The number of Americans over age 100 is expected to quadruple in the coming decades, and scientists are only now beginning to understand what allows these super-elders to outlive most of us.
There are an estimated 101,000 centenarians in the United States in January 2024, and Pew Research Center predictions indicate that number will quadruple to 422,000 within 30 years.
And it’s not as simple as a growing population: centenarians currently make up just 0.03 percent of the overall U.S. population, and are expected to reach 0.1 percent by 2054.
This small proportion of the population highlights that being a centenarian remains rare, and scientists have been fascinated by centenarians for decades as they strive to understand how humans can live longer and maintain better health.
A recent study looked at 12 blood biomarkers related to inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, and possible anemia and malnutrition to understand what contributes to a longer life.
A new report revealed that the number of centenarians will increase by 70 percent in the next 30 years.
Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm analyzed data from 44,000 Swedish participants who underwent regular health assessments from ages 64 to 99 and were followed for up to 35 years to determine the secret to a long life.
Those who lived to be centenarians had lower levels of glucose (sugar) in their bloodstream, as well as creatinine, which is related to proper kidney function, and uric acid (UA), which is a waste product. caused by the digestion of certain foods.
The researchers found that participants with the lowest levels of UA were four percent more likely to reach age 100, while those with the highest levels of UA only had a 1.5 percent chance.
The study says: “While chance probably plays a role in reaching age 100, differences in biomarker values more than a decade before death suggest that genetic and/or lifestyle factors, reflected in these levels of biomarkers, may also play a role in exceptional longevity. ‘
The number of centenarians in the United States is not slowing down, according to a Statista report that says the population over 100 years old will increase by 70 percent, going from 82,000 reported in 2016 to 589,000 in 2060.
Over the next three decades, the Pew Research Center report projects that the global population of centenarians will increase to approximately four million.
China is expected to account for the largest share of centenarians with 767,000, followed by the United States, India, Japan and Thailand.
The study, published in GeroScience, reported that 1,224 people (2.8 percent) lived to be 100 years old, and the majority (85 percent) were women.
The researchers did not explain why women were more likely to reach age 100 than men.
Initially, the researchers looked at people undergoing clinical laboratory testing at the Central Automation Laboratories between 1985 and 1996 and followed the participants until the end of 2020.
The study used the National Patient Registry to track disease diagnoses, the Cause of Death Registry to identify the exact date of a participant’s death, and the Total Population Registry to confirm that the participant was still alive and living in Sweden. .
The researchers used blood biomarkers to determine what leads to longevity by first identifying the values of the biomarkers present in both centenarians and non-centenarians.
They then looked at the association of which biomarkers are linked to people who live to be centenarians by separating the biomarkers into five groups: very low, low-medium, medium, high-medium and very high.
A team of researchers analyzed 12 biomarkers that showed that high cholesterol and low levels of glucose and uric acid were indicative of a longer life.
The middle group data were chosen as the reference model using 12 biomarkers including uric acid, total cholesterol and glucose biomarkers.
Contrary to clinical guidelines, the researchers found that centenarians had higher total cholesterol levels, but reported that this is consistent with previous studies showing that older people with high cholesterol can live to an older age.
Several studies have found that high cholesterol in people over 60 could protect against cancer, infections and atherosclerosis (plaque buildup on artery walls) and is therefore associated with lower mortality rates. .
The researchers also looked at alanine aminotransferase (ALAT), which helps the liver convert food into energy, and aspartate aminotransferase (ASAT), an enzyme found in the liver, heart, pancreas and muscles.
If ASAT is too high, it could indicate damage or inflammation in the liver, but researchers found that low levels of ASAT reduce the chance of liver damage or fatty liver disease, thus contributing to a person’s longer life.
Low levels of albumin were found to prolong mortality by moving hormones, medications and vitamins throughout the body, low levels of gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) help the liver break down medications and toxins, and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) It is an indicator of how well the liver is functioning.
Elevated AF could be due to increased alcohol consumption, and researchers found that those with normal levels lived longer lives.
Normal FA levels range from 44 to 147 international units per liter (IU/L), according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The centenarians had lower levels of creatinine, which determines whether your kidneys adequately filter waste from the blood, and had lower total and iron-binding capacity (TIBC), which circulates iron throughout the body, preventing anemia. .
Finally, the researchers looked at how albumin affected the nutritional levels of centenarians and non-centenarians and found that higher levels of nutrients in the body affect a person’s physical fitness, extending a long life.
The only biomarker that was the same for both centenarians and non-centenarians was lactate dehydrogenase (LD), which converts glucose into energy.
LD markers were outside the normal range for both groups, but the researchers said this was likely due to aging and age-related health conditions.
The researchers suggested that as people age they should track how their liver and kidneys are functioning, monitor their glucose and uric acid levels, monitor their nutrition, and reduce their alcohol consumption.
The researchers clarified that they cannot conclude which lifestyle or genetic traits are responsible for the biomarker results.
“That said, chance probably plays a role at some point in reaching an exceptional age,” the researchers said, adding: “But the fact that differences in biomarkers could be observed long before death suggests that genes and lifestyle can also play a role.” role.’