• Linda Salamin

Successful aging - tips on how to live a long and happy life


How about if it were possible to live to be 100? Would you sign?


Maybe you're saying - no thank you. I want to live my life to the fullest. I don't want a life of sacrifices. But what are the characteristics of centenarians?


It may come as a surprise, but most of the centenarians of this world aren't vegan. They aren't vegetarian either. Most drink alcohol - and have never seen a gym or an elliptical. They’ve lived through tough political and economic periods; and they’ve had to work hard.


Many centenarians live very simply in diverse regions of the world.


Despite this, they’ve managed to grow old. Very old. What's more, they’re happy, and most are free from chronic diseases for much of their lives.


So, how do they do it?


According to a study on longevity by the Mayo Clinic:


The basis for exceptional longevity is multi-factorial and involves a disparate combination of genes, environment, resiliency, and chance, all of which are influenced by culture and geography.

We aren't powerless in the quest for longevity. We do have some influence over our health.


It's about genes and lifestyle factors


Good genes, bad genes


It’s undeniable that genes play a role in longevity. If you have siblings who’ve lived to be 100, you’re twice as likely to reach 100 or more.


While most studies on longevity confirm the importance of having good genes, all show that there's much more to growing old than inheriting good genes.


We know through the study of epigenetics that bad genes can be turned off and good genes can be reversed. According to a Harvard study on epigenetics in children, the genes we inherit aren’t "cut in stone". Nature vs. Nurture isn’t the question - genetics is both. The study outlined different influencers that can have an impact on genes such as experiences (positive or negative), pollution, the environment, or trauma. These factors have the power to reverse bad genes to good genes or good genes to bad genes.


Lifestyle factors


Dan Buettner, a longevity researcher who has traveled the world studying centenarians, identified where many of them live – with the help of the National Geographic. He called these places the Blue Zones.


He found nine points that were part of everyone’s lifestyle. He listed and defined them as the Power 9. Here is a summary:


Movement


Do what the Blue Zones centenarians did (and still do) - they never saw a gym. Their daily activities of walking, lifting, biking, and gardening provided enough physical activity to keep them fit. Integrate a total of 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and you won't need the gym. This can include walking to work, taking the stairs, or stretching at your desk.


Know yourself to reduce stress


Do what you need to do to reduce your stress levels. Stress is b ad for the heart and causes inflammation. We live in another world than many of the centenarians that had no need for a watch and could get up when they wanted to. But we can integrate a bit of time for ourselves for enjoyment - read a poem, admire the nature on your way to work, listen to soothing music on the way home. We need to question how we use social media and smartphones. These can be a source of stress, addiction and time wasted.


Eat like Confucius


Stop eating when your stomach is 80% full. The remaining 20% of your stomach that stays empty will make a long-term difference in your weight. And could make you a less likely candidate for obesity and diabetes.


Get friendly with plants


Beans, soy, and lentils are the staples of most centenarians. You don't have to stop eating meat or fish, but reduce the frequency and the amount. Today, we have the choice of processed and ultra-processed foods. These foods are harmful to health in the long run could cause obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


What about alcohol?


Centenarians in the Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly, socially or with a meal. Mostly, they drink the local wine. The guidelines for moderate alcohol consumption are 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.


Spirituality


Most centenarians believe in a greater being. This leads them to belong to a community where they can practice their faith. Believing in something greater than you can help cope in times of hardship.


A sense of family


Most centenarians have a tight-knit family structure. This includes spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings. These are the people they turn to in happy times, for celebrations and support during the tough times.


Socialize


We know that certain behavior patterns are contagious. People who hang together in a group will have like habits. Choosing friends with a positive outlook on life can influence your life. Being part of a club, such as hiking, walking, or chess - where you can share enjoyable experiences promotes a sense of belonging.


A purpose in life


This is one of the most important factors in growing old. Knowing why you are here. Having a reason to get up every day. Research has it that seriously ill patients are most likely to survive if they have a reason for living.


We aren't powerless when it comes to our health. We can make changes that will make us healthier. And this regardless of our education, race, ethnicity, social status and income.

Yes, there are other factors that we have much less control over that can impact our health - air and noise pollution, climate, work conditions, cultural customs, or access to health care. But if we take charge of our health - now - and change what is in our power to change - we are already on a path to a happier, healthier – and maybe longer? - life.


As we can see, the centenarians of this world don’t have a magic recipe for growing old. They lead normal lives that aren’t without stress. They enjoy food and drink. They work hard. And they love being with and sharing with people. Moderation, balance and common sense have strongly contributed to their longevity.



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Disclaimer: The information in this article is not medical advice. If you are suffering from a health issue you should consult your health care provider before undertaking any form of treatment.