tv 60 Minutes CBS May 4, 2014 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
>> pelley: the explosion was a catastrophe-- 11 crew members were killed and the bp oil spill flowed for 87 days, causing environmental and economic damage from texas to florida. bp put up billions to pay compensation, but now there are questions about new claims for hundreds of millions of dollars. >> "do i have to prove that the oil spill directly harmed my business?" the answer is no. >> a business does not have to prove that their loss was directly caused by that event. >> pelley: bp says it is being forced to pay people who never saw oil anywhere but on tv. >> my birthday is february 7, 1918. >> stahl: men and women above the age of 90... >> six miles. >> stahl: ...are now the fastest growing segment of the u.s. population.
>> i am flying all over the place. >> stahl: and tonight, you will hear about groundbreaking research that may help us understand how to live a longer, healthier and happier life. fascinating findings about dementia, the benefits of weight gain as we age, the effects of vitamins, coffee and... what about alcohol? >> oh, alcohol made a difference. moderate alcohol is associated with living longer than individuals who did not consume alcohol. >> stahl: and after you pour another martini, you may want to check your gym membership. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories tonight on "60 minutes". e
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unitedhealthcare. >> pelley: the biggest accidental oil spill the world has ever seen began with the explosion, in 2010, of the "deepwater horizon" in the gulf of mexico. thousands of businesses suffered along an oily arc from texas to florida. and bp, the company at fault, started paying them compensation right away. bp said it wanted to do the
right thing, and paying victims early bought the company some good will at a time that it was facing criminal charges and billions in federal fines. but now, four years later, bp says it's the victim of gulf coast swindlers who have the oil giant over a barrel. bp says it is being forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to people who never saw oil anywhere but on tv. the explosion was a catastrophe. 11 crew members were killed. the gusher flowed 87 days. bp put up billions to pay compensation, and hired attorney ken feinberg to sort out who was hurt by the spill and who was not. >> ken feinberg: one fellow down in alabama said to me, when i asked him for proof, he said, "mr. feinberg, we do things with a handshake down here." i said, "that's fine, but a handshake won't get you compensation." >> pelley: why is it so
important to hold everyone to that standard of proof? >> feinberg: because there'll be another catastrophe, and a catastrophe after that. what happens the next time, in terms of a company's willingness to do something similar? >> pelley: feinberg has long experience. he ran the compensation program for victims of 9/11. in the bp disaster, he told us there were often two kinds of applicants, the deserving and the devious. what was the most outrageous claim you got? >> feinberg: i think there was a fellow in oslo, norway, if i remember correctly, who slipped on the ice while he was filing a claim and sought damages for a broken leg. >> pelley: people saw money and they tried to get it. >> feinberg: human nature-- goes with the territory. i think that if you had any type of compensation program anywhere, you get a fair number of people who try and game the system to try and recover compensation. >> pelley: feinberg says, out of
more than a million claims, he found only a third were justified. his critics said too many claims were being denied. so, to avoid decades of court battles and uncertainty, bp agreed to a more lenient compensation program. but now, bp vice president geoff morell says the oil giant is getting soaked by businesses with losses that are not linked to the spill. >> geoff morell: we're talking about a wireless phone company store that burned to the ground and shut down before the spill, an rv park owner that was foreclosed upon before the spill. and i love this one-- a pontiac dealer who could no longer sell pontiacs because gm had discontinued the line before the spill. >> pelley: those are all real examples and they are people who actually got a check? >> morell: those are all real examples and are, frankly, not exceptions but rather emblematic of a far larger problem. there are more than 1,000 claims just like them that had glaring
