53,364 people in the United States have been older than 100 years, the Census 2010 showed. Despite that being less than 0.02 per cent of the population, there is a lot we can learn from this demographic, as internist and author John J. Whyte pointed out at the Patient Empowerment Expo in San Francisco this week. Some of the key characteristics of the so-called centenarians might help understand what the secret to a long life is. “Only 31 per cent of them think that there lifestyle had an influence on their long and healthy life”, says Whyte. Turns out, that the centenarians are underestimating themselves. “The lifestyle plays a huge factor. I would say 75 per cent is lifestyle, genetics play only a little role.” Individuals over the age of 100 are generally healthy, 75 per cent state they don’t have any problem with dementia.
So what is the key to living to 100? Spending time with your family, living close and spending a lot of your offspring increases your overall health drastically, Whyte claims. The majority of the centenarians in the US received good education and enjoy high standard living environments. A vital factor however is diet and exercise. Whyte, who wrote the book “AARP New American Diet” recommends to eat loads of veggies – especially leafy greens – and fruits. “Cut down on sugar and embrace whole grains. Also, eat breakfast – your most important meal of the day”, the medical advisor recommends. Exercising on a regular basis is another way of increasing your life expectancy. “Start as early as possible. You don’t have to do high intensity training. But be active everyday”, advises Whyte. Another thing you should exercise regularly: family support. “Stay connected. Go old school and pick up the phone to reach out to family and friends.”
Though the most vital factor in living a long life is probably this advice: “Have a purpose in life why you actually want to live that long. Sheer willpower goes a long way. Us doctors really don’t play an important role when it comes to living a healthy life. It mostly comes down to what you want to achieve.”