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Medical News and Perspectives
November 13, 2002

Biological Secrets of Exceptional Old Age

JAMA. 2002;288(18):2247-2253. doi:10.1001/jama.288.18.2247

Boston—A mania for staving off the signs of aging permeates culture in the United States. Time robs people of health, independence, and perspicacity—or so advertisements warn—so everyone should cling to youth as long as possible.

But is this an accurate picture of aging? Researchers who study those who reach exceptional old age are finding that the inexorable march toward the end of life need not be a steady decline. In the last decade, investigators have been studying the growing number of people who celebrate their 100th birthday and have found that many centenarians remain hale and hearty well into their 90s, delaying the onset of age-related diseases and compressing the time they are ill into a short period at the end of their lives.

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