red flags associated with them that should have been picked out by the claims administrator, and instead were ultimately awarded more than $500 million. >> pelley: that's how bp adds it up, but the new claims administrator, pat juneau, says bp is getting what it asked for. juneau's "deepwater horizon" claims center replaced ken feinberg-- same job, new rules. bp makes it sound like you're throwing millions of dollars away to people who have no stake in the oil spill whatsoever. >> pat juneau: i have an obligation as a court-appointed official by the federal court to implement what these two parties wrote. >> pelley: the "parties" are bp and, on the other side, lawyers representing victims. they negotiated a settlement with a fairly simple formula. bp agreed to pay businesses whose income dropped after the spill and then rebounded one year later. trouble was, some attorneys soliciting clients took that to mean any business with a loss of
any kind. >> your losses don't have to be directly traceable to the oil spill. >> "do i have to prove the oil spill directly harmed my business?" the answer is no. >> a business does not have to prove that their loss was directly caused by that event. >> morell: there was a proliferation of these kinds of ads. and there was almost a pied piper-like recruitment of claimants, and compounding that problem was the fact that the claims administrator, the facility, began to pay these claims. >> pelley: one attorney's flyer reads, "the craziest thing about the settlement is that you can be compensated for losses that are unrelated to the spill." bp's attorney ted olson has a word for that. >> ted olson: i think that's fraud. we want to compensate legitimate claimants, but this here's an incentive to encourage people to commit fraud, and that... that is wrong. >> pelley: so bp launched its own ad campaign, which pointed
to $60,000 that went to colorectal surgeons 300 miles from the coast, and $173,000 paid to an escort service in florida. bp also claims $8 million was approved for companies that clean up after hurricanes. their income was down after the spill because there were no hurricanes that made landfall that year. pat juneau, the claims administrator, told us that he questioned the eligibility formula at the start, because it didn't require proof of a link to the spill. he asked bp about that. and bp replied in the court record that if the numbers fit the formula, "all losses are presumed to be attributable to the oil spill," even if "the decline was wholly unrelated to the oil spill." with that, juneau decided that if a business lost money, he was not allowed to ask why. >> jim roy: it's a black and
white formula, a deal is a deal. >> pelley: jim roy is a lawyer for the victims. he helped negotiate the eligibility formula with bp. >> roy: well, i think bp has buyer's remorse. bp told the court that it believed that this was going to be a $7.8 billion settlement. but i think it's going to be considerably more than the amount of money that bp said it was going to cost. >> pelley: we called more than a dozen of the applicants that bp says took unfair advantage of the deal, but all of them declined to be interviewed. do you think that might be because they're feeling sort of sheepish about receiving that check? >> roy: no, i think there are two things going on. i think, one, most of these businesses understand that they want their lives to stay private. and number two, the last thing they want is to go on "60 minutes" with scott pelley to broadcast anything about them personally. >> pelley: but there could be another reason-- on the claim form that applicants sign under
penalty of perjury, it says that they "assert economic loss due to the spill." bp lawyer ted olson says it shouldn't matter that the formula to calculate the loss doesn't consider the cause. >> olson: you had to have been hurt by the oil spill. >> pelley: bp's accounting expert, holly sharp, testified in 2012 that once a business meets the formula, all losses are "presumed to be caused by the spill with no analysis required to determine whether the declines might have been due, at least in part, to other causes." i mean, it just seems that that's what bp agreed to. you made your bed, and now you're lying in it. >> olson: the part that you just quoted for me started off with, "once you meet the formula." the formula is that, first of all, you have to establish that you were injured as a result of this. otherwise, anyone can walk in and say, "i had a bad year. pay me money." >> pelley: and that's exactly what's happening. >> olson: that's exactly what's happening.
>> pelley: the front page of the settlement claim form says, "the claim is for those that assert economic loss due to the spill." what does "due to the spill" mean to you? >> roy: "caused." but if they qualify, whatever that calculation is, they should be paid. you may, in hindsight, judge "that just doesn't seem right." i may judge in hindsight, although i don't, that that just doesn't seem right. but that's the deal bp asked for; that's the deal bp got. and the deal bp got was for the entire states of mississippi, louisiana and alabama. >> pelley: claims administrator pat juneau is rejecting about 40% of claims when companies can't prove an economic loss of some kind. but he has approved more than $3 billion in claims so far, so, in a nutshell, if they've got the right numbers, they get a check? >> juneau: i'm obliged to pay...
