Friday, October 7, 2016

Is There a Natural Limit to Human's Lifespan?

For at least a century, human life expectancy (how long a person can expect to live) has been steadily increasing. Some of the increase in life expectancy has been due to advances in medicine and improvements in health care delivery. An increased awareness of safety has also had an effect. And yet, we can all expect to die sometime. Is there a natural upper limit to the human lifespan?

Better understanding of the process whereby cells age and die has led some scientists to propose that the aging process could someday be slowed, to the extent that humans could live a lot longer than they currently do. That may be possible in the distant future. But a new report in Nature seems to suggest that in the absence of successful intervention with the aging process, the "natural" limit to the human lifespan is about 115 years.

The evidence is intriguing. Using the death records of the International Database on Longevity, the authors plotted the age of the oldest person to die in each year from 1968 to 2006. The age of the oldest person to die in any given year rose from 111 years old in 1969 to about to 115 years old in 1995. But since that time it has risen no further. Only three persons have ever lived longer than 115 years (call them exceptions). So unless those scientists who are working on delaying the aging process achieve a breakthrough soon, you better plan on having your affairs in order by the time you reach 115 years old.

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