While individuals reaching 100 years of age were once considered a rarity, they’re now becoming more common. In fact, this demographic is expanding faster than any other globally, with its size approximately doubling every decade since the 1970s.
Questions surrounding human longevity and the factors contributing to a prolonged and healthy life have been pondered for centuries. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle engaged in conversations about aging over 2,300 years ago.
The quest to unearth the reasons behind extraordinary longevity is challenging. It demands an exploration into the intricate mix of genetics and lifestyle influences and their impact over a person’s lifetime.
Our recent research, disclosed in GeroScience, reveals consistent biomarkers in those surpassing 90 years, including cholesterol and glucose levels.
Scientists have always been deeply fascinated by nonagenarians and centenarians, hoping they might shed light on increasing lifespan and promoting healthier aging. Many past studies targeting centenarians were limited in scale and sometimes selective in their subjects.
Our research stands out as the most extensive to date, comparing the biomarker profiles of those who lived past 100 with those who did not.
This study incorporated data from 44,000 Swedes, part of the so-called Amoris cohort, who had health evaluations between the ages of 64 and 99. They were monitored for up to 35 years using Swedish registry data. Among these individuals, 1,224, or 2.7% reached the age of 100. A significant majority, 85%, of these centenarians were women.
Our investigation encompassed twelve blood biomarkers related to areas like inflammation, metabolism, and liver and kidney functionality, all previously linked to aging or mortality.
One marker of inflammation was uric acid, a byproduct from digesting specific foods. Other markers pertaining to metabolic functions and liver health were also evaluated.
While overall, individuals reaching 100 generally exhibited reduced glucose, creatinine, and uric acid levels from their sixties, the median values of most biomarkers between centenarians and non-centenarians didn’t vary drastically. However, centenarians rarely showcased extremely high or low biomarker values.
Interestingly, both centenarians and non-centenarians sometimes had biomarker values that didn’t align with the typical clinical guidelines. This discrepancy likely arises because these guidelines are often formulated based on younger, healthier demographics.
When assessing which biomarkers correlated with reaching a century, nearly all 12 biomarkers had a connection, even after accounting for variables like age, gender, and disease prevalence. It’s evident that some biomarkers played a more significant role in determining longevity.
For instance, there was a notable difference in uric acid levels between the group that reached 100 and the one that didn’t. Although the differences in some biomarkers were relatively minimal, they hint at a potential relationship between metabolic health, diet, and extraordinary longevity.
While our research doesn’t pinpoint specific lifestyle habits or genes causing these biomarker values, it’s logical to assume that aspects such as dietary habits and alcohol consumption could be factors.
Monitoring kidney and liver metrics, as well as glucose and uric acid levels as one age, seems prudent. Ultimately, while luck may factor into reaching a remarkable age, the observable biomarker differences long before passing away suggest that genetics and lifestyle choices might also have a significant influence.