honor and pay those claims. >> pelley: bp essentially is saying that you're facilitating fraud. >> juneau: i have never in my life... i'm 76 years old, i've been to a lot of rodeos in my life. i don't facilitate fraud. fraud offends me. >> pelley: but doesn't this do violence to common sense when you're paying claims to people who have no loss associated with the spill? how could that possibly be the intent of the agreement? >> juneau: you do understand that i wasn't there when these parties agreed to this agreement. and that's what they agreed to. >> morell: but no company would ever agree to a settlement that compensates people who were not harmed by their actions, and we most certainly did not agree to such a settlement. >> roy: bp doesn't like the deal it cut now. i'm sorry about that. i can't help that. but i was in the room when this section of the deal was negotiated. others on our team were there, too. that's what we saw and heard, no doubt about it. >> pelley: the battle, of course, is in the federal courts.
bp has won a few on the size of some of the checks. but it's lost every attempt to reinterpret the formula that decides who is eligible. here in new orleans, one federal judge said that bp was essentially trying to rewrite the deal. a federal appeals judge said that there was nothing fundamentally unreasonable about the deal that bp agreed to but now wishes it had not. bp is now asking the appeals court for one more hearing. is this a matter of bp's attorneys just having been hoodwinked? you accepted a deal without fully realizing what it meant, and now you're stuck with it? >> olson: no one could have anticipated that the system would go completely off the tracks, but that's why you have appellate courts. and that's why we have the supreme court. bp will take this as far as it is necessary to go to make sure that this settlement agreement is construed properly. >> pelley: did you guys take bp to the cleaners on this? >> roy: no, sir. bp got a good settlement.
and bp was represented by very, very good lawyers who were worthy adversaries, who fought tooth and nail for their client. and it was a hard-fought settlement. their own lawyer said it was a very generous settlement. >> pelley: that's not what they're saying now. there're saying it's a little too generous. >> roy: it is what it is. >> pelley: now, bp complains it feels like it's the visiting team fighting a home field advantage along a gulf coast that remembers vividly scenes like this. >> juneau: if the inference is that we're giving preferential treatment and putting the screws to somebody here-- myself or this court-- that's grossly untrue. it's offensive, certainly offensive to me. and it shouldn't be said and it has no place in this litigation.
>> pelley: the trouble with the litigation now is that all compensation checks to businesses, whether deserving or otherwise, have been stopped while bp continues its appeals. lley heard from an oil rig worker who survived the blast. go 60minutesovertime.com sponsored by lyrica. like thousands of needles s. it was progressively getting worse, and at that point i knew i had to do something. once i started taking the lyrica the pain started subsiding. [ male announcer ] it's known that diabetes damages nerves. lyrica is fda approved to treat diabetic nerve pain. lyrica is not for everyone. it may cause serious allergic reactions or suicidal thoughts or actions. tell your doctor right away if you have these, new or worsening depression, or unusual changes in mood or behavior.
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it's spice it up food. >> stahl: it's always been a dream of mankind to live forever. since the start of the 20th century, we have increased life expectancy in this country by a remarkable 30 years-- from just 49 in 1900 to almost 79 today. and more and more of us are making it into that group we all hope, and kind of dread, joining, the over-90 crowd, affectionately dubbed "the oldest old." men and women above the age of
90 are now the fastest-growing segment of the u.s. population. yet very little is known about the oldest old, since, until recently, there were so few of them. so what determines which of us will make it past age 90? what kind of shape we'll be in if we do? and what can we do to up our odds? finding out is the goal of a groundbreaking research study known as "90-plus." >> jane whistler: i was born on april 21, 1914. >> ted rosenbaum: my birthday is february 7, 1918. >> lou tirado: i was born on august 25, 1920, and i'm 93- plus. >> ruthy stahl: june 15, 1918, and it was, i'm sure, a lovely day. >> stahl: do you feel 95? what do you... what age do you feel? >> ruthy stahl: i feel about 52. ( laughs ) not really.
