How to Live to 100

Secrets of Centenarians

What are the health secrets of the experts, people who live – and live healthily – to at least one hundred years old? These are all longevity-boosting habits that most centenarians have in common:

They move. Vigorous centenarians spend much of their day doing physical exercise, whether in their gardens or on a golf course. Their joints don’t have a chance to get stiff or their bones and muscles frail.

Motion is your best joint lotion.

– Waldo McBurney, Former Marathon Runner, Age 101

They love. They have deep intimate relationships.

They’re lean. As they aged, they neither gained fat nor lost muscle. Because of their healthy living and eating habits, centenarians have higher blood levels of adiponectin, a hormone that regulates metabolism and acts like a natural anti-inflammatory. Centenarians are not skinny; they are lean, which means they have just the right amount of body fat for their body type. They maintain their weight by maintaining muscle.

They eat less. Centenarians tend to eat 10 to 20 percent fewer daily calories than people on the standard American diet.

They graze. They eat smaller meals more often and take more time to eat.

They eat pure. They eat real foods (mostly fruits, vegetables, and fish) and shun processed, packaged foods and chemical additives.

We dig our grave with our teeth.

– Waldo McBurney

They laugh. They enjoy themselves. Humor is therapeutic.

They pray. Spiritual beliefs and practices occupy much of their time and thoughts. They enjoy a sense of spiritual belonging.

They’re flexible. “The most adaptable live the longest,” said Henry Rempel, my friend who lived to be one hundred years old.

They serve. Volunteering and ministering to others’ needs is high on their “to do” list. They thrive on the helper’s high.

They’re musical. Music mellows the mind. For an uplifting DVD that I guarantee will leave you laughing and admiring active seniors, see the documentary Young at Heart.

They swim. Water is a wonderful refuge, calming the mind and soothing the body.

They think. Mental exercise, such as Sudoku and crossword puzzles, keeps their minds active.

They go slow. Okinawans, people who live the longest and healthiest, accuse Americans of having a “hurry sickness.”

They’re fun. They are fun-loving but not foolish in their activities.

They sleep. Quality sleep is very important.

They’re up! They are positive thinkers, not worrywarts. They figure, “If I can’t change it, I’m not going to worry about it.”

They work. “I need a project” is a common refrain. They have a reason to wake up in the morning.

They’re sexy. Longevity research has found that couples who engage in the most sexual activity tend to live the longest.

They plan. When I asked centenarian Henry Rempel for his advice to prime timers, he said, “Most young people aren’t preparing well for their next ten years.”

Most centenarians enjoy a long life of abilities and a short end-of-life period of disabilities. Men, take note: Female centenarians outnumber males by a ratio of nine to one. In the United States only one male in twenty thousand attains the age of one hundred. Why does longevity seem to favor women? Researchers theorize that women tend to eat better, socialize more, and engage less in risky behaviors. The oldest documented super centenarian was a French woman, Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the blessed age of 122.

What can you start doing to give yourself the best chance of being a centenarian too?

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