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Healthy aging has little to do with age: study

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When it comes to maintaining health in one's older years, age means little and obesity may not be so bad after all, according to a US study.
Factors such as loneliness, depression and having broken a bone recently are more likely to predict a person's risk of dying in the next five years, researchers at the University of Chicago found.
"The healthiest people were obese and robust," said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, which found that 22 percent of older Americans fit that definition of good health despite higher obesity and blood pressure.
They had fewer organ system diseases, better mobility, sensory function and psychological health than others. They were also the least likely to die or become incapacitated five years into the study, which involved 3,000 people aged 57 to 85.
Researchers also uncovered new classes of people at twice the risk of dying or becoming incapacitated in five years. They include those of normal weight who face one key health problem such as thyroid disease, anemia or ulcers, those who had broken a bone since age 45, and those with poor mental health.
The most unhealthy are those with uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure, and who often face challenges getting around and performing daily tasks.
"Instead of policies focused on reducing obesity as a much lamented health condition, greater support for reducing loneliness among isolated older adults or restoring sensory functions would be more effective in enhancing health and wellbeing in the older population," said co-author Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago.
Although cancer caused 24 percent of deaths among people over 55, it "seemed to develop randomly with respect to other organ system diseases," the study said.
Scientists estimate that everyone starts their life with about 20,000 stem cells, 1,300 of which are considered “active.” To the researchers’ surprise, Andel-Schipper only had two active stem cells at the time of her death. “At first I could not believe that it was true. I thought it must be a technical error. It cannot be true that this person can still be alive with two stem cells,” says Holstege.
The researchers then looked at the length of the telomeres on Andel-Schipper’s blood cells and discovered they were extremely short compared to all her other organs. As cells age, their telomeres get shorter. Therefore, the researchers realized that there may be a limit to the number of divisions our stem cells can make, and that at a certain point, they must start to die from division exhaustion. It’s possible that stem cell exhaustion was the cause of death of Andel-Schipper, and that it could also be the cause of death among many people who live to great ages, although the researchers acknowledge that more research needs to be done to determine whether this holds true.
If proven, the implications for aging are significant. If there’s a limit to the life of stem cells, that’s a limit to human life. But what if you could replenish them?

Maybe minimising cell damage should hold the key to longevity. Avoiding stress, any physical damage, contamination (air, water, food) and combining with optimal exercise (internal and external), it might just be possible to live long.
Some interesting stuff on Telomeres which are similar to the plastic tips at the end of shoe lace and they keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other

"Like the rest of a chromosome, including its genes, telomeres are sequences of DNA — chains of chemical code. Like all DNA, they are made of four nucleic acid bases: G for guanine, A for adenine, T for thymine, and C for cytosine. Telomeres are made of repeating sequences of TTAGGG on one strand paired with AATCCC on the other strand. Thus, one section of telomere is a "repeat" made of six "base pairs."
In white blood cells, the length of telomeres ranges from 8,000 base pairs in newborns to 3,000 base pairs in adults and as low as 1,500 in elderly people. (An entire chromosome has about 150 million base pairs.) Each time it divides, an average cell loses 30 to 200 base pairs from the ends of its telomeres.
Cells normally can divide only about 50 to 70 times, with telomeres getting progressively shorter until the cells become senescent or die.
Telomeres do not shorten in tissues where cells do not continually divide, such as heart muscle.

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