>> stahl: what they have in common, other than having lived a combined total of almost 400 years, is that, decades ago, they all lived in a retirement community called leisure world 45 miles south of los angeles. >> hi, there, and welcome to leisure world, a new way of life designed for alert and active people 52 years and older who want to get the most out of life. >> stahl: today, it's still a retirement community, and they're still getting the most out of life, though it's no longer called leisure world. it's now its own city, laguna woods. >> claudia kawas: they didn't like the words "leisure world." ( laughs ) they consider themselves active. >> stahl: "active world." >> kawas: "active world." >> stahl: dr. claudia kawas spends a lot of time in laguna woods these days. she's a neurologist and professor at nearby u.c. irvine, who discovered the research equivalent of gold here-- information gathered from thousands of leisure world residents back in 1981, with
page after page of data about their diet, exercise, vitamins, and activities. >> kawas: 14,000 people answered this questionnaire in 1981. >> stahl: 14,000... >> kawas: many of them, if they were still alive, would now be over the age of 90. >> stahl: she saw a rare opportunity to study what worked and what didn't. so you... did you try to find them? >> kawas: we went after all 14,000. and if they were still alive, we wanted to find where they were. >> stahl: with $6 million of funding from the national institutes of health, kawas and her team set out to find out who had died, when they died, and to convince those who were still living and over 90 to sign up. >> kawas: and you're how old now? >> whistler: i'll be 100 in three months. >> kawas: we're going to have to have a party. >> whistler: good! ( laughs ) i love a party. >> stahl: jane whistler is one of the more than 1,600 men and women they found and enrolled as subjects in the 90-plus study. they are checked from top to
bottom every six months-- their facial muscles... reflexes... balance... how they walk... how fast they can stand up and sit down... and most importantly, how their minds are working. >> i'm going to say and show you three words for you to remember. shirt. brown. honesty. >> whistler: shirt. brown. honesty. >> perfect. >> now, please spell "world." >> stahl: they are given an hour-long battery of cognitive and memory tests... >> good. now, spell "world" backwards. >> whistler: d-l-r-o-w. >> stahl: ...asked to connect letters and numbers... >> stahl: ...and to remember. >> all right. what three words did i ask you to remember earlier? >> whistler: brown. shirt.
>> you want a little hint? >> whistler: yeah. >> okay. was that word "honesty," "charity"... >> whistler: honesty. >> yes. >> stahl: when it's time for your exams in the 90-plus study, do you look forward to it or... >> whistler: sure. >> stahl: do you ever say, "oh, they're going to find something" or, "i'm not going to be able to do as well as i did last time"? >> whistler: oh yeah, i think that. sure. >> stahl: you do. >> whistler: but that doesn't stop me. i think it's... i think it's fun. >> tirado: shirt, brown, honesty. >> stahl: we were struck by what great shape many of the study participants are in, like lou tirado, a world war ii b-17 gunner who was shot down near berlin and spent eight months as a german p.o.w. and sid shero, another world war ii veteran, who came to talk to us despite having suffered a stroke just a few weeks earlier that slurred his speech. >> sid shero: i am 92 years old
and going strong. >> stahl: sid drives his car to his test sessions. you drive a convertible? >> shero: yes. >> stahl: you want the girls to look at you. >> shero: they call it a "chick car." >> stahl: sid, a widower, works out at the fitness center, keeps up with the news, and the ladies. so, you're a bachelor. >> shero: yes. >> stahl: do you date? >> shero: yes. >> stahl: do you have a rich social life? >> shero: yes. >> stahl: is it fun? >> shero: yes. very much so. and i hope to last a long time. >> stahl: but, of course, not everyone is so lucky. when participants like louise bigelow, age 97, are too frail to come in for testing, the testers go to them. >> an orange and a banana are alike because they're both... >> louise bigelow: yellow. >> stahl: louise remembers events from long ago, like when her bridal veil caught fire a few minutes after this photo was
taken. >> bigelow: it went right into the flames of the candles. so i always had a lot of excitement all the time. ( laughter ) and that was the beginning. >> stahl: you're not going to forget that ever. >> bigelow: no. >> stahl: but when it comes to recent memories and thinking skills, she struggles more and more. >> and in what way are laughing and crying alike? >> bigelow: i don't know. >> ruthy stahl: brown, honesty, and, uh... shirt. >> stahl: the testers go to 95- year-old ruthy stahl's home, too. they go not because she can't come to them, she just doesn't have time. >> ruthy stahl: i'm in my car more than i'm in the house, i think, because i... i do so many things. >> stahl: what do you do? >> ruthy stahl: i am flying all over the place. >> stahl: "flying," as in speed walking three miles almost every day. >> ruthy stahl: on sunday, it's only two miles.
