I wrote on this topic nearly four years ago and at that time the Stanford Center on Longevity's survey showed that 77 percent of Americans wanted to live to 100. AIG's recent survey indicates that percentage has now dropped from 77 to 53. It appears reaching the century mark and becoming a "Centenarian" is not as popular as it was four years ago.
Could you imagine living to 100? How about beyond that? For example, a French woman (Jeanne Calment) lived from 1875 to 1997 and had the longest confirmed life span -- 122 years! Research has shown that genes do play a role in longevity. Centenarians are 20 times as likely as the average person to have a long-lived relative. My father is in his mid-80s and is in great health, as is my mother who is just a few years behind him. I'll be celebrating my 55th birthday this week and I wouldn't mind becoming a Centenarian in 45 years -- if that's God's will for me.
A couple of years ago, The Longevity Project traveled to nine countries and three continents, interviewing some of the world's healthiest centenarians. The goal was to find out what it takes to live past 100 years of age and whether it's possible to reach that age while maintaining peak health. The study focused on how lifestyle, environment and mindset increases longevity. The healthiest centenarians lived simple lives, following farm-to-table diets, frequently interacting with their communities and exercising by biking or walking long distances to work each day. Populations with healthy centenarians don't appear to have many of the chronic conditions seen in Western culture. These conditions have only appeared recently, as Western influences -- like fast food and new technologies -- crept into their communities.
Based on various research studies, there are some promising signs to be on the look out for that may indicate that you could live to be a centenarian:
- You think you're younger than you are. As you get older, it matters more how old you feel than how old you actually are. Senior citizens who have reported feeling younger than their true age have shown a significantly lower mortality rate than those who felt their age or older.
- You're optimistic. In one Harvard study, the top 25 percent of the most optimistic members of the study were at a much lower risk for common causes of death like cancer, heart disease and stroke.
- You eat fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables every day could prevent premature death.
- You eat a lot of fish. One study's participants who had higher levels of fatty acids from fish were at a 35 percent lower risk of heart disease due to less fat in their blood.
- You like to take naps. Researchers have found that people who take a 30 minute nap during the day are 37 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who don't.
- You're active. Exercise, even light exercise, is an important part of any healthy routine. Some research has shown that just 10 minutes of exercise a day can help extend your life by nearly two years.
- You're slim where it matters. According to the Hearth Foundation, your waist measurement has a lot to do with your heart health. They report that your heart health may be at risk if your measurement is over 31.5 inches for women, or 37 inches for men.
- You have lots of healthy friends. Psychology studies have shown that people who spend time with other people to nourish relationships live longer, healthier lives -- and relationships become easier to maintain and more meaningful with age and maturity.