One of my patients, I’ll call him Joe, is a younger-than-his years 72-year-old businessman. I generally see him about once a year for his annual checkup. When I ask how he’s doing, with a big, energetic smile he always answers, “1 year closer to 100!” I smile back and tell him I’m counting on him to keep his promise. That’s Joe’s goal – to live to “at least 100”. I’ll bet he’s going to make it by the very slow rate he’s aging. Maybe you’re wondering if you could live to 100. Well, I’m happy to tell you that the best research today says that, more than ever, it really is possible to live to 100 and older. Here are 10 good ways to get there…
What Will You Be Doing at 100?
Currently, there is a growing population of centenarians – people aged 100 and over – in the United States and throughout the world. In 2013, there are about 90,000 centenarians in the U.S. and that figure is expected to double by the year 2020. The UK boasts 12,000 people aged 100+ years and the small country of Japan has over 50,000!
Collectively, around the world, the official “supercentenarian” count reported that there are 347,920 centenarians. Keep in mind too that there are some people who are even 110 and older – some up to 118 years! And these centenarians are not just alive – they’re out there living large. In fact, one French man, Robert Marchand, set a new cycling hour record in Switzerland in 2012 just after his 100th birthday. Another centenarian, Elsa Bailey, celebrated her 100th birthday skiing in Colorado, while farmer Annie Woodson celebrated her 100th birthday doing what she’s been doing for the last 76 years, tending to her Texas cattle ranch.
How To Celebrate 100
How did they make it to 100? Here are 10 tips collected from different research studies on the best methods to blow out the candles on your 100th birthday cake.
1. Quit smoking. Smoking not only shaves 10 years off your life, but contributes to a poorer quality of life in older years from chronic illnesses like COPD and other respiratory problems, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and not to mention lung and other cancers.
2. Get your antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radical damage that allows aging/deterioration to start in cells. Eat more fruits and vegetables – up to 10 servings a day; drink a few cups of tea that contains polyphenols to fight heart disease, cancer and premature aging. Supplement with powerhouse anti-aging antioxidants resveratrol and pterostilbene. Keep your fruit at room temperature as refrigerating causes up to 50% loss of antioxidant power.
3. Exercise – balance. People who live longest have exercised frequently throughout their lives but that doesn’t necessarily mean training like an athlete. Centenarians in countries around the world credit their longevity to simply walking, or riding a bicycle, everywhere they want to go rather than driving a car. Exercise helps you maintain your balance and prevent devastating falls/fractures as well. Practice balance-strengthening exercise like Yoga or Tai Chi.
4. Fight obesity – eat less. Studies show that life expectancy extends when you eat less. Okinawans have one of the highest rates of centenarians in the world as well as lowest rates of obesity. They stop eating when they’re about 80% full.
5. Eat apples – drink cider. Studies show that people who consume fresh apple cider or eat apples everyday have lower rates, risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The phytochemicals in apples reduce the formation of the sticky protein brain plaques that characterize Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Watch your waist. Waist measurements, rather than weight, are a more accurate predictor of dangerous visceral fat around internal organs that causes heart disease, diabetes, etc. Men’s waists should not be more than 37 inches and women’s 32.
7. Keep regular health appointments. Seeing your doctor once a year for a regular physical and regular screenings (mammogram, PSA, bone density, EKG’s, etc) can find conditions early enough to treat successfully. Also, see your dentist for regular cleanings, checkups twice a year. Periodontal disease (gingivitis) can lead to more serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
8. Believe in something. People who practice their faith – no matter what beliefs they have – have consistently been shown to live longer.
9. Stay helpful/stay happy. Lend your help to someone in need. Volunteering has been proven in research to create happier and healthier people. Volunteers have less depression, fewer aches and pains, and better overall general health.
10. Maintain relationships, social contacts. One of the most important things researchers have discovered about people who live longer is good family/social relationships. As you get older, friends and family can leave your life. It’s important to make new acquaintances and stay socially attached and active rather than isolated. Studies show that people, who get re-married after the death of a spouse or divorce, live longer and happier. Even living with friends or your children can help you live longer.
Well, that’s just a few tips on how to get to 100. If you asked many centenarians how they got to 100 they likely have their own tips. If I had to sum it up, I’d say that it seems the people who live the longest have the 3 H’s in common. They’re healthy, helpful, and happy. Do everything you can to maintain, and/or improve your health, find something that makes you feel useful and helpful, and above all else – find something that makes you happy and pursue it.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.