Centenarians Proliferate, and Live Longer


As per a latest report from the Centers for Disease and Control, the number of Americans older than 100 years old has greatly increased with more than 43 percent. That doesn’t mean that centenarians have become rather common, but that they grew in numbers from 50,281 in 2000 to 72,197 in 2014.

America is aging. Not only is the average age of the population gradually increasing as the large baby boomer cohort gets older, the number of centenarians (those living to age 100) is also increasing notably.

The CDC report also highlights that death rates for centenarians increased from 2000 through 2008 and then decreased through 2014, although the reasons for this sudden trend reversal are not clear.

The report is titled Mortality among Centenarians in the United States, 2000-2014, and also breaks down the data by gender and ethnicity to dig deeper into sociodemographic trends.

According to the report, death rates for centenarian rose from 2000 through 2006 for Hispanics, and were up from 2000 through 2008 for both the non-Hispanic white and black populations; the death rate for Hispanic centenarians zoomed up 66%, from 17.4 in 2000 to 28.9 in 2006, but then decreased 23% to 22.3 in 2014. Somewhat surprisingly, the death rate then declined from 2008 through 2014 for all racial and ethnic groups.

The leading causes of death in this age group are also changing. In 2000, the top five causes of death for centenarians were heart disease, stroke, influenza and pneumonia (the two conditions are grouped together), cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. But by 2014, the death rate from Alzheimer’s for this age group had more than doubled increasing from 3.8 percent to 8.5 percent making the progressive brain disease the second leading cause of death for centenarians.

One reason for the rise in deaths from Alzheimer’s disease in this group may be that developing this condition remains possible even after people beat the odds of dying from other diseases such as cancer, said Holly Prigerson, a professor in geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

“People who are physically fit enough to survive over 100 years ultimately succumb to diseases afflicting the mind and cognitive dysfunction,” said Prigerson, who was not involved in the report. “In other words, it appears that their minds give out before their bodies do.”



Dr. Jiaquan Xu, the lead author of the CDC report, said this means the risks of dying for centenarians has lowered over a period of seven years. Of the age group, about 80 percent of the annual deaths were women. Xu said this was a reflection of how many women and men live long.

It may be that developing the debilitating condition is possible even after the person had beaten the odds of dying from other diseases such as cancer, she said, and that those whose bodies are strong enough to live beyond 100 years ultimately end up with diseases afflicting the mind. “In other words, it appears that their minds give out before their bodies do,” she said.

Although cancer is the second main cause of death overall for Americans, it is the fourth cause of death for centenarians, the CDC said.

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