Professor Georgantonis Keah
13 March 2013
What Are the Factors Affecting Human Longevity?
Everybody was born and one day they will die. It is a universal fact of life; therefore, retarding the process of aging is not only a dream for almost everybody but also a big question for many scientists. Why can some people reach a “ripe old age” and others not? Living long and quality of life are linked together. After many experiments, scientists discovered the factors that affect human longevity.
First of all, we need to understand what longevity means. Longevity means long life. It has a synonym, life expectancy. The numbers of life expectancy in a country can let us know about how the health care system, environment conditions, and security are. Up until now, the Guinness Book of World Records verified that the longest living person is Jeanne Louise Calment (1875-1997), living to the age of 122 years and 164 days, was a supercentenarian in France and in the world. Conditions which affect longevity are divided into two categories: fixed factors and changeable factors. Fixed factors are anything that a human was born with such as genetics, gender, and race. Other elements that are created during daily life are changeable factors such as environment where we live, food we eat, and our lifestyles.
Twins studies have determined 20 to 30 percent of genetic effect on longevity. An individual can inherit genetics from the parents who composed low risk of serious diseases, so longevity will increase; on the other hand, if the genes contain a high risk of serious diseases, the longevity will be decreased. Recent studies also reveal that differences in gender have a wide gap in life expectancy. Women in almost every country live longer than men from four to five years. There is an interesting fact that the number of women who live over 100 years old is nine times higher than men. Eskes and Haanen, mention that men are more than five times likelier to die from cardiovascular problems than women. The last element in fixed factors is race. According to the U.S Census’ 2010 Statistical Report, white people live longer than black people in America. Westerners live longer than other Americans. Based on the table of Life Expectancies on the Eight Americas, Asians have highest average life expectancy with 85 years.
Scientists have spent a long time studying stress. They discovered the result of stress can cause many dangerous and serious diseases in our body, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, strokes, diabetics, and restlessness. These symptoms threaten human life. This is the reason why they concluded that negative stress and longevity are related. Sally Brown, in her book, says, “Stress is also one of the biggest causes of rapid aging because it floods the body with free radicals” (121). In order to maintain and expand life expectancy, de-stressing is a necessary thing we need to do. Yoga and meditation are good ways to relieve stress. These techniques are exercises that concentrate in breathing inward or outward. During the process, your brain is relaxed and quiet, the stress hormones are decreased, and your body is returned to homeostasis which is a balance system inside the human body.
Scientists believe faith or a sense of spirituality can provide people a worldview to help them overcome and cope with unstable life changes. How we think and how we feel about life can really affect our body; therefore, we can infer that religion plays an important role in expanding life expectancy. Recent research shows that Seventh-Day Adventists have the highest longevity compared with other religions. Its average life expectancy is 88 years, which is almost eight years longer than the average U.S. citizen from other religions. More specifically, researchers have pointed out that Adventists in Loma Linda, California live four to ten years