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Thread: Life Expectancy Conundrum page 2

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncephalized View Post
    From what I can tell ~125 seems to be the upper limit. But who knows, I guess. 125 is damn old.
    I recently read about a woman who was 110, said she ate 2lbs of dark chocolate a week. Resveratrol?

  2. #12
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    Some folks have always gotten to be very old, there's just a greater percentage of them now. Reductions in infant mortality as well as disease control account for most of the number anyway, the extraordinary interventions we've become used to don't move the needle all that much and mainly address poor lifestyle issues. The latter are going to push the number down and bust the treasury as well.
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  3. #13
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    I remember being in the Cotswolds in England on a day tour. We were in a graveyard and I was amazed at just his old all the people in the graves were when they died. A vast majority were over 75 with a large amount being 90+. The graves ranged from the 1600's to the 1700's.

    So I don't think it's that we've suddenly discovered how to live longer, but rather that the majority of us are being given the chance to live longer (better living conditions, hygiene etc).

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncephalized View Post
    Because of safety equipment, or what? I wouldn't be surprised if this was true (but as an engineer myself I am a bit biased )
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  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by sroelofs View Post
    I remember being in the Cotswolds in England on a day tour. We were in a graveyard and I was amazed at just his old all the people in the graves were when they died. A vast majority were over 75 with a large amount being 90+. The graves ranged from the 1600's to the 1700's.

    So I don't think it's that we've suddenly discovered how to live longer, but rather that the majority of us are being given the chance to live longer (better living conditions, hygiene etc).
    I've noticed this in lots of rural English churchyards. Derbyshire, Sussex, Northumberland - lots of people reached their eighties and nineties. And a lot of gravestones recording long lived parents also have a sad list of their children who died young.

    I think, though, that a lot of people living and working in cities (read hard industry, long hours, poor food, no access to sunlight and from childhood) died awfully young, so skewing the figures badly.

    And when you read some of the weird things that used to be prescribed as medicine, I'm not surprised that a lot of people who got ill died!

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by breadsauce View Post
    I've noticed this in lots of rural English churchyards. Derbyshire, Sussex, Northumberland - lots of people reached their eighties and nineties. And a lot of gravestones recording long lived parents also have a sad list of their children who died young.
    I've noticed the same, while studying history.

    We've seen a shift in the curve for average life expectancy mainly due to advances in medical science and sanitation. However, maximum life expectancy has barely risen since the middle ages.
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  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jo View Post
    I think it will be interesting to see if life expectancy heads downward in the next few generations.
    I believe that is the prediction. I remember hearing somewhere that this is the first generation that will have a shorter lifespan than its parents.
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  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by breadsauce View Post
    I've noticed this in lots of rural English churchyards. Derbyshire, Sussex, Northumberland - lots of people reached their eighties and nineties. And a lot of gravestones recording long lived parents also have a sad list of their children who died young.
    Yeah, interesting to flick through the hymnbooks inside the church and see how long some of the hymn writers lived, too -- I mean if there are copies of something like The English Hymnal rather than modern "happy clappy" hymnbooks. 18th and 19th century hymn writers were not all keeling over at 50 or something. William Cowper, Isaac Watts and many others were doing better than that.

    I think there'd be a similar picture for the U.S. I've sometimes noticed reading old accounts where a biography is given that the person lived to a ripe old age. Major Moses van Campen lived till over ninety.

    Dr. Cate Shanahan gives some interesting figures in Deep Nutrition culled from a WAPF magazine:

    % of Americans aged 100 in 1830: 0.020
    % of Americans aged 100 in 1990: 0.015
    There''s also a provocative prediction:

    % of Americans living today expected to reach 100: 0.001

    She also points out that today's centenarians are not, as is sometimes claimed, proof of the efficacy of the current diet -- because if you're 100 today, you certainly weren't brought up on it.

    Another interesting question would be how mobile, alert, and generally functional elderly people in the 18th or 19th centuries were. There are certainly plenty of elderly people today who are alive, but many of them are hobbling round on zimmers or driving down the pavement in invalid carriages.

    I think, though, that a lot of people living and working in cities (read hard industry, long hours, poor food, no access to sunlight and from childhood) died awfully young, so skewing the figures badly.
    Indeed. Pre-modern cities have been described as "killers of men". Ancient Rome ate people. London in Dr. Johnson's time wouldn't be a good place to be born, unless perhaps you were fairly wealthy.

    But I think it could be pretty bad anywhere in the Middle Ages. Apparently, at Wharram Percy (a much-studied village in Yorkshire) life expectancy at birth was 18. This figure is from Ian Mortimer's neat little book:

    Amazon.com: The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century (9781439112908): Ian Mortimer: Books

    Mortimer says of the fourteenth-century in general that "just five percent of ... people were aged over sixty-five".

    Everything happened faster and younger. You might be married or serve on a jury at 12. One of Chaucer's characters describes a woman of 30 as "winter forage".

    I suppose a lot of this is insanitary conditions and lack of emergency medical intervention in the case of accident or infection. This was a more violent society than ours, too. Also, I guess that food could be a bit limited and nutrient-depleted for agricultural populations -- or the poorer sections of them, at any rate -- at certain times of the year. Piers Plowman says he has to get by on some cheese and loaves made with beans and bran till Lammas time.

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    EDIT

    I'll just add that I think people saying that "cavemen" died young is a defensive move -- and further that it misses the point. I think it doesn't really show much of an understanding of evolutionary biology. The point is not that people wish to adopt the diet of the Paleolithic Era because they think people did well on it (although they did) but primarily because if you understand how evolution works you must see that hundreds of thousands of years of eating that diet will inevitably have shaped our nutritional needs. It couldn't not have.
    Last edited by Lewis; 05-03-2012 at 10:24 AM.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by peril View Post
    Clean water supply. Sewers
    Ah. Indeed.
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  10. #20
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    Geography also determines longevity. In the late 1600s to early 1700s the life-expectancies for New England vs the Jamestown/Chesapeake Bay area were drastically different. A woman was likely to be married between 16 and 20 in both places- but in New England she may be married to the same man for 70 years. Further south, blended families were the norm because the wet, marshy warmth bred bugs and pestilance like nobody's business. If you made it to 45 around there, you were doing good. I remember a grave in Maine at a fishing village. He died at 50. She died at 90. Odds are pretty good that an accident killed him off given the local industry. The women in particular often lived into their 70s or 80s easily.
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