"If I eat only healthy foods, if I exercise, if I never smoke or drink or use drugs, if I sleep right, if I get good medical care, if I control my weight, if I control stress, if I keep good social relations, if I keep a healthy mental attitude, if I never have an accident, if I stay excited about life - in short, if I inherited the best genes and take perfect care of myself,
Can I Live Forever?
And If Not,
How Long Can I Live?"
How long is it possible for a human being to live? What is our Maximum Potential Lifespan (the longest a human being can live)? And, perhaps as important: can we influence the length, and the quality, of our lives?
Since every human being that has ever been born, unless dying prematurely, has gotten old and died, the history of man shows us very clearly, that our life span so far has proven to be limited. This limit has been measured in terms that have generally been accepted by the communities of the gerontological, biological and anthropological sciences.
Richard G. Cutler at the Gerontology Research Center, Baltimore City Hospital, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health has calculated the maximum life span for about 150 extinct mammalian species, and has also assessed the genetic potentials and traced the progress of the evolution of the Maximum Potential Lifespan of man.
The first truly human species was Homo habilis which emerged from Australopithecus africanus about 1.8 million years ago. Homo Sapiens evolved about 100,000 years ago. The Maximum Potential Life Span of our species was increasing at a very fast rate until about 100,000 years ago when the increase suddenly stopped, and has since remained fixed at about 120 years.
What Is The Longest Known Lifespan?
You have undoubtedly read about claims of unusually long life by various individuals and societies, such as the three areas of the world where claims of unusually long life abound.
1. The Abkhasians in the Caucasus Mountains of Soviet Georgia. (The most famous)
2. The Vilcabambans in the Ecuadorian Andes.
3. The Hunzas in the Karakorum Mountains of Kashmir in West Pakistanís
The claims of 150 plus years among the Abkhasians have all been proven false though, by two men named Zhores Medvedev, a leading Russian investigator of aging, and Alexander Leaf of the Harvard Medical School. These two researchers investigated, and they found falsification of birth dates and ages for such reasons as the avoidance of military service, and the promotion of tourism. They had adopted their fatherís identities.
It is interesting to note, however, that these three areas all have an unusually large number of people over the age of 100, and they all are also hilly country where the people walk instead of ride. They also all have diets high in vegetables and grains, and low in meats.
As of the completion of this writing, the longest proven life span in the history of mankind is that of Jeanne Louise Calment. She was born in France on February 21, 1875 and died in August, 1997 at the age of 121 years six months. As of this writing, the longest lived person in the United Stated was Carrie White, who was born on November 18, 1874 and died on February 14, 1991 at the age of 116 years, 88 days.
MAXIMUM POTENTIAL LIFESPAN vs. LIFE EXPECTANCY
Besides the idea of our Maximum Potential Lifespan (the longest anyone can live) of about 120 years, we also talk about your own Life Expectancy (how long we will probably live) within our 120 year maximum potential.
Can we control our own Life Expectancy - how long we will probably live, within our 120-year Maximum Potential Lifespan?
The medical and biological sciences have shown that we can control, to a significant degree, not only the length but also the quality of our life. Although we cannot at present extend our Maximum Potential Lifespan of about 120 years, we can influence how many of our 120 years we do live. And research is going on around the world to try to learn how to extend our lives beyond 120 years - healthy, attractive, and youthful.
At present, Genetic Engineering appears to hold the best answer, especially after we complete a "map" of where each of the genes are on each of our chromosomes Mapping the Human Genome).
The average life expectancy of the cave man was about 16 years. In 500 BC the average life expectancy was about 20 years. In 400 AD it was 35 years. In 1900 it was 47 years. In 1930 it was 59 years. By 1975 it had advanced to about 71 years, and in 1989 it had advanced to 74 years for men and 78 years for women. Speculatively, by the year 2,010 it might be 100 years. During all of these times the Maximum Potential Lifespan remained at about 120 years, and has not increased.
