Medical science and technology may be just two reasons behind a substantial increase in the population living to be older than ever before. An ongoing project conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine called the New England Centenarian Study includes a number of studies that try to identify the secrets to a long healthy life. These studies have identified unique characteristics and commonalities that bring longevity, slow aging and limit disease.
Among the myths the studies shatter is that genetics alone account for advanced old age and that centenarians are the lucky few who have escaped major illness. – Macleans.ca
Boston University has created 3 groups for centenarians, individuals that live to be 100 years or older:
- Escapers, who have no clinical evidence of disease when the reach 100 years (15%)
- Delayers, who acquire age-related diseases after 80 years (43%)
- Survivors, who have long lifespan despite earlier fights with cancer, heart disease or other age-related conditions (42%)
Their research revealed some common characteristics among centenarians, including the following:
Few centenarians are obese. In the case of men, they are nearly always lean.
Substantial smoking history is rare.
A preliminary study suggests that centenarians are better able to handle stress than the majority of people.
Our finding that some centenarians (~15%) had no significant changes in their thinking abilities disproved the expectation by many that all centenarians would be demented.
At least 50% of centenarians have first-degree relatives and/or grandparents who also achieve very old age, and many have exceptionally old siblings.
Many of the children of centenarians (age range of 65 to 82 years) appear to be following in their parents’ footsteps with marked delays in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and overall mortality.
“It’s not that centenarians have had particularly healthy lifestyles, other than not smoking, but that they have positive outlooks, are generally optimistic and don’t sweat the small stuff.” – Dr. Mark Nowaczynski, clinical director of House Calls (Macleans.ca)
Loma Linda University, a Seventh-day Adventist educational health-sciences institution in Southern California, is another organization that has been conducting studies since 1958 into life longevity and understanding how to avert age-related disease such as cancer. A group of researchers at Loma Linda suggests that a vegetarian diet is one of the keys to a longer lifespan.
The Adventists’ beliefs forbid smoking and drinking, and encourage exercise, a vegetarian diet and a day of rest and reflection. Loma Linda started its Adventist Health Study 2 in 2002, with funding from the National Institute of Health. The study is tracking 96,000 people in the US and Canada, half of whom are vegetarian. With the 20-year study half-way completed, the research reveals a considerably longer life-span for vegetarian Adventists than for other Californians.
“Vegetarian Adventist men live to an average of 83.3 years and vegetarian women 85.7 years – 9.5 and 6.1 years, respectively, longer than other Californians.” – Principal investigator Gary E. Fraser, MD, PhD (Yahoo.com)
The Adventist Health Study 2 also found that:
Vegans are, on average, 30 pounds lighter than meat eaters.
Vegans are also five units lighter on the BMI scale than meat-eaters.
Vegetarians and vegans are also less insulin resistant than meat-eaters.
For most of us, there’s always room to improve daily activities in our pursuit of a long healthy life. It’s easy to get overwhelmed about what to focus on in order to build a strong foundation for good health. Think about starting with the basics. Eat your greens. Exercise. And don’t sweat the small stuff.
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