New Light On Longevity

Of the 8797 descendants of William Hyde, of Norwich, Conn., who died in 1681, a written record exists of the birth, marriage and death of 2958. So far as the Hyde strain is concerned these descendants rapidly lost, of course, everything but a mere trace of that blood. The first generation owed a half to each parent, the grandchildren a quarter to each, while as early as the seventh generation but one-sixty-fourth of the original strain remained.

Alexander Graham Bell studied these records with great care and derived some very interesting facts. A majority died long before their 50th year. Those whose parents died before the age of 60 had an average life of 32.8 years. Where both parents lived beyond 80 the average of the children reached the maximum of 52.7 years. If the father lived to be over 80 and the mother died under 60 the average age of the children dropped to 42.3 years. Where the case was reversed and the mother had a span of 80 years or over with the father dying under 60 the average age of the offspring dropped to 36.3. At the age of 5 nearly one fourth of the entire number had died (male survivors 75.5%, female, 77.9%).

The age of the mother had much to do with the length of life of offspring. The youngest mothers, even down to 18 years of age, had the best record. The average length of life for the offspring of mothers under 25 was 38.7 years; of mothers between 25 and 30, a fall to 36.6 years; from 30 to 35, 33.6 years; 35 to 40, 33.6 years; 40 and over, 28.1 years. Those born less than 10 years after marriage had an average duration of life in 1,723 cases of 35.5 years. Those born between 10 and 20 years after marriage in 847 cases lived on the average 33.3 years; those born 20 or more years after marriage in 187 cases had an average life of 28.3.1

These Hyde facts are not based on a selected list, such as accepted risks of an insurance company, but include all who were born alive, as is the case with the United States Census. The latter deals with both the white and colored races, and people of native and foreign birth. Nevertheless it will be interesting to compare the crude census and Hyde figures.

The number of people out of 100 who died each year up to the age of 75, in which the Hyde figures for 1,606 males and 1,352 females are compared with the United States Census figures for 1920 on a distribution per 1,000:

Hyde Per Cent Census Per Cent’

Age at Death Male Female Male Female

Under 1 year 8.8 6.6 16.5 13.8 1 to 2 years 8.0 72 32 3.1 2 to 3 years 3.9 4.0 1.4 1.4 3 to 4 years 2.4 2.4 0.9 1.0 4 to 5 years 1.4 1.9 0.7 0.7 Total under 5 24.5 22.1 23.0 20.3 5 to 10 years 3.9 52 2.4 2.3 10 to 15 years 2.2 3.5 1.7 1.6 15 to 20 years 3.3 5.6 2.6 2.8 20 to 25 years 7.3 7.1 3.3 4.3 25 to 30 years 5.4 6.7 3.8 4.9 30 to 35 years 4.6 6.1 4.1 4.6 35 to 40 years 4.4 5.6 4.5 4.5 40 to 45 years 3.9 52 42 4.0 45 to 50 years 5.1 4.4 4.7 4.3 50 to 55 years 5.1 4.0 5.3 4.7 55 to 60 years 4.4 3.2 5.6 5.1 60 to 65 years 4.3 4.1 6.6 6.0 65 to 70 years 4.9 3.1 6.8 6.5 70 to 75 years 5.1 4.0 6.9 7.0

The accuracy of Bell’s figures cannot be successfully attacked. Such differences as appear can be largely accounted for by the gradually lowering death rate since 1681 resulting from improving methods of living and fighting disease since those pioneer days.

Life Insurance Experience

We now shift to another source of information, the investigation carried on by 43 of the largest life in surance companies in the United States and Canada, from 1909 to 1913, in order to secure more reliable data for the construction of life insurance tables. We are now dealing with insured lives—selected risks. The last of four large volumes of tables of this highly important actuarial and medical investigation did not come off the press until 1922. Some of this information is of great public interest, particularly to the many who desire to be informed on the question of preserving health and prolonging life.

Those who had an underweight of 25 pounds or more at the ages of 25-30, when their insurance was taken out, were found to be extra-hazardous risks of 20 per cent above expectation; those between 30 and 50, with the above underweight, at the time they were insured, had an excess death rate of but 1 per cent; while those whose policies were taken out at ages 50-60 showed a death rate of 12 per cent under expectation.

Where the weight was in excess up to 45 pounds the 20-30 year class showed an excessive death rate of over 9 per cent, while the 50-60 class ran up to an excess of 20 per cent.

With an overweight of 50 pounds or more the 20-30 year class reached an excessive death rate of over 14 per cent; the 50-60 year class, 20 per cent.

