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New study deems Trump and Biden ‘super-agers’


Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be debating this week, and are the oldest candidates ever to lead the Democratic and Republican tickets. A recent study found that both Trump and Biden are “super-agers.” What does that mean, and should we be worried? Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss.

“Experts in the area of aging — not just geriatrics, but aging itself — used publicly available medical information about the candidates, and they came up with the likelihood that the two candidates would actually survive the next term,” he said. “It was quite high for both of them, with a 95% chance that Biden would survive the next four years, and for Trump it was almost 91%. This put them into a group called super-agers, which is a sub group of people that are able to maintain their mental and physical functioning and tend to live longer than the average person their age.”

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The typical life expectancy in the United States as of 2017 was about 78.5 years, and numerous factors can make someone in their 70s considered healthy and someone else not.

“We have our chronological age, which is the number of years that we’ve lived, and we have our biological age, and that’s sort of how healthy we are given our chronological age, and a lot of people age at a much faster rate than others and other people age at a much slower rate,” Cohen said. “Some of it is, of course, genetics and the likelihood of developing a disease, but also other things that are modifiable risk factors — your weight, your blood pressure, whether or not you have type two diabetes, also just your overall activity level.”

“And I think your outlook on life can play an important role as well,” he added. “If you think you’re old, you probably live like you’re old and you probably are biologically old. Whereas if you think like you’re young and you have a youthful approach to life, you’re going to act in a much younger away and you’re going to have a much younger biological age than your chronological age.”

Recognizing cognitive decline

So how do you recognize cognitive decline? And are you yourself able to recognize or does it require somebody watching you from the outside to point it out?

“I think it’s an important question because it’s being thrown all over the news right now,” Cohen said. “Cognitive decline is actually really pretty difficult. It’s not something that you could just watch the television and say, ‘Oh, that person has cognitive decline.’ Both parties would like to be able to say that the other candidate has significant cognitive decline or cognitive impairment, and you can’t tell that from watching them on television.”

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“Cognitive decline is really something that has to be tested for by a specialist, and you have to undergo an entire battery of neuropsychological exams … These tests, even if you fail the test initially, they require being referred to your physician because in many cases there may be some other cause for it,” he added. “The notion that you could just watch somebody on TV and say, ‘Oh, that person has cognitive impairment and they’re not fit to be President of the United States,’ is not correct.”

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