Chasing 100 – Secrets To A Longer Life

Chasing 100 – Secrets To A Longer Life

Global warming, overpopulation, famine and nuclear disaster. It certainly can seem that the world is headed in the wrong direction. But there’s one remarkable and unlikely feat about humanity that is truly awe-inspiring:  According to the latest census information from the United Nations, the worldwide estimate for centenarians (meaning people who are 100 years of age or older) is a remarkable 316,600, whereas 50 years ago there were only 23,000.

We must be doing something right. But what exactly is behind extending human longevity so dramatically, at least for a significant percentage of people?

Studies & Research

Scores of studies have been done on longevity and in particular, centenarians. Two of the better-known ones are:

  1.  The Biochemical Society study, which followed a group of centenarians for over 10 years, was devised “as a model to address the biological basis of aging and longevity, with particular attention to immunology and genetics.” Significantly, it found that centenarian women outnumbered centenarian men by four to one.
  1.  The Blue Zones study, which began as a National Geographic expedition to find the longest living culture, evolved into a guide for living longer. The research revealed that people found in specific pockets of the world reach the age of 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States. They call these pockets Blue Zones. The study identified lifestyle characteristics that might help to explain the longevity of Blue Zone residents in the hope they could be replicated elsewhere.

Ageless Factors

What did the studies find? There is no fountain of youth and truth be told, the most important factor is genetics. To make it to 100, you have to make it through the other 99 years by avoiding chronic diseases, especially in the older years from your 80’s to your 90’s. Often as not, this is a matter of who your parents were rather than your virtuous living.

Still, the research does show that these tried-and-true techniques are your best shots at living to 100 or beyond:

  • Moving naturally. This means living in a place where you’re forced to move without a second thought, meaning you don’t just jump in your car to go to church, but you walk. Instead of grabbing the garden blower for the backyard, you rake the leaves. Think physical versus mechanical. Sometimes newer is not better.
  • Purpose. Having a reason to get up in the morning and knowing your purpose in lifewill add years to your life expectancy; The Blue Zones estimates seven years! When you have meaning, you feel needed.
  • Down Shift. Better known as taking time to stop and smell the roses, this is about consciously thinking of what makes you happy and budgeting time for it. It can be getting drinks after work with friends to de-stress, walking through a park and really noticing the trees, or simply indulging in a nap.
  • Eat Less and Earlier. Stop eating when you’re full and don’t save your biggest meal for last. This can be the difference between losing, maintaining or gaining weight. Excess weight is a key factor in diabetes, and obesity in general is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. People in Blue Zones eat on average 10% to 20% less than other adults worldwide, and they eat their smallest meal as their last meal of the day, typically in late afternoon or early evening.
  • Eat This, Not That! Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. More generally, centenarians eat a plant-based diet. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month (or not at all) and serving sizes are small, 3 to 4 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Enjoy The Wine. People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. One to two glasses of wine a day will actually help you more than it will hurt you.
  • Faith.  The religious denomination doesn’t matter, but centenarians have demonstrated that attending faith-based services on a monthly basis will add four to 14 years to your life. Like the aforementioned “purpose,” religious activities give adherents a sense of belonging and community, which translates into less stress and better health.
  • Family First.Put family first and surround yourself with them. Having elderly parents or grandparents around actually decreases mortality as well as disease rates – not only for the elderly but children as well.  Investing love, time and commitment to family or a life partner can add up to three years to your life.
  • Healthy Social Networks. Join social networks that support healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Studies show that smoking, obesity and even loneliness are “contagious.”  In other words, people with unhealthful lifestyles tend toinfect each other with bad lifestyle habits. If you’re stuck in a clique that is on a fast track to nowhere, find a new group of friends.


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