Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Biology: Part 3 - Quest for the Pierian Spring

Dr Abe V Rotor

We often hear and gladly agree that life begins at 40. After all we would like to live life all over again and make up for our shortcomings, catch up with our unfulfilled dreams, look beyond adventure, gather fragments of memories and wisdom, and settle on some comfortable patch of green, before we go deep into it.

But the Ulysses in us does not sleep. We have not stopped searching for the fountain of youth. And we have not learned from Sybil, the Greek prophetess, symbol of prodigious old age. One day a young man asked her, “And what wish do you have this time, Sybil?” Looking at herself wrinkled and spent, she sadly replied, “I only wish to die.”

Will we live a hundred-and-five? Well, the number of American age 100 or older could reach 850,000 by 2050, according to Time, and our descendants could live to be 200 years old. The life expectancy in the US rose from 47 in 1900 to more than 79 in 1999. What really is the secret of old age?

Who does not dream of Utopia? Somewhere out there in an island in the Pacific (Remember South Pacific?), or in Shangrila on the Himalayas (The Lost Horizon) lies that dreamland. And who would like to live in Tokyo, or New York or Manila, if he can help it? But hear this.

The life span of a Japanese in busy Tokyo is 78, while a native of an idle South Pacific island is only 55. If this is so then it is not how much we rest our bodies and minds that we are assured of long life. What then is rest or retirement? Didn’t Dr. Hans Selye, the authority on longevity relate long life is achieved with positive disposition and less tension?

There are a number of tests to determine how long a person is expected to live. These are considerations which are of vital importance in knowing a person’s life span. Compute on the basis of a life span of 65 years.

A. The PLUS factors

1. With regular exercise – plus 3 to 5 years
2. Positive and active life, loves work - plus 3 to 5 years
3. Happily married with manageable family size – plus 3 to 5 years
4. With history of long life – plus 3 to 5 years
5. Clean living – plus 3 to 5 years
6. Food and weight conscious, with regular checkup – plus 3 to 5 years

B. The MINUS factors

1. Chain smoker – minus 5 to 10 years
2. Unmarried in middle age – minus 2 to 3 years
3. With family history of major ailments (eg heart attack,
cancer, diabetes) – minus 3 to 5 years
4. Risky profession – minus 3 years
5. Indulgence in vices (drinking, gambling, etc) – minus 2 to 5 years
6. Obese, inactive life – minus 3 to 5 years

But why should we be preoccupied with how long we are going to live?

Seneca, one of the greatest Roman philosophers, once said, “Men do not care how nobly they live, but how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man’s power to live long.”
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The longest unambiguously documented human lifespan is that of Jeanne Calment of France (1875–1997), who died at age 122 years, 164 days. She met Vincent van Gogh at age 12 or 13.
The oldest undisputed lifespan for a male supercentenarian is that of Christian Mortensen, who lived for 115 years and 252 days. (Wikipedia)

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