9 Secrets for Living 100 Years

September 11, 2013

mountain yoga

Wouldn’t it be nice to live to be 100? And wouldn’t it be great to have a high quality of life when you get to that much-coveted milestone?

In recent years researchers–funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging–have fanned out across the globe to find out why people in certain regions of the world live longer than anyone else.

Diet is important, the scientists report, but it is only part of the puzzle.

Centenarians tend to reap the benefits of healthy environments, particularly the leisurely pace of islands and peninsulas.

But that’s not always the case. A hot spot for men who reach age 100 at an amazing rate is in the mountain village of Sardinia, Italy.

Another, for both men and women, is Loma Linda, a community of Seventh Day Adventists on the California coast.

Dan Buettner, a leading researcher on aging, has found the highest concentration of centenarians in five international regions he calls “Blue Zones.”

In each, the same lifestyle patterns occur. Buettner has since used those patterns to transform Alberta Lea, Minn., into a healthier place. In less than two years, workers’ health care costs have dropped by a whopping 40 percent.

Adopting these nine lifestyles of the old and healthy can potentially improve your current health and, according to statistic models, raise your projected life expectancy substantially.

1. Maintain a Habit of Natural Movement

Centenarians don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms. But it’s likely that you will find gardens in their yards and stairs in their houses.

It’s also likely that they take brisk walks to see friends, worship and shop. Nudging yourself into constant physical activity without thinking about it is a way to prolong life.

2. Keep Passion and Purpose in Mind

Centenarians in old-age hotspots tend to be people who maintain a strong sense of life’s purpose. In Okinawa, Japan, they call it “ikigai.” On the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, it’s called “plan de vida.”

No matter what you call it, it’s a sense of mission, a reason to get up in the morning. Articulating your values, gifts, and talents, creates an internal raison d’etre. A strong understanding of your passions and pitfalls adds years to your life expectancy.

3. Shift Stress Away

Take a few minutes each day to pray or reflect, and try to nap or enjoy happy hour. Happy people tend to live longer.

4. Regulate Consumption

The practice of eating until 80 percent full is an ancient mantra now practiced among many centenarian groups. Have your biggest meal in the morning and your smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening. Try not to eat again until morning.

Other suggestions: Move the television so you focus on what you are eating instead of consuming calories mindlessly.

And buy smaller dinner plates. Seriously. Researchers have found that people feel full more readily if they eat from smaller plates that seem fully loaded with food–even if they’re actually eating less.

5. Eat Less Meat

In general, centenarians eat plant-based diets: heavy on vegetables and fruits, with a moderate intake of fish. Limit your consumption of meat and poultry, refined grains, and sugar. Eat less dairy.

A cornerstone of the centenarian diet is olive oil and beans: fava beans, black beans, soybeans, and lentils. Also, eating a handful of nuts to your daily diet seems to add two or three years to your life expectancy.

6. Enjoy a Bit of Wine

Healthy compounds in wine have been shown to reduce heart disease, cancer, and the progression of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Daily intake should be limited to one glass for woman and two for men. Wine consumed during a meal is most recommended. Caution: Going overboard can turn quickly turn positive effects into a negative habit.

7. Love the Ones You’re With

Strong social networks are common amongst centenarians, such as the Okinawa’s practice of “maoi,” in which five friends commit to each other for life, and the Ikarians’ tight-knit communities, which hold regular social events.

Surrounding yourself with the right people can heighten life expectancy.

8. Keep the Faith

It doesn’t matter whether you’re Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or Jewish. What does matter is that you attend services regularly and truly feel part of a larger group.

Attending faith-based services four times per month will add years to your life expectancy.

9. Family First

Putting loved ones first–by keeping your aging parents in or near your home, for instance, or being in a committed relationship–can add up to six years of life expectancy. As a bonus, centenarians who are known for investing time and love in their children are more likely to receive reciprocal care in their golden years.

There is no guarantee that adopting these lifestyle practices will help you live 100 years or longer. But statistics show that they contribute to a longer, healthier, happier old age. And who doesn’t want that?


One Comment

  1. StanfordLongevity

    May 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Read the book on Amazon, titled Resveratrol, is there a limit to human lifespan. You will not find these sorts of witless tips. You will find the latest science and ways to translate it into longevity, extreme longevity.

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