( laughs ) >> stahl: are you on the computer? >> ruthy stahl: yes, i am. but i'm having trouble with my computer. >> whistler: i had a computer for ten years and enjoyed it, but it died. >> stahl: jane outlived her computer. at almost 100, she's done a lot of outliving. >> whistler: we were all bridge players. we'd play bridge and have dinner, and we had a lot of fun. >> stahl: have some of them died? >> whistler: they've all died. >> stahl: they've all died. >> whistler: every one. >> stahl: oh, my goodness. >> whistler: i'm the only one left. >> stahl: so what was it that got these people into their 90s... >> kawas: so you've never had a stroke. >> whistler: no. >> stahl: ...while their spouses, friends, and colleagues... >> kawas: never had hardly anything. >> stahl: ...dropped out along the way? >> kawas: what's your secret? >> whistler: i wish i knew. >> stahl: genes clearly contribute to longevity, says kawas, but they aren't everything. jane whistler's parents both died when she was young. >> kawas: well, whatever your secrets are, by being in the study, we're going to try to find them out. >> stahl: so you can go back and look at their medical history?
>> kawas: everybody in the study filled out that questionnaire in the early 1980s. >> stahl: and comparing that data to how it's all turned out has yielded a slew of published findings about behaviors associated with living longer. so, what's the verdict? no surprise-- smokers died earlier than non-smokers. and what about exercise? >> kawas: people who exercised definitely lived longer than people who didn't exercise. as little as 15 minutes a day, on average, made a difference. 45 was the best. even three hours didn't beat 45 minutes a day. >> stahl: oh, wow. that's interesting. >> kawas: and it didn't all have to be at once. it could be, for example, 15 minutes of walking, and then later in the day, gardening or something. and it also didn't have to be very intense exercise. >> stahl: and non-physical activities-- book clubs, socializing with friends, board games-- all good. >> kawas: for every hour you spent doing activities in 1981,
you increased your longevity, and the benefit of those things never leveled off. >> stahl: the subjects we spoke to had definitely been active, but they didn't strike us as having lived their lives worrying about their health. >> whistler: i'm not a big vitamin person. >> stahl: have you watched, over the years, what you ate? >> tirado: not... not really. >> stahl: dessert? >> whistler: sure. i love dessert. >> ruthy stahl: i always had a glass of wine before dinner. and now, i still do, but i can't quite finish it. >> stahl: clean living, huh? >> shero: no. >> stahl: no? not clean living. >> shero: i don't know what clean living is. >> stahl: what about alcohol? >> whistler: sure, i love wine. >> stahl: do you take vitamins? >> shero: yes. a lot of them. >> stahl: so, which vitamins helped? anti-oxidants? okay, vitamin e. we... we're sitting at the edge of our chairs. does it... did it make a difference, vitamin e? >> kawas: it was--my favorite, but uh-uh.