Where there was an overweight combined with abdominal girth greater than chest expansion, four groups were derived: up to 1 inch abdominal excess; up to 11/4 to 2 inches; up to 21/4 to 3 inches; over 3 inches. From these groups a table is derived showing a comparison of relatively high mortality for the four groups combined, all of them, it will be noted, showing an excess of abdominal girth over chest expansion: overweight averaging from 5 to 15 per cent, excess of actual to expected deaths, 114 per cent (the normal average being 98 per cent) ; from 15 to 25 per cent, excess 129 per cent; from 25 per cent to 35 per cent, excess 136 per cent; from 35 per cent to 50 per cent, excess 165 per cent; above 50 per cent, excess 228 per cent of actual over expected deaths.

In tall risks, from a height of 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 2 inches, where the party insured was between 20 and 30 years of age, it was found that in an underweight of from 25 to 45 pounds, there was an excess mortality over expected deaths of 29 per cent; with an underweight of from 10 to 20 pounds, an excess of 19 per cent; with an overweight of 25 to 45 pounds, an excess over expected deaths of 33 per cent; with an overweight of 50 to 85 pounds, an excess of 22 per cent. With the age advanced at the time the policy was taken out to 40 to 50 years (same height) a deficiency in weight of 25 to 45 pounds brought an excess death rate over expected deaths of 8 per cent; of 10 to 20 pounds an excess of 2 per cent; an overweight of 25 to 45 pounds, an excess over expected deaths of 27 per cent; of 50 to 85 pounds an excess of 51 per cent.

Commenting on the above figures the committee later says that in the younger ages tall men are proved less desirable risks than short men; at the older ages the short and medium-sized men are slightly worse risks than tall men.

It should be noted that these weights and heights are not set out as being anything more than the records of people who have been accepted by insurance companies, and, to that extent, indicative of the truth as to insurable lives.

Much comfort can be derived by those persons with bad inheritance in the matter of longevity and those who are overweight by the remarks of Weber 1 who mentions five cases in which he advised a corrective treatment, beginning with his own.

Case 1.-My mother died before she was 60 from weakness of the heart inherited from her father and grandfather, which led to frequent attacks of bronchitis and general dropsy. My father died likewise in his 60th year from cerebral apoplexy (rupture of a blood vessel of the brain). He had not been an abstainer himself and his forefathers for four or five generations had taken largely the strongest kinds of hocks and port and died of affections of a gouty nature, including one of paralysis and one of apoplexy, mostly under 71 years of age. By moderation in eating and drinking and abundant exercise of both body and mind, including walking, climbing and deep breathing exercises, I have escaped death from these causes, have greatly prolonged my life and am now in good health in my 95th year.*

Case 2.-Nearly sixty years ago a gentleman of the age of 41 consulted me who suffered from frequent at-tacks of bronchial catarrh, weakness of the heart, was rather stout, had a sedentary occupation, avoided active exercise, took much meat, and was inclined to constipation and bleeding piles. His father had died from “chronic bronchitis with dropsy” at the age of 61, his paternal grandfather from “bronchitis and congestion of the lungs” at 64; while his mother, belonging to a rather short-lived family, had died from “pneumonia” aged 59. By reason of great moderation in eating, especially of flesh foods, and drinking, with attention to the bowels, by living much in the open air and in well-ventilated rooms, by regular walking and deep breathing exercises, the tendency to bronchial catarrh, to constipation and to piles was checked and he lived to the age of 75, dying of a severe attack of influenza. Three brothers and one sister, who had not followed similar regimes, but had indulged themselves more or less, like their ancestors, died before they were 60, from chronic diseases of the heart or of the lungs.

Case 3.-In 1862 I saw a gentleman, aged 44, whose father and grandfather had died under 64 from apoplexy; while his mother, who had belonged to a fairly long-lived family, had lived to 69. The patient, who was in the habit of eating and drinking freely, was of a florid complexion, muscular, slightly above the average weight and had had two severe attacks of gout. He was induced to diminish the quantity of meat to a very small amount, and to limit it further to but two days in the week, to substitute for the decrease of flesh food a larger allowance of cheese, of green vegetables and fruit, to give up stimulants almost entirely, to walk every day increasing up to a period of several hours at this exercise, and to practice deep breathing. The result was that after some years the gout had disappeared, his general health became perfect and he was able to enjoy intellectual and social pleasure up to 78 years of age, when he began to show signs of weakness of the heart after an accident which prevented his usual exercise. The final cause of death was pneumonia. Two brothers and a sister, who had indulged their appetites and taken little exercise, died between 60 and 66 from apoplexy, and others at earlier ages from bronchial attacks and failure of the heart.

