MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The oldest man on record died Tuesday morning at age 112 in Japan. He lived more than 32 years longer than experts expect the average American baby to live – 78.8 years old.
Life expectancy in the U.S. has only increased by about five years since 1980. Some scientists debate whether that trend will continue. So, how long will our kids and grandkids live? Good Question.
“That’s really hard to speculate,” says Dr. Eric Anderson, a specialist in palliative care at Allina Health.
In 1900, the average American lived to only 48 years old. By 1980, life expectancy had jumped to 74 by decreasing childhood mortality and making major medical advances in heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control finds if a person lives to the age of 65 now, they are likely to live, on average, another 19.3 years.
For most of the 20th century, life expectancy had been increasing by about one month per year. That rate of increase slowed in the 1980s.
“What came along was the obesity epidemic and that’s when things levelled off,” says Dr. Anderson. “I think we’re getting smarter and smarter about food and I’m optimistic we’ll get back on that track.”
But, will a person born today live to 150 years old, as some scientists have suggested?
“I would not put money on it,” says Dr. Anderson.
Right now, 0.02 percent of Americans are over 100 years old. With better emphasis on exercise and diet, Dr. Anderson believes more people will live into their 80s, 90s and even to 100 in future generation.
“Beyond 100, it just kind of tops out there,” he says. “We honestly don’t have the medical technology that’s going to make that last longer.”
He says people’s bodies don’t appear to be designed to live that long. At age 85, Dr. Anderson says somatopause happens.
“That’s when we lose weight, our muscles start to shrink a bit and we’re less active and less able to engage in endurance,” he says. “That process seems to be programmed into us.”
Finally, Dr. Anderson points out about 10 percent of how long a person lives is due to medicine, about 10 percent is genetic and 80 percent has to do with lifestyle.
“Lifestyle is just so important and if we as a society can focus health, nutrition and exercise that help people live longer, the payoff is enormous.”