University of California-Irvine faculty investigator, Dr. Claudia Kawas, presented findings from The 90+ Study at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual conference this past weekend, highlighting the link between moderate alcohol consumption and longevity. In an observational study of participants age 90 and older, Dr. Kawas and her team found that consuming about two glasses of beer or wine daily was associated with 18% reduced risk of premature death. Findings also suggest regular exercise, social and cognitive engagement, and a few extra pounds in older age are associated with longevity.
The 90+ Study was initiated in 2003 to study the oldest-old, the fastest growing age group in the United States. The 90+ Study is one of the largest studies of the oldest-old in the world. More than 1,600 people have enrolled. Because little is known about people who achieve this milestone, the remarkable increase in the number of oldest-old presents a public health priority to promote the quality as well as the quantity of life.
The 90+ Study participantsInitial participants in The 90+ Study were once members of The Leisure World Cohort Study (LWCS), which was started in 1981. The LWCS mailed surveys to every resident of Leisure World, a large retirement community in Orange County, California (now incorporated as the city of Laguna Woods). Using the 14,000 subjects from the LWCS, researchers from The 90+ Study were able to ask, What allows people to live to age 90 and beyond?
Studying the oldest-oldParticipants of The 90+ Study are visited every six months by researchers who perform neurological and neuropsychological tests. Our researchers at the Clinic for Aging Research and Education (CARE), located in Laguna Woods, obtain information about diet, activities, medical history, medications and numerous other factors. Additionally, participants are given a series of cognitive and physical tests to determine how well people in this age group are functioning.
Goals of the study
- Determine factors associated with longevity: What makes people live to age 90 and beyond? What types of food, activities or lifestyles are associated with living longer?
- Examine the epidemiology of dementia in the oldest-old: How many people aged 90 and older have dementia? How many become demented each year? What are ways to remain dementia-free into your 90s?
- Examine rates of cognitive and functional decline in the oldest-old: How do memory loss and disability affect those in their 90s? How can people prevent memory loss and disability at this age?
- Examine clinical pathological correlations in the oldest-old: Do the brains of people in their 90s show evidence of memory loss and dementia? Do people with dementia have differences in their brains that can be detected and treated? Determining Modifiable Risk Factors for Mortality and Dementia: What kinds of things can people change in their lives to live longer? Can people change their risk of dementia through diet, exercise or supplements?
Major findingsResearchers from The 90+ Study have published many scientific papers in premier journals. Some of the major findings are:
- People who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained.
- People who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than normal or underweight people did.