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Sunday, 26 December, 1999, 14:04 GMT
Children could 'live to 100'
Longer years of good health do not always accompany longer life
The children of today could expect to live to at least 100 as life expectancy continues to increase, according to a senior government doctor.

People in Britain have seen their average lifespan rise by more than 30 years this century with men now living to 74.4 years and women to 79.6.

It seems you have the same years of severe disability - they just get shunted along

Kings Fund spokeswoman Lorna Easterbrook
A report in Sunday's Observer newspaper says life expectancy is currently rising at two years every decade and quotes the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Pat Troop as saying there is no reason for it to stop.

"It will continue until we come to the natural life expectancy of us as an organism, which is probably around 95 to 100 years," she said.

"People who don't have disease live into their nineties or to 100, so there is still scope for improvement."

Increases in medical care, the elimination of diseases, and better nutrition are all factors which have helped increase longevity.

Life expectancy rose dramatically in the first half of the century as the infant mortality rate was dramatically reduced.

Still some way to go

Now however, it is being increased by people at the other end of the scale - as the elderly carry on living much longer than they used to.

In the 1970s, a man aged 65 could expect to live until he was 77, but now he can expect to live to 81.

Health workers warn however that increased life expectancy does not necessarily mean a better quality of life being enjoyed for longer.

Lorna Easterbrook, fellow in community care at the Kings Fund said: "It seems you have the same years of severe disability, it just gets shunted further along, so it's 85 rather than 80.

Although health information has lead to people eating less fat and red meat - and increasing their consumption of fruit - there is still some way to go, says Dr Troop.

'Add two to five years'

People should do more exercise and eat more vegetables, she advises.

Geneticist Chris Morris, of the Institute for the Health of the Elderly at Newcastle, believes the life expectancy of women could reach 90 in the forthcoming decades.

He said: "We can see an increase in life expectancy of five to 10 years in the next 30 years, partly through diet and partly through medication.

"By decreasing salt intake, you can add two to five years. Now we have to try to reduce cholesterol to add another two to five years - if you also give drugs for high blood pressure you can add yet another two to five years."

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