There are currently about 450,000 centenarians enjoying life over the age of 100 worldwide. Almost 72,000 of these 100 year olds are living here in the United States. Healthy aging should be something that is important to all of us, so maybe the current crop of centenarians can teach us a thing or two. What is the secret to a long, healthy life?
1. Exercise Regularly
It should come as no surprise that exercise tops the list of healthy habits that can enhance and increase your chances for healthy aging. Faju Singh was the first 100 year old to run a marathon, and he walks or runs everyday. Singh proves that you really are never too old to start a new exercise routine, as he didn’t run his first marathon until he was 89 years young.
Even low levels of activity have been associated with a longer life expectancy, regardless of body weight, according to a research team at the National Cancer Institute.
Make exercise a regular part of your life, and you may find yourself joining Singh on the list of centenarian marathon runners some day.
2. Eat Right
People who live to be 100 will be the first to admit that a healthy diet plays a big role in their longevity. Jiroemon Kimura was a Japanese retired postman who lived to be 116. He attributed his long life to eating right, not smoking, and working in the sunshine.
Many centenarians eat some form of the Mediterranean diet, one that is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats. Studies on protein have shown that increased protein intake is associated with higher mortality rates in middle aged people, but in adults over the age of 65 a higher protein diet is linked to lower mortality rates. So pass on the steak in favor of some additional vegetables, at least until you hit retirement age.
Can meditation and mindfulness be the secret to healthy aging? A survey of 100 centenarians conducted by United Healthcare found that 60% meditate or pray daily. One study on people who attended a three-month meditation retreat found that the meditators had an increased amount of the enzyme telomerase that is related to aging. There was a 30% increase in telomerase compared to the control group, suggesting that mindful meditation can influence the body’s response to aging. Not sure how to begin? Try a yoga class or meditation class where a teacher can guide you through.
4. Strong Social Life
Friends are important to our mental and physical health, and a strong social life is associated with a longer, healthier life. A ten year study conducted by the Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University found that people with a large network of friends outlived those with less friends by 22%. Women tend to live longer than men, and one reason may be their tendency to have a stronger social network. Next time you are tempted to bunker down inside your house and watch a Netflix marathon, consider inviting a friend over to join you. It just may add a few years to your life.
5. Say Goodbye to Bad Habits
You know what they are. Your bad habits can inhibit your chances at a long and healthy life. Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths every year in the United States. Harmful use of alcohol (excessive drinking that leads to health damage) is responsible for 2.5 million annual deaths worldwide. The National Institute of Health tells us that being obese or overweight are the two leading causes of preventable deaths in the U.S., right behind tobacco use. An estimated 300,000 people die every year from obesity. Bad habits are hard to break, but they can be done. Usually, replacing a bad habit with a new good habit is the most successful way to overcome this sort of health-destroying obstacle.
If you want to join the illustrious list of people who have lived to see 100, the centenarians, you can. Healthy aging is more likely to be obtained by people who exercise regularly, eat right, meditate, have a robust social life, and avoid dangerous bad habits. What can you do today to start yourself on the road to 100?