The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Looking for the secret to the fountain of youth? Check out the habits of healthy, active people well into their 10th and 11th decades.

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happy old woman The Healthy Habits of Centenarians

Looking for the secret to the fountain of youth? There is no real way to stop the aging process, but studies on people who live into their 90s and beyond offer several clues that may play a role in living longer and enjoying a high quality of life.

Studies of twins suggest that environment, diet and lifestyle combined have a far greater influence than genes in how long you live. In fact, about 75 percent of known longevity factors are in your control.

Though there is no one formula, several lifestyle behaviors can influence longevity and physical and mental well-being. These involve keeping an active mind, staying positive, eating well, exercising and using strategies to reduce stress.

By taking charge, you can potentially have a real impact on your health and well-being. To improve your chances for a long healthy life, you may want to adopt some of the following habits of healthy, active centenarians -- people who have lived well into their 10th and 11th decades:

Mind what goes into your body. Centenarians tend to eat well (but not overeat), refrain from smoking and drink moderately (or not at all). Choose wholesome foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and a variety of fatty fish helps in this effort. These foods provide the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that can help prevent chronic disease and keep weight and blood pressure in check. Some animal studies have also shown a link with calorie restriction and longer life. More research is needed, though, to see how this may affect humans.

Get moving. Experts agree there is no gray area when it comes to moving your body. Exercise is a proven way to help prevent or delay many conditions like obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart problems. It can also help ease arthritis pain, anxiety, stress and depression, which may affect the aging process. Exercise also helps to reduce weight and blood pressure, factors shown to have a major impact on mortality.

Use your brain. Centenarians tend to engage in new and different activities and hobbies as they age. This may involve a second career, volunteering, taking up a musical instrument, writing or travel. Things that involve concentration, like crossword puzzles or reading, are often helpful.

Connect. Having a network of friends is part of the recipe for staying healthy. Whether this is through your church, family, volunteer work, leisure activities or community, it's important to find someone and something you can connect with. This can feed into the desire to be needed and can give you a sense of purpose and belonging. Feeling connected may also help to reduce stress.

Be spiritual. There may be a link between religion and spirituality and better mental health and well-being. High levels of religious belief appear to help older adults in overall coping abilities and their positive outlook on life. Also, forms of prayer -- like meditation or yoga -- may calm you, help lower blood pressure and bring "inner peace".

Practice attitude and gratitude. People who live past 100 are generally better at handling stress and managing their emotions. They tend not to dwell on things that cause stress in their lives. In fact it seems that good mental health goes hand in hand with good physical health. Having good humor, feeling gratitude and a positive attitude are important, too. Try making a list of things you're grateful for to generate positive energy.
By Jane Harrison, RD, Contributing Nutritionist
Created on 02/25/2009
Updated on 06/04/2012
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity and health.
  • Yates LB, Djouss√© L, Kurth T, Buring JE, Gaziano JM. Exceptional longevity in men. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2008;168(3):284-290.
  • Perls T, Kunkel LM, Puca AA. The genetics of exceptional human longevity. Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2002;50:359-368.
  • National Institutes on Aging. National Institutes of Health. Participating in activities you enjoy -- more than just fun and games.
  • Curlin FA, Sellergren SA, Lantos JD, Chin MH. Physicians' observations and interpretations of the influence of religion and spirituality on health. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2007;167(7):649-654.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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