Lifestyle habits of centenarians
What would it feel like to live for a century? Imagine the changes you’d see, the people you would know, and the amazing perspective from that vantage point. Reaching 100 is more likely than you may think – and you can take steps to help you toward that milestone.
Thanks to health advances including vaccines, antibiotics, “wonder drugs” and sanitary standards, people are living longer than ever. Today there are about 54,000 centenarians in the United States – and they were born when life expectancy was somewhere around 50. By 2050, it’s predicted that there will be close to 840,000 hundred-year-olds.
About 85 percent of centenarians are women, who statistically outlive men by five or so years. Longevity is not entirely about genetics, though. Women tend to see doctors more often because of pregnancy, childcare and sensitivity to the body’s needs. They don’t bottle up stress as much, relieving tension through talk and friendships. In addition, women don’t drink or smoke as much as men. Clearly, making healthy choices can help anyone, and men can choose behaviors to enhance their chances for reaching the century mark as well.
With the prospect of long life, it’s imperative to take care of your body with healthy habits that will keep you active and fulfilled. Scientists have been studying the factors that contribute to long life, and these are some of the common traits of centenarians:
- Few are obese, and many say their current weight is close to what it’s been their entire adult lives.
- They have a purpose in life – a passion that gets them up in the morning.
- Very few smoke or have a significant history of smoking.
- They either drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
- They have stayed physically active throughout life.
- They keep active mentally and are open to learning new things.
- Some studies show that centenarians eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and consequently have a high dietary intake of antioxidants such as carotenes, flavonoids and vitamin E, all of which may help protect against cancer and heart disease.
- Centenarians have strong social support networks and maintain close relationships with family and friends. Centenarians are almost never “loners.”
- Centenarians handle emotional stress well. They tend to be optimistic, have a good sense of humor and adapt well to change.
- Centenarians score low on measures of negative emotions, such as anger, fear, guilt and sadness, and they have low rates of clinical depression. Also, many rely on their spiritual beliefs to cope with hardship and loss.
While emulating centenarians won’t guarantee that you’ll live to be 100, adopting their positive habits may well prolong your years of good health.