How To Become a Centenarian

How To Become a Centenarian

Facebook, iPods, Internet, cell phones, even tape decks and television sets, these modern-day novelties must seem foreign to some in our geriatric population. While we can’t dismiss the fact that modern medicine has dramatically helped increase people’s life spans, there are certain lifestyle habits that can make those later years higher quality years. Centenarians – people who have reached the age of 100 or more – are actually one of the world’s most rapidly-increasing age groups. Would you like to still be driving or jogging at the ripe old age of 100? For anyone looking for longevity, look to the past for lessons learned by our ancestors on how to live well into the next millennia!

Pass on Seconds.

Calorie restriction has been shown to increase lifespan. While it may sound counterintuitive since food nourishes and sustains life, research shows the results of reduced-caloric intake (a lower metabolic rate) may be just shy from the fountain of youth. A 25% reduction in calories below your metabolic rate has been shown to increase life span. However, for some, this may not provide enough nourishment to become a sustainable habit. In this case, following a moderately-portioned, lower-calorie diet will help you stay lean, another common attribute of centenarians.

Eat like an Okinawan: Small amounts of food “that you grow or raise.”

Okinawans, indigenous people of the Japanese island, are not only famous for having the longest life expectancy in the world, they are also known for leading the healthiest lives well into old age. Five times as many Okinawans live to be 100 years old as opposed to their Japanese counterparts – counterparts that are already known to have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. They employ a method called “Hara Hachi Bu.” The rule of “Hara hachi bu” translates to mean, “Eat til you are 80% full.” Talk about intuitive portion control! Wouldn’t it feel great to end a meal without loosening your belt?

Michael Pollen said it best, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Well, the Okinawans do just that. Their main dietary habits consist of eating fresh whole grains, colorful vegetables, fish, and non-GMO soybeans, primarily in the form of tofu. Meat and dairy are rarely, if ever, consumed.

By adopting these two dietary patterns, you too may add a few years to your life.

Stay active, both physically and mentally.

A recurring theme among centenarians is that nothing will stand in their way. Jeanne-Louise Calment, a French woman who lived to be 122 years and 5 months took up fencing at the ripe young age of 87. The problem with modern day conveniences is that they make us more and more sedentary, setting the stage for fewer active years. Research shows that those who are more active and more fit, remain disease-free for a greater portion of their older years than those who are the least fit.

An active body sparks an active mind; get out in the world and continue to learn. Exercising your brain with complex tasks and eating well help prevent dementia in old age.

Do not react to stress with excessive worry.

Extroverts, those with a high level of satisfaction in life, and people who learn to laugh at themselves, stay healthy longer. Lighten up and enjoy life! While you’re at it, explore some sort of spiritual practice. I myself, love yoga! It keeps my blood pumping, helps clear my mind of the daily grind, and provides a sense of selflessness and divinity.

Social network (friends, family, a caring community).

No, I am not talking about social media; I’m talking about one-on-one personal contact. Communities that are supportive and also supply nature’s best medicine, laughter, are vital pieces to the longevity puzzle. As we age, we lose close friends and family members. When this happens, make new contacts; it will benefit you both.

Genetics, are they as powerful as we thought?

It turns out that only 20-30% of how long we live is genetically determined. These findings are based on twin studies and studies of Okinawans who have moved to the Western world. This does weigh heavily enough to matter. Brothers of centenarians are 17 times as likely to live to 100 as are people without 100-year-olds in the family, while sisters of centenarians are 8.5 times as likely to live into their second century. Genetics are the saving grace for those more resilient folks who would not be the poster child for healthy living (drinking, smoking, unhealthful eating), but still live well into their hundreds.

In Conclusion…

Eat well. Move often. Keep up with your hobbies. Play with Friends. Read. And LOVE LIFE!


TIME Magazine, How to Live to be 100 (and not regret it)

Boston University School of Medicine: The New England Centenarian Study

The Okinawa Centenarian Study

Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) study at Tufts University in Boston

Registered Dietitian

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