Everybody seeks to live a long and happy life. Centenarians, people who have lived 100 years or more, are divulging the secrets that helped them live over a century.
While doctors may provide you with common sense practices to follow, these elder sources offer some surprising tips and tricks to make it to 100.
Live in moderation
John and Charlotte Henderson, 104 and 102, have truly found the secret to growing old together.
“Living in moderation,” John said. “We never overdo anything. Eat well. Sleep well. Don’t over drink. Don’t overeat. And exercise regularly.”
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Address your mortality
“To the oldest Americans, fear of mortality is a young person’s game,” said Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., who interviewed 1,000 people between the ages of 65 and 108. “We’ve learned that there’s a strong negative correlation between age and the fear of dying.”
A study published in June 2011 in BMC Psychiatry found that the fear of dying by heart attack actually increases your risk of cardiovascular heart disease.
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Practicing religion may also play a role in a long life. The participants in the University of California-Berkeley study who volunteered and attended religious services every week had a reduced mortality rate of 60 percent.
Adelina Domingues passed away at age 114 after living a long and healthy life. She never took medication or needed to visit the hospital. Her secret? Her Union-Tribune obituary claimed that she never smoked or drank and considered religion to be her best medicine.
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The irony is clear; food keeps us alive, but research shows that eating less may help us live longer. Decades of calorie-restriction studies involving organisms ranging from microscopic yeast to rats have shown that the semi-starved have extended life spans of nearly 50%.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that calorie restriction seemed to extend the lives of humanlike rhesus monkeys. This is good news for humans; the hungry primates fell victim to diabetes, heart and brain disease and cancer much less frequently than their well-fed counterparts did.
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While alcohol may not be the key to longevity for most, Agnes Fenton credited her 110 years to downing three bottles of Miller High Life and a glass of whiskey every day. She told ABC News that her booze-filled diet began 70 years ago, when a doctor advised her to drink the “Champagne of Beers” daily after finding that her only health problem was a benign tumor. Fenton followed her doctor’s orders for years until her caretakers recommended she nix the alcohol.
While Fenton’s liquid diet probably isn’t the healthiest recommendation, studies show that red wine may promote health and longevity. A Harvard research project found that the antioxidant resveratrol found in red wine activates a protein that can help protect the body against diseases associated with aging. You can load up on grapes, peanuts, berries, or take a resveratrol supplement if you aren’t a wine drinker.
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Volunteering is good for the soul, and apparently longevity as well. The authors of a University of California-Berkeley study discovered that elderly people volunteering for two or more organizations were 44% less likely to die over a five-year period than those who didn’t volunteer.
Gertrude Weaver, one of the last surviving people born in the 1800s, attributed her 116 years to simple being kind. “Treat people right and be nice to other people the way you want them to be nice to you,” she told TIME a year before her death in 2015.
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Go vegetarian (or vegan)
According to a study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, vegetarians are more likely to live longer than meat eaters. The study followed over 70,000 adults in their middle to late fifties for six years. Around 50% of the group identified as vegetarian.
Throughout the study, 2,570 of the participants passed away; upon further examination, the researchers discovered that vegetarians were 12% less likely to have died during the study, with vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, pescatarians and flexitarians faring best. Vegetarians are 32% less likely than meat eaters to develop ischemic heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.
While many claim to attribute their long life to love and commitment, Jessie Gallan, who lived to 109, did not. Gallan linked the lack of men in her life to her longevity according to CNN.
Manage stress appropriately
Worrying is the thief of joy, and may be the thief of a long life. Chinese herbalist Li Ching-Yuen, who died in 1933 at the alleged age of 197, found one simple habit he attributed to his long life.
Ching-Yuen found that remaining calm and striving for peace of mind contributed to his longevity. Chronic stress can lead to coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. Author Karl Pillemer found that elderly people commonly regret inner stress. “The key to a happy, long life is to try to eliminate or minimize repetitive rumination over things of which you have no control,” Pillemer said.
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Use olive oil
Jeanne Calment, a French centarian, died in 1997 at the age of 112. Calment ascribed much of her good health to port wine, her passions fencing and biking, and most importantly olive oil, which she consumed daily and also applied directly to her skin as a moisturizer.
Research published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that Calment was on to something; the antioxidants and monounsaturated lipids found in olive oil can aid longevity.
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Over 100 independent research studies found similar results regarding your social life’s effect on your longevity. Those who have a strong social network have a 50% increase in odds of survival compared to people with poor relationships.
This data places a weak social network up with smoking and as worse than obesity as a risk factor for mortality.
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Treat your body like you’ll need it for 100 years
Treat others like you want to be treated, and treat your body like you want it around for a century. According to centennials, a common misconception they made in their youth was thinking they’d rather die sooner and keep smoking, eating poorly, and not exercising. Many learned from personal experience that modern medical science can often prolong life for better or for worse.
“They realized that bad habits don’t mean you’ll drop dead 10 years earlier, but rather that you could be sentencing yourself to many years of chronic illness,” Karl Pillemer, author of “30 Lessons for Living: Tried & True Advice from the Wisest Americans,” told Livestrong. “People talk about adding years to life, but it’s equally important to add life to years.”
Adopt a dog
A review published in the journal Circulation found that a furry friend may be the best medicine to extend your life. Researchers believe owning a dog can keep the owner more active and, as a result, lower the risk of heart disease.
“People who have dogs live longer than people who have cats, and the assumption has been that dogs naturally cause their owners to be more active,” suggests Dr. Thomas Lee, Co-Editor in Chief of the Harvard Heart Letter., Ph.D. Owning a pet also reduces stress, which may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
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Eat anchovies and rosemary
An Italian village on the coast south of Naples has figured out how to live longer, or at least how to thrive as a population. According to NPR, the town of Acciaroli is home to almost 300 people — one third of the village’s population — who are over 100 years old.
A research team led by cardiologist Alan Maisel, M.D., launched a study to figure out what the people of Acciaroli were doing right. The results proved that a healthy eating and good genes can buy you a ticket to the centenarian club. Maisel found the two dietary staples the people he studied used; “Everybody ate anchovies,” he told NPR. “Also, every meal, they have the plant rosemary in almost everything they cook with.”
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Nootropics compounds like piracetam have been used worldwide to treat dementia and other cognitive issues. Nootropics, dubbed “smart drugs,” improve cognition, memory, and focus.
If you aren’t interested in trying a supplement, eat chocolate or drinking green tea which naturally contain nootropics. “Many of the compounds can impact life and longevity by balancing neurotransmitters that are overworked,” explains Pure Nootropics co-founder Eric Balaster.
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