weekly blog--one for the ages
In 1970, seven per cent of Costa Rican children died before their first birthday. By 1980, only two per cent did. In the course of the decade, maternal deaths fell by eighty per cent. The nation’s over-all life expectancy became the longest in Latin America, and kept growing. By 1985, Costa Rica’s life expectancy matched that of the United States. Now it’s 81 years old compared to the US’s 79.
Demographers and economists have taken notice. The country is now the best performer among a handful of countries that seems to defy the rule that health requires wealth. Costa Rica’s per-capita income is a sixth that of the United States, and its per-capita health-care costs are a fraction of the US’s. People who have studied Costa Rica have identified what seems to be a key factor in its success: the country has made public health, measures to improve the health of the population as a whole, central to the delivery of medical care.
But what set Costa Rica apart isn’t simply the amount it spends on health care. It is how the money is spent: targeting the most readily preventable kinds of death and disability.
Learn More: Costa Ricans Live Longer Than Us. What’s the Secret? | The New Yorker
There is a giant tortoise on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic that was born in 1832. Sea turtles can live from 50 to 100 years. Box turtles can live more than a century. So why do turtles live so long? There's an evolutionary answer and a biological answer, says a professor at Arkansas State University who studies turtles and other reptiles.
The evolutionary answer is relatively straightforward: Animals such as snakes and racoons love to eat turtle eggs. To pass on their genes, turtles have to live a long time and breed frequently, sometimes multiple times per year, and lay a lot of eggs.
The biological mechanism behind turtles' longevity is more complicated. One clue to turtles' longevity lies in their telomeres, structures composed of noncoding strands of DNA that cap the ends of chromosome. These structures help protect the chromosomes as cells divide. Over time, telomeres get shorter or degrade, which means they can no longer protect their chromosomes as well, leading to issues with DNA replication. And errors in DNA replication can lead to issues such as tumors and cell death.
Also, giant tortoises and a few other turtle species seem to be able to protect themselves from the long-term effects of cell damage. They do this by quickly killing off damaged cells, using a process called apoptosis or programmed cell death.
Learn More: Why do turtles live so long? | Live Science
When Medicare was created, its architects assumed expansion, both in terms of population and in terms of benefits later, according to a health policy professor at the University of North Carolina. “They didn’t anticipate the shift in American politics to the right, and they didn’t anticipate that Medicare would be labeled a fiscal problem and that policymakers would be more concerned with avoiding the next trust fund shortfall than expanding benefits,” he says.
Learn More: Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover Services So Many Seniors Need? | Kaiser Health News (khn.org)
Pulling a loved one out of a long-term care facility when the pandemic hit was often a great alternative for those who could afford it. However, for others, that was never an option. Paying for home care out of pocket can run a steep price tag, depending on the state and amount of care required. In Pittsburgh, for example, a home caregiver that works 40 hours a week costs around $,000 per month, slightly more than an assisted living facility.
Chronic conditions, like dementia, require around-the-clock care. A home caregiver that works hands-on, 24/7 can cost more than $17,000 each month, significantly more than a private nursing home room, which hovers around $10,000.
Learn More: Pulling family from nursing homes during Covid was great — but pricey (statnews.com)
Aging men have more resources available to them than aging women, according to a new global study. The Netherlands had the largest gap between men and women of the 18 countries studied. Italy and Denmark were not far behind. The study also found that the largest differences emerged when accounting for how productive people were in society because men tend to out earn women and that women tend to outlive their partners and largely have to support themselves. Gender differences in countries' adaptation to societal ageing: an international cross-sectional comparison - The Lancet Healthy Longevity