Numbers can’t be exact but there are approximately 80,000 centenarians in the U.S., or about 10-20 centenarians per 100,000 population. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates these numbers will top one million by the year 2050.
If you want to be one of them, don’t just hope you have good genes. Most people know, in theory, what it takes to stay healthy and live a long, happy life – no smoking, no excess drinking, better diet, exercising. While these are generally the basics of longevity, the reality is a little more complex.
Cook your own meals
People who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less, according to new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research. It’s no surprise that the combination of fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat – a very healthy diet – can add years to your life. Some research even suggests that cooking at home five times a week increase your chance of living an extra 10 years by 47 percent.
Be prudent and organised
According to The Longevity Project, one of the largest studies on longevity, spanning 80 years, suggests that people who have persistence and good organization as personal skill have the lead to a long life. The logic is simple – these people just tend to make better (read: healthier) choices when it comes to work as well as health.
Move to a place located high above the sea level. Japan has a high population of people who are over 100 years old. Perhaps this is not a coincidence? Living at high altitude reduces risk of dying from heart disease because low oxygen may spur genes to create blood vessels, according to a study.
Stay in school
Higher education linked to longer life, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. People who have a bachelor's degree or higher live about nine years longer than those who don't graduate from high school. This is likely because they tend to have healthier behaviors, avoid unhealthy ones and have more access to medical care.
Drink more green tea
Green tea contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This antioxidant is known to block enzymes that “help to maintain cancer cells in the so-called ‘cell-cycle’, which allows them to keep growing,” according to The Truth About Cancer. Catechins, which relax blood vessels and help with heart function. The polyphenol antioxidants are known for their anti-aging properties. A study in Japan found that people who drank a lot of green tea had a 26 percent lower risk of death.
Eat more fish and nuts
The Mediterranean diet has long been known to be healthy; data has indicated that people in some countries where it’s popular live the longest. The olive oil and fish that are so common in this kind of food regimen reduce the risk of fracture by almost 30 percent. The nutrients the body is getting after consuming these healthy foods may play a significant role in protecting against osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and breakable.
And a lot of fruits, veggies
Higher consumption of fruit and vegetables was significantly associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality, according to 16 cohort studies that examined thousands of people all over the world from five to 26 years. There was a threshold around five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. For every additional serving per day, a person’s overall mortality risk fell by about 5 percent.
Take care of the grandkids
Recent study shows that the mortality rate among caregiving grandparents was 33 percent lower than that among non-caregiving grandparents. Those who babysit a few times a week have lower stress levels, stay physically active, are socially engages, stay cognitively challenged, and are happier.
Lose the belly fat
Excess body fat contributes to major causes of death and disability, including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and cancer, according to Harvard Medical School. Visceral fat cells that are enlarged and stuffed with excess triglycerides pour free fatty acids into the liver. They also accumulate in the pancreas, heart, and other organs and in cells that are not engineered to store fat. The result is organ dysfunction, which leads to abnormal heart function.
Be active every day
Are you really surprised that exercise boosts life expectancy? Leisure-time physical activity is associated with longer life expectancy, even at relatively low levels of activity and regardless of body weight, according to a study by a team of researchers led by the National Cancer Institute. The recommendation is that adults ages 18 to 64 engage in regular aerobic physical activity for 2.5 hours at moderate intensity—or 1.25 hours at vigorous intensity—each week.
Whatever you do, avoid sitting a lot
Sitting is literally killing you in many ways. People who watched an average six hours of TV a day lived an average 4.8 years fewer than those who didn’t watch any television, an Australian study found. Every hour of TV that participants watched after age 25 was associated with a 22-minute reduction in their life expectancy. Also, a few weeks of inactivity can cost you all the progress you've made.
Take vitamin D
Research has pointed to Vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and the conditions associated with cardiovascular disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. People with low levels of Vitamin D (versus the optimal level) were 64 percent more likely to have a heart attack and had an 81 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease, research suggests.
Get some sleep
Chronic sleep deprivation could shave off years of your life. Lack of REM sleep increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The reason is the cerebral spinal fluid, which serves as a cleaning agent for the brain. It flushes the toxins that build up when people are awake. It is more effective during REM sleep. Also, lack of sleep harms cognitive function. Thinking becomes harder as research has shown.
Social interaction is critical for both mental and physical health, research has shown. One particular study, for example, covering more than 300,000 participants across all ages, revealed that adults get a 50 percent boost in longevity if they have a solid social network. The benefit of friends, family and even colleagues is as good for long-term survival as giving up a 15-cigarette-a-day smoking habit. Also, interpersonal social networks seem to be more crucial to physical health than beating obesity.
Don’t retire early
Early retirement may be a risk factor for mortality and prolonged working life may provide survival benefits, according to research. Among healthy retirees, a 1-year older age at retirement was associated with an 11 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality, independent of a wide range of sociodemographic, lifestyle and health confounders. Even unhealthy retirees had a lower all-cause mortality risk when retiring later.
Own a pet
A growing body of research is beginning to show that time spent with animals, especially cats and dogs, can have a positive impact on your health. They help you develop healthy habits early on in life, improve your mental health, increase your activity levels, reduce stress, keep your heart healthy, reduce your risk for stroke, and help you stay social.
Golf can be a good investment for the health, according to a study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet. The death rate for golfers is 40 percent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status, which correspond to a 5 year increase in life expectancy. Golfers with a low handicap are the safest.