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    Oldest Woman-world record set by Maria Olivia da Silva

    Oldest person-world record set by Gertrude Baines

    Oldest person-world record set by Edna Parker

[April 20] SHELBYVILLE, Ind, USA--American Edna Parker, the world's oldest known person, will celebrate her 115th birthday today, defying mind-boggling odds.

  Photo: Edna Parker has set the world record for the Oldest Person in the World
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   "We don't know why she's lived so long," said Don Parker, her 59-year-old grandson. "But she's never been a worrier and she's always been a thin person, so maybe that has something to do with it."    

  Don Parker said his grandmother still enjoys reading the newspaper on a daily basis and likes to look through cards and letters that well-wishers send to her.    

 Edna Parker holds a rose that she was given during a birthday party for her in Shelbyville, Ind., Friday, April 18, 2008. Parker, who was born April 20, 1893, is the oldest known human. She will turn 115 on Sunday, April 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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Edna Parker shows her new shoes that she received as a birthday gift to her granddaughter Barbara Saletnig during a party for Parker in Shelbyville, Ind., Friday, April 18, 2008. Parker, who was born April 20, 1893, is the oldest known human. She will turn 115 on Sunday, April 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) - (enlarge photo)
   Don Parker talks with his grandmother, Edna Parker, in Shelbyville, Ind. Saturday, April 12, 2008. . Edna Parker, who was born April 20, 1893, is the oldest known human. She will turn 115 on Sunday, April 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Tom Strickland)     (enlarge photo)
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Mrs Parker, who was born April 20, 1893, has been a widow since her husband Earl died of a heart attack in 1938.

    She has also outlived her two sons - Clifford and Earl Jr - but is far from lonely with five grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren to keep her company.

    Scientists who study longevity hope that Mrs Parker can help unlock the secrets to long life.  

   Two years ago, researchers from the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University took a blood sample from Mrs Parker for the group's DNA database of supercentenarians.

  Her DNA is now preserved with samples of about 100 other people who reached the 110-year milestone, and whose genes are being analysed, said Dr Tom Perls, an aging specialist who directs the project. "They're really our best bet for finding the elusive Holy Grail of our field which are these longevity-enabling genes," he said.

  Only 75 living people 64 women and 11 men are 110 or older, according to the Gerontology Research Group of Inglewood, Calif., which verifies reports of extreme ages.    

  On Friday, a birthday party for Mrs Parker was held at her nursing home in Shelbyville, Indiana.

   A smiling Mrs Parker looked on as relatives and guests released 115 balloons into the sky to celebrate her milestone. Dressed in pearls, a blue and white polka dot dress and new white shoes, she clutched a red rose during the festivities.

  In December she was recognized by the Indiana State Teachers Association as the oldest teacher in the state and presented with a plaque of appreciation and an honorary lifetime ISTA membership.

  Her two sisters also are deceased. Georgia lived to be 99, while her sister Opal was 88 when she died.

   Parker's long-lived sisters are typical of other centenarians, according to Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Institute for Aging Research in New York.    Nearly all of them have a sister, mother or other relative who lived a long life, he said. "Longevity is in the family history," Barzilai said.

   He and other scientists have found several genetic mutations in centenarians that may play a role in either slowing the aging process or boosting resistance to age-related diseases.

   Perls said the secret to a long life is now believed to be a mix of genetics and environmental factors such as health habits.

   He said his research on about 1,500 centenarians hints at another factor that may protect people from illnesses such as heart attacks and stroke they appear not to dwell on stressful events. "They seem to manage their stress better than the rest of us," he said.      

  The Japanese island of Okinawa, with a population of a million, has 900 centenarians. Studies show their diet is extremely rich in anti- oxidant producing fruit and vegetables. They also eat a lot of tofu and soya products which seem to produce higher levels of one hormone, DHEA. Although what it does exactly is unknown, the hormone decreases with age and levels decline at a much slower rate among Okinawans. These people also consume a limited number of calories which may or may not be a factor in their longevity. While women in the Western world are advised to consume an average of 2,000 calories a day and men 2,500, the Okinawans survive on a mere 1,200.

  The Sardinians too are known for their long lives. Their diet, rich in olive oil, fish and red wine, differs vastly to that of the Japanese, but whatever they're doing it's working. Although diet could be a contributing factor, there is also a theory about a specific gene which appears to be prevalent, that could result from hundreds of years of inter-marriage.

  Meanwhile, the people of Loma Linda in California, who live longer than anywhere else in the US, put their long lives down to, not diet or good genes, but a belief in a higher power. A significant number of them are Seventh Day Adventists, which mean they don't smoke or drink and many adhere to vegetarian diets as their religion advises. But their longevity is not all diet- related. Those who go to church regularly live longer lives.

  This is in keeping with the findings of National Geographic writer Dan Buettner who, having studied many of these communities in detail, will publish his findings in a book called the The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest. Working with the world's top longevity experts, he describes the origin and nature of the lifestyle habits of the communities in each Blue Zone.

   Habits such as drinking a glass or two of red wine daily, growing a medicinal garden of mugwort, ginger and turmeric, and consuming hard water are noted. He's come up with what he calls the 'Power 9', nine lessons that positively impact on lifespan.
   It seems we may all have the power to extend our lives;
   1. Move naturally, be active without having to think about it. Don't exercise simply for the sake of exercising; identify activities you enjoy and make them a part of your day.
   2. Cut calories by 20pc.
   3. Eat more fruit and vegetables, avoid meat and processed foods, but you don't need to become a vegetarian.
   4. Drink red wine in moderation.
   5. See the big picture, determine your purpose in life.
   6. Take time to relieve stress. You may have to literally schedule it into your day, but relaxation is key.
   7. Belong. Participate in a spiritual community. Draw on the built-in weekly sessions of self-reflection and meditation.
   8. Make family a priority. Honour your family and spend time with them.
   9. Pick the right tribe, be surrounded by those who share your values.

  New England Centenarian Study
  Gerentology Research Group

  Indiana woman dies at 115 as world's oldest person
  Nov 26, 2008/ SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (AP) Edna Parker, who became the world's oldest person more than a year ago, has died at age 115. UCLA gerontologist Dr. Stephen Coles said Parker's great-nephew notified him that Parker died Wednesday at a nursing home in Shelbyville. She was 115 years, 220 days old.

  Maria de Jesus of Portugal, who was born Sept. 10, 1893, is now the world's oldest living person, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

  Photos: AP, EPA, Wandering Brook Photographic Design

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