Centenarians – people that lived past the age of 100 – used to be remarkable. However with lifespans growing longer, scientists don’t really pay that much attention to their actual numbers anymore! In 2012, it was estimated by the United Nations that there were around 316,600 people over 100 years of age across the globe. And the expectation is that there could over three million centenarians by 2050! Isn’t that hard to believe?
Here are some facts about supercentenarians you may not know.
How Many Supercentenarians are Alive Today?
Today they are paying much more attention to people defined as a “supercentenarian” rather than the more commonplace centenarians – someone that lives to 110 or more. According to BBC.com, Until early April of this year, 2015, there were 53 supercentenarians being tracked worldwide, but Misao Okawa passed at the age of 117 in Japan, leaving 52.
What Kind of Health Do These People Have?
A professor of medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine – Dr. Thomas Perls – directs Boston Medical Center’s New England Centenarian Study. As reported in US News, his initial research was on people that live past 100, and what he has found is that often when they reach this age group, they are much less likely to have diseases often associated with “old age,” like cancer, heart disease, dementia and stroke. On the contrary they are more likely to stay active and sharp than others many, many years younger.
Which Sex Has More Chance of Reaching Supercentenarian Status?
Would it surprise you to find out that women are by far more likely to make it into the rarefied realms of supercentenarianism (say that word 20 times fast!)? It is true… Over 96% of supercentenarians that are alive today (that is 50 out of 52) are women.
So of course scientists want to know why. And that is the topic of a new paper that was published this week in CELL STEM CELL, by Ben Dulken and Anne Brunet of Stanford. The argue that when aging occurs, there is a functional decline of stem cells:
“As the search continues for ways to ameliorate the aging process and maintain the regenerative capacity of stem cells,” they write, “let us not forget one of the most effective aging modifiers: sex.”
Studies using mice have shown that when estrogen supplements are used on males, their lifespan increases, so part of the answer may lie within the difference between estrogen and testosterone.
It will be interesting to see what they find as they delve into the world of stem cells. Perhaps by the year 2050, not only will there be 3 million centenarians, but the numbers of supercentarians will have gone up considerably as well!