Tag Archives | Aging

The Island Where People Forget to Die

Armenistís ikaríaA fascinating account by Dan Buettner of the amazing longevity of the residents of Ikaria, a Greek Island, in the New York Times:

…For a decade, with support from the National Geographic Society, I’ve been organizing a study of the places where people live longest. The project grew out of studies by my partners, Dr. Gianni Pes of the University of Sassari in Italy and Dr. Michel Poulain, a Belgian demographer. In 2000, they identified a region of Sardinia’s Nuoro province as the place with the highest concentration of male centenarians in the world. As they zeroed in on a cluster of villages high in Nuoro’s mountains, they drew a boundary in blue ink on a map and began referring to the area inside as the “blue zone.” Starting in 2002, we identified three other populations around the world where people live measurably longer lives than everyone else. The world’s longest-lived women are found on the island of Okinawa.

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Castration Makes Men Live (Much) Longer

EunuchOne imagines that telling a eunuch he’ll live 20 years longer is just adding insult to his injury, but in any event this “new” discovery has some people excited. Dr. Julyenne Wong reports for ABC News:

Call it making the best of a potentially bad situation. Eunuchs — castrated men — live nearly 20 years longer than other men, a new study has found.

The study of over 80 eunuchs from the Chosun Dynasty, which ruled in Korea from 1392 to 1897, looked at the world’s only known record of eunuchs’ lives and compared them to genealogical records of other men of similar social rank. The researchers cross-checked their results with other royal records.

They found that the average lifespan of a Korean eunuch was about 70 years, 14 to 19 years higher than non-castrated men of similar social standing.

Three of the 81 eunuchs lived to be over 100 years old.

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People Aren’t Happiest Until They Reach Age 33, Social Media Survey Says

33Erin Skarda writes on TIME’s Newsfeed:

It’s true: 30 really is the new 20. A study by Friends Reunited, a British social-networking site, found that 70% of respondents over the age of 40 claimed they were not truly happy until they reached 33.

“The age of 33 is enough time to have shaken off childhood naiveté and the wild scheming of teenaged years without losing the energy and enthusiasm of youth,” psychologist Donna Dawson said in the survey’s findings. “By this age innocence has been lost, but our sense of reality is mixed with a strong sense of hope, a ‘can do’ spirit, and a healthy belief in our own talents and abilities.”

Conversely, only 16% of the survey’s respondents pined for their childhood, while 6% said they were happiest while in college. Many respondents claimed that their happiness at 33 came from fulfillment in their professional lives, as well as having a support system of family and friends.

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Playing Music Can Offset Aging Process

Photo: Stilfehler (CC)

Photo: Stilfehler (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

Age-related delays in neural timing are not inevitable and can be avoided or offset with musical training, according to a new study from Northwestern University.

The study is the first to provide biological evidence that lifelong musical experience has an impact on the aging process.

Measuring the automatic brain responses of younger and older musicians and non-musicians to speech sounds, researchers in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory discovered that older musicians had a distinct neural timing advantage.

“The older musicians not only outperformed their older non-musician counterparts, they encoded the sound stimuli as quickly and accurately as the younger non-musicians,” said Northwestern neuroscientist Nina Kraus. “This reinforces the idea that how we actively experience sound over the course of our lives has a profound effect on how our nervous system functions.” …

Read more here.

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Woman Mysteriously Ages 50 Years In A Few Days

nguyenThi_2026486cThe immutable laws of science mean that there must be an equal, opposite condition that causes elderly people to spontaneously become young again. Via the Telegraph:

Vietnamese woman Nguyen Thi Phuong now looks like a septugenarian after the rapid aging affliction took hold following an allergic reaction to seafood.

Her sad story began in 2008, when her youthful beauty began to fade over the course of just a few days, leaving her with sagging, wrinkled skin all over her face and body. Until now she has been forced to wear a mask in public to hide her appearance from prying eyes, but now doctors are attempting to establish what caused her sudden and horrifying aging.

Some have argued that the condition is lipodystrophy – a rare syndrome that causes a layer of fatty tissue beneath the surface of the skin to disintegrate while the skin itself continues to grow at a startling pace.