>> stahl: no? >> kawas: people who took vitamin e didn't live any longer than people who didn't take vitamin e. >> stahl: they also looked at vitamin a, c, and calcium. >> kawas: the short answer is none of them made a difference... >> stahl: none of them made a difference to living a long life? >> kawas: ...in terms of how long you live. >> stahl: what about alcohol? >> kawas: oh, alcohol made a difference. >> stahl: but it may not be what you think. >> kawas: moderate alcohol was associated with living longer than individuals who did not consume alcohol. >> stahl: wait a minute-- moderate alcohol, you live longer? >> kawas: yes. >> stahl: up to two drinks a day led to a 10% to 15% reduced risk of death compared to non- drinkers. >> whistler: isn't that exciting? ( laughter ) >> stahl: and any kind of alcohol seemed to do the trick. >> kawas: a lot of people like to say it's only red wine. in our hands, it didn't seem to matter. >> stahl: martinis-- just as good. >> kawas: yeah. and there's good news for coffee drinkers. caffeine intake equivalent to one to three cups of coffee a day was better than more or
none. and if you're concerned about those bulging waistlines, listen to this. >> kawas: it turns out that the best thing to do as you age is to at least maintain or even gain weight. >> stahl: gain weight? >> kawas: uh-huh, really. >> stahl: so being a little overweight is... is good? >> kawas: being obese is never good. >> stahl: and being overweight as a young person wasn't good, either. but late in life, they found people who were overweight or average weight both outlived people who were underweight. >> kawas: it's not good to be skinny when you're old. >> stahl: but living a long time, even if we don't have to watch our waistlines, isn't the only thing most of us care about. we want to be all there to enjoy it. and it's in the areas of alzheimer's and dementia that the 90-plus study is generating some of its most provocative and surprising findings. we'll tell you about that, and
one more thing-- romance after 90... how's your sex life? ( laughter ) you brought it up! ...when we come back. >> cbs money watch update sponsored by lincoln financial. calling all chief life officers. >> good evening. coca-cola says it's removing the controversial chemical bvo from its power ade drinks. britain's labor department wants an enquiry into pfizer's attempt to buy. astra zeneca. i'm jeff glor, cbs news. those little things still get you.
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>> stahl: we are a nation getting older. by the middle of the century, the number of americans age 90 and above is projected to quadruple. while that's good news for those of us who want to stick around, it also means more time, literally, to start to lose our minds. dementia, including that most dreaded form, alzheimer's disease, is a looming threat, and a primary focus of the 90- plus study. participants are asked to donate
their brains to the study after they die, so researchers can compare what they saw in life to the secrets buried deep within. and the picture isn't always matching up, bringing new discoveries and new questions about what may actually be causing dementia in the oldest old, and what we may be able to do about it. you know, i think that it was common belief that if you got to 90 and you didn't have dementia or alzheimer's, that you weren't going to get it. >> kawas: unfortunately, no. i really, really expected to find that. but in our study, that's not to happen. >> stahl: it's not true. >> kawas: no. >> stahl: it turns out the risk of developing dementia doubles every five years, starting at the age of 65, and it keeps right on doubling. and given the growth in numbers of the oldest old by mid- century...
>> kawas: we are going to have more people with dementia over the age of 90 than we currently have at all ages put together. >> stahl: and we're not even thinking about it. >> kawas: we should be. >> stahl: as charming and engaging as all the 90-plusers we met were, one who we were particularly moved by was 96- year-old ted rosenbaum, a former american history teacher who's been married for 63 years. >> ted rosenbaum: i was very lucky. so now, at this stage of the game, if it's petering out, just reminiscing about our past is a source of incalculable joy. >> an orange and a banana are alike because they're both...? >> rosenbaum: fruits. >> stahl: ted did well on parts of the 90-plus exam, like repeating long strings of numbers backwards. >> six, one, eight, four, three.