The major differences in lifestyle and the hardship factors alone make the reasons for the difference in life expectancy during the nineteenth century pretty obvious. Pre-natal care, post-natal care, better quality child protection and care, much easier and less exposed living conditions, better nutrition, and better medical care account for much of the difference in life expectancy between then and now.
The extraordinary increase in average life expectancy in the U.S. during the nineteenth century though, is due mainly to advances in sanitation, public health, and medicine. At all age levels, prevention and cure have played a major part. The adoption of sterilization techniques by doctors drastically reduced the deaths of women in childbirth. Treatment for some childhood diseases such as measles, polio, chicken pox, whooping cough, and bacterial infections helped to sharply reduce the deaths of infants and children. Tuberculosis has been virtually eradicated. Medical science has truly advanced dramatically during the nineteenth century. It has been said that if a medical doctor fell asleep in the year 1900 and woke up in 1930, he would still have been able to practice medicine. But if a doctor fell asleep in 1930 and awoke in 1960, he would have had about the same knowledge as a first year medical student.
The medical and health literature is filled with research results and instructions for optimizing our lifespan and the quality of that life, by following healthy lifestyle habits. The American Heart Association, The American Lung Association, The American Cancer Society, and many other such quality organizations regularly distribute information describing research-based methods for protecting our health, and optimizing our life expectancy. Based on this and other information, insurance companies gamble billions of dollars per year that they can accurately predict the length of your life, and they win.
They base their life insurance programs on factors of heredity, and of lifestyle. Cuna Mutual Insurance Group of Madison, Wisconsin circulated an At-Home Longevity Test, as a part of a sales packet. In order to determine your own life expectancy, it provided a questionnaire, and 24 of the 29 questions relate to lifestyle, with 5 relating to heredity. So lifestyle practices are well established as major determinants of how long we can expect to live within our 120 year maximum, and also of the quality of that life.
And this book, HOW TO LIVE THE LONGEST LIFE POSSIBLE, is designed to help you to live to your Maximum Potential Lifespan, healthy, attractive, and youthful. One of the reasons this book is needed is because of the low quality and so often erroneous information with which we are constantly bombarded.
For example, in a wide variety of media recently, we read and heard that we must ingest large amounts of Calcium in order to prevent bone loss (osteoporosis) as we age, especially for women. So, many people are ingesting large amounts of Calcium supplements. Is this healthy? Perhaps not. The New England Journal of Medicine provides very important research-based information, but it will reach relatively few eyes and ears: The form of Calcium supplementation is important. Calcium carbonate causes kidney stones, and calcium gluconate tablets are too large to swallow comfortably for many people. Calcium citrate might be the best form of calcium supplement. And although ingestion of adequate amounts of Calcium is necessary for normal bone-forming activities, larger doses will not slow bone loss. Excess Calcium ingestion causes calcification of the heart valves, and kidney stones. So, about 800 mg. per day of calcium citrate (about 1500 mg. per day for women after menopause) appears to be the best form. Of course, only your doctor can determine the best amount and form for you.
Also, moderate stress on the bones (such as during exercise) has been shown to deter bone loss by stimulating the action of bone forming cells. For this reason, swimming does little to fight osteoporosis because it places little stress on the bones. Walking, jogging, and weight training do more to prevent osteoporosis.
Also, some simple facts are not commonly known, such as the fact known in geriatric medicine but not widely disseminated, that straining at the stool in earlier years (pushing too hard while on the toilet) can cause many cases of diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, and incontinence later in life.
Also important is the fact that many popular myths need to be exposed, dispelling the sometimes terrifying fears which arise from some of the myths. Perhaps the most significant factors regarding the lack of information and the bad information that are common, are the detriments to health and longevity that are accruing at this moment to those lacking accurate information. Even a main points summary of reliable information affecting Biological, Psychological, and Sociological well-being such as is included in this book might improve the quality and the length of life for many people, immediately!
Carl Bourhenne, MA
Copyright © 1976 - 2001 Carl I. Bourhenne.
All rights reserved.
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Carl Bourhenne, MA
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