Living to be 100 requires a fair amount of luck, it’s true. But people who make it past the century mark also share some healthy habits that we could all benefit from. Here’s what we know centenarians have in common.
They have good genes
If you have at least one parent who lived to 95 or older, you have a better shot at a healthier (and presumably longer) life yourself, a 2017 study published in The American Journal of Cardiology found. Researchers reported that subjects with at least one parent living past age 95 had 29 per cent lower odds of having hypertension, 65 per cent lower odds of having a stroke, and 35 per cent lower odds of having cardiovascular disease than those whose parents died before age 95. That held true even when – and here’s the surprising thing – there were significant differences in social-economic status, physical activity, diet, and other lifestyle habits. “They were no more likely to eat low fat and only a small number were vegetarians,” says endocrinologist, Dr Sofiya Milman. While only about 25 per cent of longevity is related to genetics, that fraction seems to be the driving force behind how far those lifestyle habits (the remaining 75 per cent) can take you.
But genes aren’t everything
Longevity is complex. “Multiple genes are related to how long we live,” says professor of psychiatry, Dr Dilip Jeste. He’s also part of a team studying residents in Cilento, a region in Italy where the elderly live exceptionally long healthy lives. “In other words, if you have genes for certain types of fatal cancers, then the other genes that promote longevity may have less of an influence.” To hit the centenarian jackpot, an array of genes needs to be working together in your favour, but “there’s a lot more under our control than we think,” he adds. For example, take a set of twins with genes that predisposed them to lung cancer. If one smoked and one didn’t, the smoker would be 5.4 times more likely to develop lung cancer than the other, thus significantly hurting his chances at longevity.