>> rosenbaum: three, four, eight, one, six. >> stahl: but when it came time to remember the three words she had told him just 40 seconds earlier... >> rosenbaum: three words... give me a hint. >> stahl: ...he was lost. and that wasn't his only problem. >> what is today's date? >> rosenbaum: today's date? >> uh-huh. >> rosenbaum: today's date? >> stahl: does he have dementia, at this point? >> kawas: yes. ted has dementia. >> stahl: he does. >> kawas: you know, unfortunately there's no blood test, there's no x-ray. it's an examiner finding out that an individual has problems in two or more of the main things that brain does for them. so that's where he is. >> stahl: and what's perhaps the
most devastating is he knows it. >> rosenbaum: my worst condition is my memory. >> stahl: when you can't remember something, what goes on inside you? >> rosenbaum: terrible frustration and terrible... you know, it's... it's having more and more of a negative impact on me, psychologically. >> stahl: determining what's behind his memory loss isn't easy, since diseases like alzheimer's can only be definitively diagnosed in the brain after death. so it's after the 90-plusers die that a new round of sleuthing begins. when subjects in the study donate their brains, they come here to neuropathologist dr. ronald kim. he showed us one of the things he always looks for, the plaques and tangles in the brain that are the telltale signs of alzheimer's disease. >> ronald kim: it forms all of these plaques. >> stahl: all these brown spots are plaques? >> kim: yes. are plaques, that's correct. and in an individual like this,
i would expect the patient to be demented. >> do you read newspapers every day? >> loring bigelow: yes, i read them in the evening. >> stahl: loring bigelow spent five years in the study. he passed away last summer, and while dr. kim studies his brain, the rest of the 90-plus team independently reviews years of his test results and videos to assess whether he had developed dementia, and if so, from what? while early on, his scores were strong... >> who is our president? >> loring bigelow: obama. >> stahl: over the years, there was a gradual but unmistakable decline. he'd pick up a newspaper he had just finished, use the tv remote to try and make a phone call. >> do you know who is the president? >> loring bigelow: i want to say herbert hoover. ( laughs ) i can't think of it. >> could not remember his age, anxious.
>> stahl: the consensus here was likely alzheimer's, which presumes a brain with plaques and tangles. >> kawas: are we ready to hear the truth? >> stahl: only then do they open up dr. kim's report. >> plaques, zero. so, no plaques. >> oh, okay. ah. >> kawas: wow! >> no plaques. no cortical tangles anywhere. >> kawas: pretty amazing. >> stahl: what's amazing is they're finding that 40% of the time in people over 90, what doctors would think is alzheimer's isn't. in loring bigelow's brain, dr. kim found something else, something the 90-plus study is finding quite a bit-- evidence of tiny, microscopic strokes called micro-infarcts. his brain was full of them. >> kim: here is a micro-infarct. it's the hole... >> stahl: oh, right here. >> kim: ...which is basically a tiny stroke. >> kawas: so you've got all this tissue is missing. >> kim: if you find one, it suggests that you should probably look for others. and some patients may have hundreds or thousands of them. >> stahl: these microscopic
strokes are insidious because people don't even know they're having them. >> kim: they can be totally silent. and slowly but surely, over time, you're picking off... you're disconnecting your cortex from the rest of the brain, and then you start to become demented. it can look just like alzheimer's disease, clinically. >> stahl: do you know anything we can do to prevent these mini strokes? >> kawas: i wish i did. but i will soon, i hope. >> stahl: kawas suspects one thing that may cause them is low blood pressure, and she has some evidence. while none of the factors from the original leisure world study-- vitamins, alcohol, caffeine, even exercise -- seemed to lower people's risk of getting dementia, the 90-plus study discovered that high blood pressure did. >> kawas: if you have high blood pressure, it looks like your risk of dementia is lower than if you don't have high blood pressure. >> stahl: lower? wait-- high blood pressure, lower risk of dementia? >> kawas: in a 90-year-old.
