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These centenarians have great—and funny—advice to make your older years as healthy as possible. Plus, we looked at the research and Blue Zones to help you live your best and longest life.
You probably want to live a long, vibrant, healthy life-one filled with well years, rather than those marked by health problems.
The secret to healthy aging and reaching that elusive mark where 100 candles fill your birthday cake is good genes, certainly, but lifestyle factors can play a role, too. This is what researchers, and people who have actually lived that long, say it takes to live longer.
1. Enjoy Happy Hour
As Blue Zones research points out, most of the communities where people live long, healthy lives enjoy alcohol “moderately and regularly.” But it’s important to enjoy your glass of vino in the company of loved ones (a strong community is another longevity booster anyway). Wine, in particular, contains antioxidants that strengthen your heart, and is especially beneficial when consumed in the context of a healthy diet, like a Mediterranean diet.
2. Eat More Plants
Seventh-Day Adventists are among the longest-lived people in the world. One reason may be their diet. In a study looking at more than 70,000 Seventh-Day Adventists, those who ate vegetarian had 12 percent lower odds of early death from all causes, particularly when it came to men, per JAMA Internal Medicine. Plant-based eating styles can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes because they’re low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
3. Stay Sharp
Keeping your cognitive assets in order means using them on the regular.
“I work with my stocks almost daily,” says Paul Hitch from Savannah, Georgia. (He celebrated his 100th birthday in March and still lives independently.) “I’m the oldest person in my community,” he says.
Why the stock market? “It’s challenging and keeps me up to date with what’s going on in the world,” he adds.
4. Be Active
Even though HIIT workouts or obstacle-course races may be popular right now, they’re not necessary to get to 100. According to Blue Zones, which analyzed the five places in the world that boast the most centenarians (like Ikaria, Greece, and Okinawa, Japan), one thing they have in common is that they “move naturally.” This means trading days at the gym for finding ways to naturally fit exercise into your everyday life. Finding a beloved activity has helped Hitch live and thrive in old age. When he was younger, he sailed every weekend for 50 years.
5. Keep On Working
Retirement was not in the cards for Tony Pomerleau, founder of Pomerleau Real Estate and Pomerleau Family Foundation in Burlington, Vermont, who lived to be 100 years old and never stopped working.
“I wake up at 5 a.m. I have a coffee and doughnut and read the paper. If my name isn’t in the obituary, I go to work,” he said.
He enjoyed how working kept him busy: “Some days you could just lay in bed, but if you don’t use it, you lose it. You have to get up.”
6. Fit In More Yoga
You’ve long known that yoga and meditation is a healthy practice, but research in 2017 from India discovered something pretty cool: it can help your body turn back the clock.
The study authors looked at 96 healthy people who participated in yoga, breathing and meditation for 12 weeks, and found that certain biomarkers showed that the program helped reverse cellular aging. One reason? The mind-body practice may buffer your body’s stress response, a culprit behind body-wide inflammation that’s linked to chronic diseases.
7. Have a Baby Later
In the second half of your 30s and looking to get pregnant? You may boost your longevity.
Women who had their last child after age 33 were two times more likely to survive into the top fifth percentile of people (in terms of old age) compared to those who finished their families by age 29, per 2015 research in Menopause. Some women may have certain longevity-related genes that help them age more slowly and allow them to have children into their later years, the authors note.