Today is National Centenarian’s Day, a day to celebrate and honor those among us who have lived an entire century and to share in their wisdom, joys, and life as a whole. If you know someone who’s celebrating 100 years of life, that means they were born around the time when the first radio was installed in the White House and when automobiles were first starting to become commonplace on U.S. streets. It also means they’ve accumulated a lifetime of memories worth sharing, and perhaps, some good habits (along with good genes) that allowed them to live a long life.
According to the United Nations, there are over 570,000 centenarians in the world currently. According to a 1998 demographic survey, Japan is expected to have 272,000 centenarians by 2050, with other sources suggesting the number could be much higher. In 2021, the number of centenarians living in the U.S. was just under 100,000.
Although life expectancy in the U.S. declined in recent years (caused in part by COVID-19), the study of longevity and lifespan has come into focus in the past decade, with research by Dr. David Sinclair helping to lead the way. Not only that, advances in public health and healthy lifestyle awareness have increased at a phenomenal rate. And with the identification of Blue Zones (geographic areas in which people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else) around the world, certain lifestyle habits of those areas are easily identifiable and easily replicated.
By all means, following these habits doesn’t guarantee you’re going to enter the centenarian club, but they won’t hurt your chances either. Some are Blue Zone-centric, and some are more science-backed wellness habits.
Exercise Moderately Every Day
If you stay consistently active and participate in low-impact exercises such as walking 30 minutes per day, research says that you can lower your mortality rate. It also helps to manage a healthy weight and keep your heart in shape. There’s a reason why step counting is important!
Learn To Manage Stress
Stress can raise your risk of diseases that can shorten your life. But stress isn’t going away, so set the goal of finding ways to cope. Daily exercise can help manage stress and also tick off another box at the same time, but don’t rule out taking breaks from work, meditation or breathwork.
Stay Connected Socially
Eat a Healthy Diet
Centenarians in Blue Zones eat about a cup of beans a day (fava, black, soy and lentils). Cruciferous veggies are heart healthy foods that fight cancer. And nuts are mostly unsaturated fat with protein and fiber to improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels. In addition, drink mostly water and avoid processed foods. Finally, if you want to live longer, try “Hara hachi bu,” a traditional Okinawan saying which means, “Eat until you are 80% full.” Learning to eat slowly and with a purpose will help you avoid overindulging.
If you sit for more than six hours a day, your mortality rate increases by 19% over those that get up, move or choose a standing desk.
Don’t wait to go to the doctor until you think something is wrong. Get checkups, regularly.
Have A Sense of Purpose
The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
Smoking not only causes significant heart and lung disease, but also accelerates aging, especially of the skin.
Get Enough Sleep
“It’s a performance-enhancing drug, it’s a life insurance policy,” says Matthew Walker Ph. D. (author of “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.”) “It’s the most democratic healthcare insurance policy you can get. And I’ve often described sleep as mother nature’s best effort yet at immortality. If you look at the data, there’s nothing better out there that can give you that chance.”