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Spanish Blood Test Can Tell When You’ll Die. Maybe.

Three-dimensional molecular structure of a telomere (G-quadruplex). Credit: Giac83 (CC)

Three-dimensional molecular structure of a telomere (G-quadruplex). Credit: Giac83 (CC)

But do you really want to know? Giles Tremlett reports on the small Spanish biological research company at the center of claims that its blood test can predict the age you will die, for the Guardian:

As a taxi takes me across Madrid to the laboratories of Spain’s National Cancer Research Centre, I am fretting about the future. I am one of the first people in the world to provide a blood sample for a new test, which has been variously described as a predictor of how long I will live, a waste of time or a handy indicator of how well (or badly) my body is ageing. Today I get the results.

Some newspapers, to the dismay of the scientists involved, have gleefully announced that the test – which measures the telomeres (the protective caps on the ends of my chromosomes) – can predict when I will die.

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Aging Brains Made Youthful?

Photo: Mieciu K2 (CC)

Photo: Mieciu K2 (CC)

Can we restore our “mental sketch pads” by renewing how our brain holds memory on the neurological level? The National Geographic reports:

You can’t teach an old brain new tricks—but you can restore its ability to remember the old ones, a new study in monkeys suggests.

Chemicals given to rhesus macaques blocked a brain molecule that slows the firing of the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, as we age—prompting those nerve cells to act young again.

“It’s our first glimpse of what’s going on physiologically that’s causing age-related cognitive decline,” said study leader Amy Arnsten, a neurobiologist at Yale University.

“We all assumed, given there’s a lot of architectural changes in aged brains … that we were stuck with it,” Arnsten said.

But with the new results, “the hopeful thing is that the neurochemical environment still makes a big difference, and we might be able to remediate some of these things.”

[Continues at National Geographic]

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‘Charlie the Smoking Chimp’ Dies from Old Age, At 52

Charlie The Smoking ChimpVia Reuters:
JOHANNESBURG — A chimpanzee once hooked on smoking by visitors offering it cigarettes has died at a South African zoo at the relatively advanced age of 52, officials said on Wednesday. "He appears to have died of old age," said municipal spokesman Qondile Khedama. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death. "Charlie the smoking chimp" used to put two fingers to his mouth to mimic smoking and reach out with his other hand to bum cigarette butts from visitors at Bloemfontein Zoo. But when videos of him puffing away circulated globally a few years ago, zoo officials moved to cut off the supply of smokes. The nickname stuck even though the cigarette habit faded. The life expectancy for chimps in the wild is about 15 years and only 7 percent of wild chimps live past 40, a Harvard University report published in 2007 said.
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The Science of Immortality

There has always been an interest in remaining young: immortality in myths, the fountain of youth, plastic surgery. People have continued to search for a means of stopping the aging process to prolong life. Immortality may be impossible for humans, but there is a fresh water animal that does not seem to age.

Hydra

Photo: Hydra

Daniel Martinez was one of the first researchers to study hydras, of the phylum Cnidaria, at Pomona College. Martinez focused on the lack of senescence, “a deteriorative process that increases the probability of death of an organism with increasing chronological age.” Hydras undergo morphallaxis, tissue regeneration, which allows the genus to constantly renew its tissue.  Hydras’ tissue regenerates itself, copying the same cellular structure, allowing their cells to remain ageless.

With mortality rates low, caused often by environmental changes like food shortage or displacement, hydras are to be considered biologically immortal.

Click here to review Martinez’s initial case study on mortality in hydras.Read the rest

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Can Researchers Re-Activate Memory In The Elderly?

German neuroscientists have made a breakthrough in "age-related cognitive decline" which often begins in your late 40s (especially declarative memory - the ability to recall facts and experiences)! Their new study identifies a genetic "switch" for the cluster of learning and memory genes which cause memory impairment in aging mice. By injecting an enzyme, the team "flipped" the switch to its on position for older mice, giving them the memory and learning performance they'd enjoyed when they were young.
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