Unfortunately, living to be 100 is not very common in the US – it is estimated that only about 1 in 5,000 people live to be 100. Scientists have found that the biological life capacity for human bodies is about 90 years, but like expectancy in the US is about 78. However, the good news is that only about 20% of longevity is determined by genes, and the rest is determined by lifestyle.
There are several notable populations in the world where living to be 100 is not out of the norm. Sardinia, Italy and Okinowa, Japan boast some of the world’s largest populations of centenarians. Both places over 5 times more centenarians than in the US, and have just a fraction of the rate of chronic diseases. Researchers have found several key elements that contribute to living to be 100.
-No dieting! Yes, you heard right. There is no specific ‘longevity diet’ that is going to help you live to 100. Rather, you should eat a mainly plant based diet, full of vegetables and fruits, and with minimal red meat and processed foods. On the island of Sardinia, people ate plenty of oily fish and grass fed cheese rich in omega-3 fatty acids, whole wheat durum flatbread, and drink a special kind of wine (a glass a day!) which contains three times the amount of antioxidants of regular wine. In Okinawa, people also ate plenty of fish, as well as vegetables, fermented foods like tofu and miso.
-It is also how you eat, and not overeating. The culture in Okinawa sticks to the 80/20 rule. This means that you eat slowly and stop eating when you are 80% full, because it takes about 30 minutes for the message that you are full to go from your belly to your brain. They also plate food before they eat it to avoid overeating, instead of eating family style where the dishes are sitting on the table and you can eat mindlessly.
-Less ‘exercise’. While it sounds (very) counterintuitive, centenarians did not exercise the way that we think of it. Instead they incorporate physical activity into the fabric of daily life. Walking or biking to the store, doing yard work and going on regular nature walks contribute to longevity.
-Social constructs – the cultures in these places value old age. The older the member of the community, the more equity they have because they are understood as pillars of wisdom and experience.
-Close, meaningful relationships – In Sardinia, people live in multigenerational homes, which researchers say can add an extra 4-10 years of life. In Japan, people have at least 6 close friends as adults, which helps them get through the highs and lows of life.
-The right outlook – people who love to be 100 tend to be more positive and optimistic. They experience ‘downshift’, which means they do not let life’s little stressors get to them. Also, they do not get hurried, which adds years to life because when are you stressed or in a rush, it triggers inflationary stress response, which is associated with chronic disease.
-A sense of purpose – This is worth an extra 7 years of life expectancy. People who live longest have a sense of purpose, and wake up every day pursuing that purpose. There are many benefits to having a lifelong sense of purpose, including helping keep people active and improved mental health. In fact, they say 2 most dangerous years of your life are the year you are born (due to infant mortality) and the year you retire. This is because when you retire, you may lose your sense of purpose, which negatively impacts your health. It can set the tone for the rest of your life.
When it comes to longevity and living to 100, there is no short term fix, but rather lifelong lifestyle habits. Private Home Care invites you to celebrate National Centenarian Day today and honor those who have lived to 100+!