>> stahl: high blood pressure is still dangerous if you're younger, yet another reason she says it's so important to study the oldest old. >> kawas: most of what we know, we study in much younger individuals-- in 50-, 60-, maybe 70-year-olds. and then, we just kind of assume that the same thing should happen in older people. >> stahl: and you're saying we shouldn't? >> kawas: i think we shouldn't. take this next counterintuitive finding-- this time, in the 90- plus subjects who have no dementia. >> kawas: we're finding out that if you die without dementia in this age group, about half the time, you still have plaques and tangles in your head. >> stahl: no? so you can exhibit alzheimer's and not have plaques and tangles half the time, and the reverse... >> kawas: both directions. >> stahl: ...you're fine and you do have plaques and tangles? so what do you make of that? >> kawas: i mean, one possibility is that plaques and tangles have nothing to do with it. but it might be that plaques and tangles are very, very important, but just a 90-year- old who has them and didn't develop thinking problems has
some way of getting around them that maybe all the rest of us would like to know. >> stahl: so now, they're looking at people with no signs of dementia like ruthy stahl, lou tirado, sid shero, and jane whistler to see if they have plaques and tangles, but are not affected by them. there's a new type of p.e.t. scan that, for the first time, makes it possible to find plaques during life, so the 90- plus study is engaged in the delicate task of putting 99- year-olds like jane whistler into scanners. sid shero, at 92, hopped right in. >> kawas: jane and sid both have very, very, very good thinking, as you saw. >> stahl: yes, definitely. >> kawas: and it turns out that one of their scans is positive and one is negative. >> stahl: she showed them to us one on top of the other. yellow and red indicate the presence of amyloid plaque. >> kawas: so this is miss whistler, and this is mr. shero. >> stahl: well, i'm surprised,
having talked to him, that i'm seeing yellow and red here. kind of stunning. so, what does that mean for sid? the positive scan means, statistically, he's at greater risk of cognitive decline, but kawas says the fact he's doing so well, in spite of the plaque in his brain and his stroke, means he may have that something protective and special that could help the rest of us. she says they'll be keeping a close watch on him. if it's unclear that the pathology hooks up with what you're seeing, what does that mean, in your mind? >> kawas: i think we're looking for too simple an answer. i think we want one thing to explain alzheimer's. look at something different, like what makes skin wrinkle. well, i mean, getting older makes skin wrinkle, being in the sun too much makes skin wrinkle, not taking care of your diet.
and they put them all together and they all contribute. and i think it might turn out to be the same for our thinking, especially in late life, that it's not just alzheimer's pathology from plaques, or not just micro-infarcts, but the number of these hits that you take. and after a while you can't withstand them all. there's one last thing we wondered about in the over-90 crowd, and that's romance. helen weil, 92, and henry tornell, 94, both widowed, have been dating for three years. so, do you see each other every day, several times every day, once a day? how does it work? >> henry tornell: she gets one day off a week. >> helen weil: ( laughs ) it's true-- tuesdays. >> stahl: tuesdays is a day off. >> weil: it's my day off. >> stahl: helen and henry love being part of the 90-plus study, and both have signed up to donate their brains after they die. henry has only one problem with the whole enterprise-- what the study hasn't asked about.
>> tornell: i asked them, "aren't you going to ask us any questions about our sex life?" and they said no. >> stahl: well, i will. how's your sex life? ( laughter ) you brought it up. >> weil: see, he is funny, you know that... >> stahl: well, i don't know. i think... i'm not laughing. how is your sex life? ( laughter ) >> weil: he's blushing. >> stahl: he's blushing. but is that part of... do you think that has something to do with... >> tornell: i would say it has a big part. >> stahl: helen? >> weil: we are very... we are very affectionate. >> stahl: but do you think that sex is an important part of staying young? >> tornell: yes. >> stahl: the 90-plus study has just gotten another five-year round of n.i.h. funding to delve deeper into risk factors for specific types of dementia, like those micro-infarcts, and to search for genes that may be protective, in their continuing search for the secrets of the oldest old. >> kawas: i really believe that, when we learn things from the
90-year-olds, they're going to be helping the 60- and 70-year- olds-- not just how to become 90-year-olds, but how to do it with style and as good a function as possible. >> stahl: well, obviously, you've already started that by telling us that we should have some wine, that we should have some coffee. >> kawas: and socialize. and exercise. >> stahl: and gain weight. >> kawas: and that's my favorite. >> stahl: my favorite too, absolutely. and maybe a little something else! ( "save the last dance for me" playing ) >> weil: ♪ save the last dance for me... ( laughs ) customizable charts, powerful screening tools, and guaranteed one-second trades. and at the center of it all is a surprisingly low price -- just $7.95. in fact, fidelity gives you lower trade commissions than schwab, td ameritrade, and e-trade.
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