The great advances that health science has undergone in recent years have led to a significant increase in the average life expectancy of human beings in the most developed countries.
However, this increase has also led to a massive spread of disorders associated with aging, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and many other neurodegenerative diseases.
As a result, people can live longer, but not all do so with the quality of life they would have wanted, neither for themselves nor for their families.
But as every rule has its exception, there are some fortunate who manage to overcome the natural course of the passage of time, reaching very advanced ages with an iron health, both physically and mentally. These super-majors have been the main theme of one of the presentations of the most recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in which researchers from Northwestern University have presented their findings about the origin of their gift.
The key is in a neuron
In search of the key to super ageing, these researchers analyzed the brains of ten elderly people who had enjoyed an unusual quality of life until well into their old age.
As expected, in all of them there was a common factor, which turned out to be the number of Von Economo neurons, a specific type of nerve cells that allow the rapid transmission of information in wide areas of the brains of apes, elephants and cetaceans.
Since its discovery in 1929, its involvement in the correct development of a large number of cognitive abilities has been described, but its relationship with resistance to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases has not been observed.
In fact, such is their role in this resistance that even patients who showed biochemical signs of neurodegeneration, such as deformed proteins or neurofibrillary tangles, had managed to dodge the symptoms.
On the other hand, most of these super-majors had more of these neurons than much younger patients, between 50 and 60 years old.
Another key point of this investigation was the description of other common points to the scarce 5% of people born with this superpower. It is very common to hear cases of elderly centenarians, whose iron memory allows them to share with others the multiple and exciting stories that make up their interesting life. And, in general, these are people who have lived life with optimism and an outgoing attitude. In addition, most have enjoyed social relationships and leisure activities, such as travel or reading, all of which are essential for the strengthening of mental health.
But if there is something that is extremely curious in all this is that 71% of the super elderly interviewed for the study had been smokers and 83% had drunk alcohol on a regular basis.
Does this mean that drinking or smoking is good for your health? Not much less. Only 5% of human beings are born with this virtue, while it is estimated that tobacco kills 7 million people around the world every year.
Of course, to imitate the positive attitude of these superpersonalities that can be a good idea. At least until science finds out how to emulate their neurons.
Source: El Español