The number of centenarians in America has been steadily rising over the past century - from about 3,000 in 1950, to 37,306 in 1990, to 73,674 in 2004, the most recent year in which those 100 or older have been counted. And the U.S. Census Bureau expects there to be some 1.1 million in the year 2050 - provided bogeymen such as ever-increasing obesity and diabetes don't wreck the predictions. But the secret of living to be 100 or better isn't just in the genes.
Now a University of Georgia research has provided even more clues on surviving to be 100 years old. Two hundred forty-four people age100 years or older were studied between 2001 and 2009. Published in Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research the research found that how we feel about ourselves and our ability to adapt to whatever stresses and challeges we face throughout our lives is as or may be even more important than our inherehnt genetic predisposition.
Leoanrad Poon, director of the Institute of Gerontology in the UGA College of Public Health and lead author of the study, said: "Understanding health in these terms has huge implications for quality of life. What is happening to you matters, but more importantly, it is your perception of what is happening to you that is really important for your individual health."
While genetics and lifestyle are significant factors, one issue that may be underplayed is one’s ability to adapt to changing life situations. The ability to remain open and positive when faced with challenging scenarios could contribute years to one’s life.
”An individual confronted with a stressful situation can either find a quick emotional solution or ruminate on the problem, explained Poon. "One is very destructive in terms of general well-being," he said, "and the other is very adaptive." In general, people who were hyappy when they were younger were found to remain happy well into old age and thus becaqme a prdictor for longevity.
So if we live right, we have a better chance than at any time in history of becoming a centenarian. Here are some tips for right living:
-- Keep smiling, because those who are optimistic and positive are 50 percent less likely to suffer early death or poor health.
-- Manage stress, by consciously eliminating the causes of stress, or through exercise, yoga or meditation.
-- Learn to say no (graciously, of course), for if we try to please everyone in our lives, we can wind up squeezed out and not helpful to anyone. -- Find something that thrills you - dancing, singing, art appreciation, nature study, etc., and then practice it regularly. -- Eat intelligently (more fruits and vegetables and less red meat and fatty foods), and don't overeat.
-- Exercise, preferably 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise. But if that's too daunting, start with anything; just keep it up.
-- Exercise your mind - by doing puzzles, taking classes, learning an instrument or a foreign language. -- Stay active, by walking, fixing the car, gardening, shopping and the like. -- Be friendly, by staying in touch with your friends, making new friends, chatting with neighbors, and so forth.
-- Quit smoking. -- Drink moderately. A drink or two a day has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, but more can endanger health in a variety of ways. -- Lose weight; become as close to thin as possible, because it's been shown that thin people live longer. -- Control blood pressure, and get it checked often, because even blood pressure over 115 over 75 can take years off your life.