Most Americans will live into their late seventies. But, an increasing number of people are reaching age 100 and beyond. In the US, there were over 50,000 centenarians in 2010. The lower end of Census Bureau estimates place that number near 175,000 by 2040.
How can you become a centenarian? One great way to start is to study people who have enjoyed exceptionally long lives. That is exactly what researchers at Boston University’s School of Medicine have been doing since 1994.
These researchers have discovered many interesting findings that give clues as to what it takes to reach the grand age of 100 and beyond. Wondering if you share any traits with these centenarians? For each question that you can answer yes to, give yourself one point.
The New England Centenarian Study has found that the majority of people age 100 and older are women. The bright spot for men is that those who do reach centenarian status are generally healthy and fit, since they have been able to avoid the kinds of diseases that usually affect older people. Researchers also found that woman who were able to have a baby naturally at age 40 or older were more likely to live to be beyond 100, possibly indicating that their bodies may age more slowly than others do.
Smoking can also increase your risk of developing a range of diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and cancer. Not surprisingly, centenarians did not smoke or smoked very little in their lifetimes.
Centenarians possess strategies for dealing with stressful events in a healthy way. Having good coping skills may add years to your life. Stress is linked to chronic health conditions like depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
Some characteristics of an extroverted style include getting a lot of enjoyment from being around people, having an optimistic attitude, and being less cautious in new situations. Centenarians leaned more toward extroversion than neuroticism (experiencing a lot of negative emotions, like anxiety and fearfulness).
Your grandparents, parents, and older siblings may give you a glimpse as to what your life expectancy might be. There may be genetic factors—longevity genes—that contribute to being a part of the centenarian club.
You can improve your odds with these tips for a longer and healthier life:
By staying healthy and active, it is possible to get the most out of your life when you reach age 90 and beyond. On the National Centenarian Awareness Project website, there are numerous stories illustrating just that. George, age 100, has been an avid bowler for 93 years! The secret to a long life may be to take good care of yourself and do what you love!
The New England Centenarian Study
Paul B. Beeson Career Development Awards in Aging Research Program
Public Health Canada
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Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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