Art Linkletter Lived to Age 97

Art Linkletter, TV host of People are Funny and House Party in the 50’s and 60’s, has died at the age of 97. Linkletter’s easy-going  personality especially put children at ease, which lead to one of his best loved segments- “Kids Say the Darnedest Things.” This later became the title and material of a best selling book. Linkletter remained remarkably healthy well into his 90s and wrote a book called “Old Age Is Not for Sissies.”

Since our mission at Celebrity Diagnosis is one of promoting good health through health education, I thought we would concentrate not on what may have been Linkletter’s cause of death- “natural causes, ” but what kept him and many other Americans alive and active in their 90’s.

According to the National Institute of Aging:

“People are living longer. In 1970, the average life expectancy at birth was 70.8 years; in 2000, it was 76.9 years; and by 2030 is it estimated that the “oldest-old,” age 85 and older, could grow to 10 million people.

Views on aging are also changing. It no longer necessarily means physical decline and illness—in the last two decades, the rate of disability among older people has declined dramatically.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the Federal Government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), investigates ways to support healthy aging and prevent or delay the onset of diseases that disproportionately affect us as we age. These studies not only may increase what is known as “active life expectancy”—the time of advancing years free of disability—but also may promote longevity. NIA’s research includes hormone and dietary approaches, including calorie restriction.”

One of NIA’s studies is the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2008. The study was the first to ask a most basic question: What is normal aging?

There is still much to learn, but so far two major conclusions can be drawn from BLSA data:

First, “normal” aging can be distinguished from disease. Although people’s bodies change and can in some ways decline over time, these changes do not inevitably lead to diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or dementia. A number of disorders that typically occur in old age are a result of disease processes, not normal aging.

Second, no single, chronological timetable of human aging exists. We all age differently. In fact, in terms of change and development, there are more differences among older people than among younger people. Genetics, lifestyle, and disease processes affect the rate of aging between and within all individuals.

Staying Healthy at 50+

Adapted from information provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; based on research findings from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Daily Steps to Good Health
•  Be tobacco free.
•  Be physically active.
•  Eat a healthy diet.
•  If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.


Heart and Vascular Diseases
•  Aspirin to prevent heart attack: Men at risk* — Ages 50 to 80.
•  Aspirin to prevent stroke: Women at risk* — Ages 55 to 80.
•  Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Test: Once for men who have smoked — Ages 65 to 75.
•  Blood Pressure Screening Test: All men and women — Ages 50 and older, at least every 2 years.
•  Cholesterol Screening Test: All men and women — Ages 50 and older.
•  Diabetes Screening Test: Men and women — Ages 50 and older with high blood pressure.

•  Breast Cancer Screening (Mammogram): All women — Ages 50 and older, every 1 to 2 years.
•  Breast Cancer Preventive Medicines: Women at risk*— Ages 50 to 80.
•  Cervical Cancer Screening (Pap Test): All women — Ages 50 to 65, at least every 3 years.
•  Colorectal Cancer Screening Test: All men and women — Ages 50 and older.

Bone Disease
•  Osteoporosis Screening (Bone Density Scan): Women at risk* — Ages 60 to 65, and all women — Ages 65 and older.

Sexual Health
•  HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infection Screening Tests: Men and women at risk* — Ages 50 and older.

Mental Health
•  Depression Screening: All men and women — Ages 50 and older.

•  Flu Vaccine: All men and women — Ages 50 and older, annually.
•  Other Vaccines: You can prevent some serious diseases, such as pneumonia, whooping cough, tetanus, and shingles, by being vaccinated. Talk with your doctor or nurse about which vaccines you need and when to get them.

* Being at risk means that you may be more likely to develop a specific disease or condition. Whether you are at risk depends on your family history, things you do or don’t do (such as exercising regularly or using tobacco), and other health conditions you might have (such as diabetes). If you think you might be at risk for a specific disease, talk with your doctor.

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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