Case 4.-A still more striking case was that of A. C., a member of a family of five sons and five daughters who, at 35, consulted me for weakness, shortness of breath, especially after lunch, and frequent sleepiness, particularly after meals. His family history was very grave. His father had died at 49 from bronchitis; his paternal grandfather at 49 from bronchitis; his paternal grandmother at 55 from pneumonia; his mother suddenly at 52 from failure of the heart; his maternal grandfather at 51 from apoplexy; his maternal grand-mother at 56 from “dropsy.” His life had been refused by several insurance companies. The patient was a solicitor who took little exercise outside his office, lived freely in eating and drinking and slept mostly over eight hours. The heart was feeble, the face red from congested capillaries (small blood vessels connecting the arteries and the veins). I advised him to take meat but once a day in small quantity; ,to limit stimulants to a quarter bottle of light claret during the 24 hours and reduce his sleep to 6 hours. In addition he was ordered to take deep breathing exercises every morning during a quarter hour in a well ventilated room, with a hot bath followed by a cold shower and to walk at least two hours a day. There was great improvement in two months, after which the fat elimination of walking exercise was supplemented by a whole day’s walking or shooting at least once a week. On this regime A. C. lived in good health, in spite of his very bad family record, up to the age of 74, when he died from influenza. All four of A. C.’s brothers lived on the plan that they must “sustain” themselves by eating and drinking generously and avoid exertion in order to keep from wearing out. They died between 49 and 56 (one from failure of the heart, one from apoplexy, one after an operation for stone and one from a cause unknown to me). Of the five sisters three died from various diseases under 56, one from accident at 45. The fifth, who died at 75, is the subject of Case 5.

Case 5.-A married lady aged 36, consuited me for shortness of breath, dropsy of the legs and varicose veins. The youngest of her four children was 3 years old. Her heart was dilated, she was rather stout, urine normal. She was in the habit of eating rather heartily and taking much water and soup, especially at dinner, with very little exercise. She was ordered to take but a small quantity of meat but once a day; to take little salt, no soup or other fluid at the two principal meals but a glass of water night and morning. To take regular breathing exercises, gentle ones at first, and two short walks every day in all weathers, and to gradually in-crease the amount of breathing and walking exercises. Within 4 weeks the dropsy of the legs had disappeared and after another month she was able to walk two hours every day. On this plan her health further improved and remained satisfactory up to the age of 70 when I lost sight of her. I heard, afterwards she had died at the age of 75, some months after an accident.

Today in the light of our newer knowledge of vitamins, the above excellent prescriptions would probably be slightly changed by the addition of six glasses of water, a quart of milk, with additional emphasis on the value of the leafy vegetables, like New Zealand and American spinach, beet tops, cabbage cooked but 25 minutes (new 20 minutes), well brushed potatoes roasted, eaten with the skins, celery, onions, etc., while meat would be reduced to the minimum and alcohol eliminated.

McCollum 1 sums up, 1922, the most satisfactory type of diet that will go a long way toward improving the physical fitness of the nation. It is a very simple one and its daily practice involves no great self-denial. It borrows the best elements in those several systems of diet which have been thoroughly tested in human experience. The first and most important principle is the extension of the use of dairy products. Instead of the present consumption of half a pint of milk a day there should be at least a quart per capita. This is the feature of the diet of all pastoral people, past and present, which made them physically superior to all other people. The second principle, is that the valuable dietary properties of the leafy vegetables are unique among vegetable foods. These two classes are the “protective foods” for many of the Asiatic peoples. Their consumption in liberal quantities as regular constituents of the diet serves not only to provide the body with valuable nutrients it cannot secure in adequate amounts from milled cereals, tubers and muscle meats, but also serves to maintain the intestinal tract in a hygienic condition through promoting elimination. Milk likewise serves through its encouragement of the growth of lactic acid-producing organisms (which cause souring of milk) to bring about the disappearance from the intestine of those types of bacteria causing putrefactive decomposition, including substances which are a physiological abomination. This principle, first enunciated by Metchnikoff, is shown by modern bacteriological studies to be sound. Milk has, however, dietary properties which the famous bacteriologist did not discern and which makes it the one food for which there is no effective substitute. It is not only an ideal food when taken over a long period as the sole source of nutriment, but is the best one with which nature has provided us and amply supplements the deficiencies of other foods, such as the cereals, tubers and fleshy roots. It is rich in both calcium and phosphorus, while many vegetable foods are relatively poor in both these elements, especially the former. In fact there are but two classes of foods which are relatively rich in calcium, the principal element in lime and a prominent constituent of bone. These are milk and the leafy vegetables, which two classes’ have been called the “protective foods.”

Spinach is by far the best of these leafy vegetable foods and should be fresh, not canned. It is now on sale practically the year round. In cooking, it should be flavored with a little pork. Those who have gardens can have a very early spring crop by planting the seed in the autumn. In northern states it may require a light covering of straw.

The complete expectation of life at birth is 50.23 years. At the age of 35 it is 31.08 years, which means that the average number of years to be lived by those who have attained the age of 35 is 31.08 years. Some will live more than 31 years, some less. This expectation of life increases about six years in the latter part of the first year of life. Of 1,000 living at birth 48 die under 1 month, whereas for the 12th month it is 4.53. The highest expectation is at the age of 2, when it is 56.88 years, and from this apex steadily decreases throughout life. At the age of 12 it is about 50 years, at 43 it is 25 years, at the age of 67 it is 10 years, at 80 it is 5 years and at 97 it is 2 years.