Dr. Bell's Blog

Longevity: In The Genes, Just Luck, Or something Else?


In the United States, the fastest growing segment of the population are those who are over 100 years old.  I know what some of you are thinking right now...I don't want to live that long.  Well, if you could live a healthy and active life well into your 90's and beyond would you change your mind? What is true, is that the vast majority of those who reach that triple digit milestone do exactly that.  So let's look at a few factors involved and what many of them have in common.

Do They Have Great Genes?

Yes, having longevity in your family does help your chances of reaching this milestone, but it is not the overwhelming reason.  In fact, a large study involving over 3,000 Danish twins over the age of 75 came up with some startling findings. Genetics played less than a 25% role in whether or not someone lived a long life.  The remaining variation came from what they called "non-familial environmental factors".  In other words, the way you live your life.   

What Lifestyle Factors Do Many of These Centenarian's Have in Common?

They Are Active:  This does not necessarily mean they do some sort of formal exercise, but what it does mean is they regularly move throughout the day in their activities.  Up and down the stairs, going for a walk, working in the garden. They tend not to sit for long stretches much throughout the day.

Sensible Diet:  This may seem like an obvious one, but also very significant.  Most consume the vast majority of their food from fruits and vegetables, and are very careful to not over eat.  They also tend to consume a moderate amount of alcohol (usually wine) but not in excess.

Low Stress and a Positive Outlook:  Keeping stress well managed has long been known to keep chronic inflammation and cortisol (the stress hormone) levels down in your body.  This will help reduce the acceleration of aging and maintain healthy brain function.

The Connect and Have a Purpose in Life:  This has been shown to be one of the most important factors.  Centenarians generally don't spend their life isolated.  Loneliness and a lack of purpose are deadly for your immune system and your health.  You must have a specific reason to get up every morning that involves someone being dependent on you.  Next to birth, the year someone "retires" has the highest mortality rate because they lose their sense of purpose.

In closing, there is no short term thing you can do to create longevity,  You must engage in a series of healthy habits over decades and decades to create a strong and healthy body.  Create good habits, associate regularly with the right people to maintain those habits, and live with a sense of purpose everyday.  Do this and you just never know, maybe you will be the next centenarian in your town.

That hope for your future starts with your commitment today to...

LIVE well. BE well.