Hardly a day goes by that we aren’t confronted by the fact that we’re getting older. From the barrage of ads for anti-aging products, to the weird snap, crackle and pop noises our bodies start making, to that older-looking person staring back at us in the mirror—the passage of time is impossible to ignore.
And then there’s the onslaught of scientific studies related to aging—particularly how to prevent, circumvent or postpone it. In case you missed ‘em, here’s a roundup of a few of these studies I’ve come across lately:
The Wall Street Journal reports that the strength of a man’s bite at age 70 may be a marker of his longevity, according to a study in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation (catchy name, huh?). The study found that the risk of dying before reaching their mid-80s was higher in men with a weaker bite than those with a stronger one, suggesting that low bite force may be a sign of musculoskeletal decline, or poor nutrition that affects oral health and vulnerability to chronic disease. The study found no such connection between jaw strength and long-term survival in women. So ladies, if your partner takes offense at being told “Bite me,” just tell him you’re trying to gauge how long he’s going to be around.
Reading books linked with longer life
Now here’s research I can sink my teeth into. A study published in July 2016 in Social Science & Health shows that reading books has a significant relationship to increased lifespan. Over a 12-year period, researchers at Yale University looked at data on 3,635 Americans over age 50 and found that those who read books were 20% less likely to die than non-book readers. Further, they calculated that book reading was associated with almost 2 extra years of survival. Reading magazines or newspapers didn’t have the same effect. So boning up on celebrity gossip from reading the tabloids while in line at the grocery store doesn’t add years to my life?
Signs of aging start in mid-20s
If it makes you feel any better about seeing those seemingly flawless, size zero young models in women’s magazines, know that they’re already rotting from the inside out. Okay, I may have overstated that a bit, but a 2015 study found that different rates of aging (which the scientists eloquently referred to as “deterioration”) can be detected as early as the mid-20s, using 18 biological measurements. The upshot? Study authors say their findings set the stage for future testing so people can find out how fast they’re aging in their 20s, when they can take steps to prevent age-related diseases. Yeah, right—don’t they know most 20-somethings think they’re invincible?
Women live longer when surrounded by nature
Researchers used data from the famed Nurses’ Health Study and satellite imagery to compare women’s risk of mortality with the level of vegetation surrounding their homes. They found that women who live in the greenest surroundings had a 12% overall lower mortality rate than those living in the least green areas, along with a 34% lower rate of respiratory-related deaths, 13% lower rate of cancer deaths, and lower levels of depression. Go hug a tree, ladies–and living here in Maine, the Pine Tree State, makes it that much easier!
Something’s fishy—in a good way
And then there’s fish oil. A recent clinical study reported that omega-3 supplementation slows the shortening of DNA sequences called telomeres—a biological process related to aging. The study’s lead author is quoted as saying, “The telomere finding is provocative in that it suggests the possibility that a nutritional supplement might actually make a difference in aging.” Other experts say eating dark-fleshed fish high in omega-3s at least twice a week will deliver the same benefit. So go (eat) fish (another reason to be grateful we live in Maine, right?)!
Exercise is the #1 factor in extending longevity—even after age 75
Sorry, couch potatoes. The latest study to affirm that physical activity can extend your life found that people older than 75 who were physically active lived an extra two or more years. And when you factor in being socially active as well, the Swedish study reported that participants lived an average 5.4 years longer than their less-active peers. Plus, even at age 85 or older, a physically and socially active lifestyle was associated with an extra 4 years of life. And the greatest benefits, experts say, come from just getting started. In other words, it’s never too late to get off your ass.
FDA approves study to reactivate dead brains
If all else fails, maybe we can simply come back from the dead. According to an item in the NY Daily News, a biotech company based in Philadelphia received approval to try reawakening nervous systems in patients who’ve been declared brain dead and are on life support. Says one scientist, “This represents another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime.”
Investigators will use multiple approaches to try jumpstarting the brains, including stem cell injections directly into the brain, lasers and nerve stimulation techniques. The trial, which will take place in India, is recruiting 20 test subjects. This could put an entirely new spin on the whole zombie thing, don’t you think?
For now, however, the truth is this: None of us is getting out of here alive. So let’s live as fully and vitally as we can, for as long as we can. We’re pretty freakin’ lucky to be here, ya know?
I don’t dread birthdays;
I’m privileged to have them
as fewer are left.
Your thoughts? Please share…