7 Secrets to Living to 100 in Good Health

Friday, 17 May 2013 04:07 PM

By Charlotte Libov

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When the first U.S. Census was conducted in 1790, only 2 percent of the population was over 65. In 1900, the average American lifespan was only 47. People who made it to 100 were considered freaks of nature.
 
Today, people with a three-digit age are common. There are more than 100,000 of them in the U.S., and the number is accelerating rapidly.
 
“If you are reading this article there is a very real change that you will live to be 100 because of medical advances,” says Stephen Jones, M.D., board-certified geriatric medicine specialist and director for Healthy Aging at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Conn.
 
But Dr. Jones believes that merely making it to 100 is setting the bar too low. Everybody’s goal should be to live longer – but also healthier. It’s that last part that is giving Americans trouble, he says.
 
“We are living longer, but we are not necessarily living healthier,” Dr. Jones told Newsmax Health. This is mainly due to lifestyle factors, he said.  
 
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Here are six ways Dr. Jones says that will dramatically increase your chances to make it to 100 in good health:  
 
1.      Take control of stress. When you’re under stress, your body releases cortisol, known as “the stress hormone.” Cortisol accelerates your bodily processes, speeding up aging. Focus on relaxation in your daily life. Events themselves are not stressful – it is your response that makes you tense. For example, if you’re stuck in traffic, don’t spend the time whipping yourself into road rage. Instead, listen to the radio, meditate, or pray – you’ll get there in the same amount of time, but you won’t be stressed out.
 
2.      Get plenty of sleep. There is a myth that older people need less sleep. But adults need seven or eight hours, no matter their age. However, as you age deep, restorative sleep becomes more elusive. A few hours before bedtime, avoid caffeine or alcohol, relax quietly, and avoid activities that are stressful or require high alertness. Investing in a good-quality mattress and bed linens can also make a difference.
 
3.      Laugh a lot. A good belly laugh reduces blood pressure, clears the lungs, and produces endorphins, the so-called “happy” hormone that reduces pain. The average child laughs 300 times a day. Adults: 17 times. Research shows that keeping laughter alive keeps you alive. Make it priority to look for humor in life.
 
4.      Exercise daily. Your body craves movement. The worst thing you can do for your health is sit around and do nothing. Even if you’re 80, it’s never too late to start exercising, research shows. In fact, exercise benefits “late bloomers,” even more than people who have been active their entire lives. That’s why someone who is 80 and starts a conditioning program can suddenly put on some muscle. The mistake people make is in treating exercise like it’s torture. The key is finding an activity you enjoy and making it part of your routine.  
 
5.      Find a companion. Studies show that people live longer if they are married, part of a couple, have close friends, or have pets. Make it a goal to meet people. Volunteer at church or community groups. Don’t be afraid to be alone, but beware of social isolation.

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6.      Use your brain. Years ago, doctors believed that, unlike other organs, the brain could not regenerate. Now we know this is not true. Important connections between brain cells can be re-established. When your brain is stimulated, more connections are made, no matter your age. Stimulate your brain by learning new things. Take up a new hobby, learn a new language, or just break out of your routine. Take a different route home, explore a different neighborhood, and try eating with your left hand instead of your right.
 
7.      Live in the moment. No matter how perfectly you live your life, you are not going to live forever. So pay attention to what is happening in the moment, and don’t waste valuable time mourning the past or worrying about the future. No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s spending time with your friends, being with your co-workers, or even just getting ready to go to sleep, relish every moment. Treat everyday as a gift – that’s why it’s called the “present!”
 
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