This Century Most Babies Born Live to 100

Most babies born in rich countries this century will eventually make it

to their 100th birthday, new research says. Danish experts say that

since the 20th century, people in developed countries are living about

three decades longer than in the past. Surprisingly, the trend shows

little sign of slowing down.

In an article published Friday in the medical journal Lancet, the researchers write that the process of aging may be “modifiable.”

James

Vaupel of the Max Planck Institute in Germany and colleagues in Denmark

examined studies published globally in 2004-2005 on numerous issues

related to aging. They found life expectancy

is increasing steadily in most countries, even beyond the limits of

what scientists first thought possible. In Japan, for instance, which

has the world’s longest life expectancy, more than half of the

country’s 80-year-old women are expected to live to 90.

“Improvements in health care

are leading to ever slowing rates of aging, challenging the idea that

there is a fixed ceiling to human longevity,” said David Gems, an aging

expert at University College London. Gems was not connected to the

research, and is studying drugs that can lengthen the life span of

mice, which may one day have applications for people.

“Laboratory

studies of mice, including our own, demonstrate that if you slow aging

even just a little, it has a strong protective effect,” he said. “A

pill that slowed aging could provide protection against the whole gamut

of aging-related diseases.”

While illnesses affecting the elderly like heart disease, cancer

and diabetes are rising, advances in medical treatment are also making

it possible for them to remain active for longer. The obesity epidemic,

however, may complicate matters. Extra weight makes people more

susceptible to diseases and may increase their risk of dying.

In

the U.S., data from 1982 to 2000 showed a major drop in illness and

disability among the elderly, though that has now begun to reverse,

probably linked to the rise in obesity.

The

graying population will slowly radically transform society, and

retirement ages may soon be pushed back, said Richard Suzman, an aging

expert at the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

“We

are within five to 10 years of a watershed event where there will be

more people on earth over 65 than there under five,” he said. “Those

extra years need to be financed somehow and we need to start thinking

about it now.”

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