BBC Interview on Human Longevity
BBC interview on human longevity with Dr. Leonid Gavrilov aired live on Monday, January 29, 2007
Yesterday I have got a surprising telephone call from the BBC asking for live interview on longevity topic. Peter Karlsen of the BBC Radio Five Live has provided me with five questions as talking points just a couple of hours before the interview took place. Here are these questions and my brief responses (given the lack of time provided to me to prepare):
Q 1: What is the secret to longevity and old age?
1. To have particularly long-lived parents, as it was first found by American scientist Raymond Pearl in 1930s, and confirmed many times by other researches since then.
2. Being a male hurts, but you can do little about this . Most centenarians are women.
3. We recently found that it helps a lot to be born to a particularly young mother (before age 25 years). This new scientific finding has been just published this month in a peer-reviewed professional journal:
Gavrilova N.S., Gavrilov L.A. Search for Predictors of Exceptional Human Longevity: Using Computerized Genealogies and Internet Resources for Human Longevity Studies. North American Actuarial Journal, 2007, 11(1): 49-67.
Stories about this new scientific finding has appeared recently in New Scientist, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Washington Post, The Sun, Forbes, and Daily Mail
Q 2: Why does certain people live so much longer than others?
This is the same first question put in different words, is not it? What is interesting that even genetically identical laboratory animals living in the same strictly controlled laboratory conditions, still have very different lifespans. This says us that chance events are extremely important.
Q 3: What are your tips for living longer?
Take care of yourself, avoid really bad habits (smoking, heavy drinking, violent conflicts, stresses, etc.). Exercise when you have time, have enough sleep, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, vitamins would not harm too.Try to find out your risk factors (blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol etc.), and modify your life accordingly to prevent diseases to the extent possible.Do understand that reserve capacity is greatly diminishes with age, so do not make heroic adventures, as if you are 20 year-old.
Q 4: What does science tell us as to who will live longer, is it about genes?
Yes, because longevity runs in families, there are reasons to look for human longevity genes. But they are not found yet in humans, and it is likely that instead of small number of major longevity genes, there may be numerous genes with small longevity effects.
What does science tells us is that early-life childhood conditions do matter for survival 80 years later. It helps a lot to be born in rural rather than urban area, presumably because the load of child infections was much higher in large cities in the past. Surprisingly even the month of birth matters, presumably because of profound seasonal variation in childhood diseases and vitamin deficiency in the past:
Gavrilov L.A., Gavrilova N.S. Childhood Conditions and Exceptional Longevity. Full paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, Los Angeles, CA, April 1, 2006, 35 pages. Published online at: http://paa2006.princeton.edu/download.aspx?submissionId=61675
Q 5: How important is diet and happiness?
Diet seems to be very important. Trivial things like overeating and obesity can kill you.
As for happiness, not sure. It certainly helps to avoid depression.
But not sure that extreme idiotic happiness would really help to live longer.
The interview was "provoked" by news about the death of the oldest person in the world:
"Mrs Tillman, the daughter of former slaves, died "peacefully" on Sunday night, said an official at a nursing home in Hartford, Connecticut. Mrs Tillman had lived independently until she was 110 and had never smoked or drank, her family and friends said. She only became the world's oldest person last week, after the death of a 115-year-old man in Puerto Rico, the Guinness Book of World Records said. "She was a wonderful woman," said Karen Chadderton, administrator of Riverside health and Rehabilitation Center in Hartford. Mrs Tillman had been very religious and had always attributed her longevity to God's will, according to her family and friends. She was born on 22 November 1892 on a plantation near Gibsonville in North Carolina. In an interview with a local historical society in 1994, Mrs Tillman said her parents had been slaves."
Do you have better answers to these questions?
If so, post them here!