When people think of living a really long time, they might assume that these extra years would be spent in a state of decrepitude, where the person is not able to live independently and suffers from multiple health issues which significantly decrease their quality of life.
Perhaps this misconception creates fear in peoples minds about living to old age? But in reality, for the majority of people who reach 100 years and beyond, their health has been superior to most people and their medical costs are only a fraction of what is normal for the average person.
How can this be? For one, they must have some remarkable genes! And in some cases, no doubt diet plays a very significant role in allowing them to reach such an extreme age in excellent health.
Usually, they don’t suffer from the most common diseases that people suffer from in the west. We could place centenarians into three groups: survivors, delayers, and escapes. While they all may have reached the century mark, they got there on different paths. (1).
- Survivors: These are centenarians who had developed at least one of ten major age-related illnesses before eighty; but despite them, still managed to reach one hundred and beyond.
- Delayers: These are centenarians who had delayed development of major age-related illness until after 80 years.
- Escapers: These reached one hundred without developing any lethal diseases; they have the most chance of becoming a supercentenarian and are very exceptional cases. These are the people who need to be studied to gain insights into their lifestyle and genetics.
Walter Breuning was a great example of someone that defied aging. He lived to 114-years, and almost right until the end, he was independent, had no cognitive-deficits and was pretty healthy for his age. According to many interviews, Walter had eaten a calorie restriction diet. He ate only two meals per day and maintained a lean BMI of 19 throughout his entire life.
He believed that keeping his mind and body active was an important factor in his longevity. Also, he never retired until he was 99 years old! Having a purpose in life and something to wake up for is certainly good for your well-being and longevity. At the time of his death, he was the fourth oldest man ever to have lived. There are a few interviews with him that I recommend watching on youtube.
Walter was a lovely guy; he was kind, smart, and wise. I loved hearing his stories about all the inventions he got to see when he was growing up. It’s simply remarkable what you can see in your lifetime if you are able to live as long as he did. There are other examples of people who ate light and lived a similar lifestyle to Walter, and I’ll surely be writing about them also in the near future!
Disease-Free Survival: To see how dramatic these differences are, just take a look at Figure 4. HERE (2). It’s very simple to understand: The black curve is the control group; they started to develop diseases very early in their life, and by age 60 things started to fall apart. After a person turns 60, this is when aging speeds up dramatically for the average person.
All other groups have delayed morbidity: The nonagenarians (people between 90-99) never started to see a significant increase in disease until their mid-seventies. And for centenarians, there’s a slight delay beyond that of nonagenarians by a few years.
When we look at the semi-supercentenarians, they live a little longer with better health than all previous groups. And finally, there are the supercentenarians! Those that reached at least 110-years managed to live most of their life disease-free. Approximately 80% of the supercentenarians were disease-free at 100. (2).
There seems to be a biological limit to human lifespan, which is around 115 years. Of course, there are exceptional cases like Jeanne Calment who lived to 122-years, but she is an extreme outlier, and to this day since her death in 1997 remains the oldest person on record.
To break this barrier, we need to extend the maximum lifespan of our species. It could be — judging by supercentenarian phenotypes — that people who live to this age are already taking advantage effects of calorie restriction without actually doing the restriction part.
Lucky for them. But for most people, to reach this these ages and beyond, you really have to be exceptionally healthy and do all the right things. And even then, there are no guarantees.
Walter Breuning at 114 Years Old
“Every day is a good day, that’s what you should think about; every day is a good day, and make it that way!” – Walter Breuning