of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre. His team genetically engineered mice to have an extra copy of p53 and a related gene – ARF.

They showed that mice with an increased dose of the two proteins were more resistant to the development of cancers. It came as no surprise, therefore, that these animals had an extended lifespan compared with normal mice.

But remarkably, the animals outlived their normal counterparts even after the impact of having less cancer was removed from the equation, according to the study which is published in the magazine Nature.

Moreover, various biological and molecular markers of ageing indicated that these mice stay younger for longer. The researchers conclude that boosting the body’s ARF/p53 activity provides an anti-oxidant effect, which not only suppresses cancers, but also delays ageing.

Dr Serrano said: “The mice lived 16% longer in their average lifespan,” said Dr Serrano.

“Everyone agrees that ageing is produced by the accumulation of damaged cells. If p53 is the main quality control that eliminates such cells, then the expectation is that having more p53 mice will have a more strict quality control for cells, hence less cancer and less ageing.”

The study opens up possibilities for new drugs that delay ageing by boosting the body’s production of p53.

“There are a number of chemical compounds that have been developed by the big pharmaceutical companies and these compounds are able to boost p53 in the organism,” said Dr Serrano.

“These compounds are being tested now for their possible anti-cancer activity and hopefully in the light of our study also for their possible anti-ageing activity.”

Life expectancy leap by decades

LONDON: Lifespan will increase by decades within thirty years because of scientific developments, a leading scientist has predicted.

In 2004, the UK Government’s Actuary Department statistics predicted that the average British male who lived to 65 could expect to reach 84.

But Cambridge-based biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey says that decades-longer lives may change traditional patterns of family life, careers, retirement, education and child-raising and force radical changes to pensions.

Life expectancy has already risen sharply in Britain. On average, a man aged 65 could expect to live for another 12 years in 1950. This is expected to rise to 21.7 years by the middle of the century. Although life expectancy is higher for women, its increase is slower, possibly due to the fact that women are adopting male lifestyles including drinking and smoking.