Could we live to 90 or more in future?
SOMETHING has changed in Australia, making it possible for more and more people to live to 100.
Better education in health behaviours and avoiding habits that damage the body, controlling smoking, more control of vascular risk factors, improvement in medical treatments and survival rates for some cancers have all impacted on life span.
University of New South Wales' Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing Scientia Professor Perrmider Sachdev said life span had almost doubled over the last century.
"Life expectancy at birth is now closer to 90," he said.
"By the middle of the century there will probably be about 40,000 Australians who have reached 100."
Those living to 90 or older often tend to use fewer health resources, which means they are not putting extra strain on Australia's health system.
"We see they are often quite healthy until a very late age," Prof Sachdev added.
There is no definitive answer as yet as to whether this improvement in life span can continue or even increase.
There is, however, proof of what is making a difference in life span now.
The longest living person documented was a 122-year-old French woman, but Prof Sachdev said in this sort of extreme longevity there are genetic factors.
"Having a family history of long-lived individuals does go in your favour," he said.
Being physically active throughout their lives appears to be a key factor in helping longevity.
Another contributing factor is a plant-based diet supplemented by meat but not as a major part of the diet.
Often people who are 90 and older live independently, some in their own homes.
"There is also some evidence that people living at high altitudes have longevity, but I don't think that is consistent," Prof Sachdev said.
In the four regions where there is a recorded high number of centenarians - Italy's Sardinia, Japan's Okinawa, Greece's Icarus and a place in Costa Rica - Prof Sachdev suggests less pollution, less technology, more manual labour and a fish-based diet may be contributing factors, but there are variations to that list which ensures the golden answer to longevity remains open.