I was doing a podcast the other day called Living Beyond 120. The moderator, Mark Young (appropriate last name) made a great statement during the interview. He said, “The secret to living a long life is not dying.”
This statement is so obvious that it’s easy to dismiss its incredibly important implications. But, think of it this way.
When was the last time you heard of someone who died of “old age”? It’s not that common. Almost everyone who dies these days, dies of some disease or condition. And that’s why Mark’s statement is so right on. Who knows how long you might live if you never developed a disease? It might be a long time. Here’s the proof....
A new article published in Science just last month entitled, “The plateau of human mortality: Demography of longevity pioneers,” emphasizes this point. The quality and length of your life is determined both by how well you can prevent getting sick and what you do if you become sick – especially after the age of 70.
I don’t know if you realize it, but the theories about the biological limits to life span are still largely a matter of debate. One of the problems is that there has always been an assumption that the longer you live the more likely you are to come down with something. But, what if that’s not always the case?
Limits of Human Lifespan
In this study, the scientists estimated the death risks of 3,836 Italian men and women aged 105 and older. They discovered that the limits of human lifespan might not be as limited as previously thought. The fact is that the study showed that a person's risk of death above the age of 105 does not go up with each new birthday, but instead slows down and even levels out.
Specifically, the study showed that people at age 110 had the same continued chances of survival as those between the ages of 105 and 109. In other words, all you have to do to live to the age of 110 is not get sick and die from anything between 70 and 105. This observation challenges the conventional wisdom that there’s a cutoff point past which the human life span cannot extend. The implications of this finding are obvious.
If you are able to make it past the perilous 70s, 80s and 90s, you could potentially live well into the 110s and beyond and show very little signs of further aging.
According to senior author Kenneth Wachter, a professor of demography and statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, “Our data tell us that there is no fixed limit to the human life span yet in sight. Very few of us are going to reach those kinds of ages, but the fact that mortality rates are not getting worse forever and ever tells us there may well be more progress to be made improving survival past the ages of 80 to 90.”
Let me also add that the reason that Wachter says that “very few” are going to make it to these higher ages is that he doesn’t know my readers. And he forgets that although our medical system does not promote prevention, almost every disease that you can die from is completely preventable if you make it a priority to stay healthy.
When I give a lecture about longevity, I always ask the audience, “Who wants to live to be 90?” Virtually everyone raises their hands. And then I ask, “Who wants to live to 100?” A lot fewer hands go up. And when I ask, “Who wants to be 110?” – you guessed it, no hands go up. Why is that? I think it’s because people have the assumption that these older ages are always associated with a poor quality of life or a loss of purpose. Because, while living to an old age can be a blessing, it can also be a curse if you can’t serve. Here’s what I mean.
We were designed to want to serve. It’s in our DNA. To live long and to do the things that are necessary to live long, you have to have the right motivation. And, in my experience, the best motivation is the motivation to serve. No matter whether or you wait tables, serve in the armed forces, serve as a doctor or lawyer or teacher, or serve as a volunteer or in some other capacity, the motivation for living is based on serving.
If you are mentally incompetent or weak and frail to the point that you can’t serve, there is very little motivation to do all of the things necessary to live long. So, part of the whole program to do all those things is to figure out how you can serve and make yourself useful. We have all been endowed with certain talents. My prayer for you is that you will be able to use those talents to serve others for a really long time.
The new discovery runs counter to the way death risk relentlessly rises as we get past the age of 40. According to Wachter, “If mortality rates kept rising at the rates they rise from age 40 to age 90, then there would be a strong barrier to progress at extreme ages – great diminishing returns to behavioral change or to new medical advances,” Wachter said. “The fact these rates ultimately level out gives hope there’s more leeway for those advances.”
By the way, you might not know it, but there's been an ongoing debate about whether there is such a thing as a maximum human life span. Last year, researchers at McGill University in Montreal issued a report challenging earlier assertions that human life span peaks at about 115 years. “The statistics aren’t good enough to be able to say you can’t live much longer than that, based on the data we have,” said report author Siegfried Hekimi, chairman of developmental biology at McGill. “It’s simply not good enough to make that claim.” Here’s one reason why.
Wachter’s study found that Italian women who reached age 90 had a 15% chance of dying within the year and an expected further life span of six years on average. And, as expected, if they made it to 95, their odds of dying within a year increased to 24% and their life expectancy dropped to 3.7 years. So, you might think that these odds would continue to increase indefinitely, as people age toward an undefined vanishing point. That’s not what happened, though.
The chances of dying did not consistently increase each and every year until the person died. Instead, once someone made it past 105, it stopped increasing. “The risk of death is very high at 105 years, but next year it’s not higher,” Hekimi said of the new study. “Every year you have the same chance of dying, and every year you can be the one who wins the coin toss.” And if you think this is simply a matter of having the right genes, you are wrong.
A Matter of Genetics?
So far, looking at the genetics of long-lived people has provided very few clues for extending overall human life span. The genes don’t match. There are no genetic similarities between those who live long and those who don’t. For example, genes that seem to be supporting extended life span on Okinawa are not the same ones found in England. It turns out that longevity is not a matter of genetics. It’s simply a matter of not dying from a disease! And for anyone who is not familiar with how that is done, here’s how it works.
First of all, read my book, Bursting With Energy, and keep reading Second Opinion and any other valid, fully referenced source of health information. Then, armed with this information, follow the plan. It’s not a hard thing to do. You just have to be motivated. It’s mostly free, it’s easy, it’s safe, it’s proven, it’s not rocket science, and some of it is even fun. The key elements are proper exercise, hormone replacement, sleep, sunlight, diet, water, detoxification, supplements, breathing, and good medical care.
Secondly, when you are challenged with health problems, do not make the mistake of using only treatments that are covered by your insurance. Before you resort to drugs or surgery, seek out natural alternatives that focus on correcting the causes of the problem. They don’t teach these solutions in medical school, and they are not covered by insurance, but they are clearly the smart place to start. And remember, the best treatment for many conditions is a combination of both.