Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, Scientific Director, National Institute on Aging is looking for IDEAL individuals to answer the question “Why do some people reach age 80, 90 and older living free of physical and cognitive disease?” (More)

The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging has spent the last 50 years examining the normal process of aging. The original goals of the BLSA were: 1) the description of the anatomical, physiological and functional changes that occur over the aging process; 2) the identification of the biological, behavioral and environmental factors that account for these changes; 3) the identification of the biological and physiological pathways that lead to frailty in older persons; 4) the study of factors that predict healthy aging and health-related outcomes across the life-span; 5) the development of hypotheses concerning possible targets for interventions that may positively affect several aspects of the aging process and prevent age-related diseases.

The findings have made their way into the doctors offices. Some of the findings reported in the BLSA 1958-1998 include:

Normal stiffening of the arteries occurs both in individuals with normal blood pressure, and those with mild hypertension, or high blood pressure.

The things that lead to the development of disease in mid-life are still important in late life. In one study of over 1,000 men age 28 to 97, researchers found that high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease even in very old men. The fact that blood cholesterol concentration is a definite risk factor even in individuals 75 to 97 years of age points to the necessity of continuing a healthful life-style into very old age.

Personality traits of adults as a whole change little after age 30. People who are cheerful and assertive at age 30 are likely to be cheerful and assertive at age 80. These findings show that stereotypes that depict older people as depressed, withdrawn, and rigid are myths.

Older men show greater alcohol-related impairment in reaction-time and intellectual functioning than younger men for equal doses of alcohol.

Starting in the late 1960โ€™s, dietary practices of Americans became healthier. Changes in nutrition have been just as great in the old and very old segments of the population as in young and middle-aged adults. In particular, fat and cholesterol consumption declined while consumption of fiber increased. Older people are as flexible to change as younger people and can benefit as much as younger people from healthy lifestyle recommendations

Dr. Ferrucci has a set of advice specific to the older population:

— Exercise, it reduces the risk of developing some diseases and disabilities, improves balance preventing falls, Strength exercises build muscles and reduce osteoporosis. It maintains flexibility.
— Watch your weight and shape. Maintain a body mass index of over 19 but don’t overdo it.
— Eat healthy. Enjoy vegetables, fruits, fish and nuts.
— Participate. People who are sociable, generous and goal oriented report higher levels of happiness.

Who is Dr. Ferrucci looking for, or how does he define IDEAL. He is concentrating on one subset of the aging population. Individuals who have reached 80 years of age in good shape. The criteria are:

— Walk a quarter of a mile unassisted without pain or shortness of breath.
— Have no severe memory or cognitive issues.
— Have no medical conditions, including no history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or metabolic disease, active cancer, neurological or brain diseases, kidney or liver diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, significant vision or hearing problems, severe mental conditions, sever gastrointestinal or stomach diseases, chronic conditions requiring drug treatments except hypertension, cholesterol or osteoporosis.

Are you or will you be IDEAL?