14 Science-Backed Tips to Live Beyond 100
Want to know the one thing all of longest lived people in the world have in common?
They all live in what are called “Blue Zones.” These are the areas in the world that have the highest concentration of “supercentenarians”—people who have lived long, healthy lives and are now more than 100 years old.
Now, as an American I have good news and bad news for you…
Wikipedia has a list of the 100 people who lived the longest ever. More than half of the list are Americans. 1 In fact, Loma Linda, California is one of the Blue Zones I mentioned above and is among the top 3 places in the world with the highest number of folks who have lived more than 100 years. Okinawa in Japan and Sardinia in Italy are the other two. 2
So as an American, it seems you’re in a uniquely suitable environment to live a very long life. Nice!
Now for the bad news…
According to the World Health Organization, we have an average lifespan of only 79.8 years compared to Canadians who average 82.5 years and the Japanese whose life expectancy is 84.6 years. So we aren’t exactly the longest lived people on the planet.
Not so nice.
But does that mean you should move to Japan or Italy if you want to “live long and prosper” as the old saying goes?
Of course not! There are a few easy things you can do to drastically increase your chances of living beyond 100.
[nextpage title=”1. Eat Less”]
Hara hachi bu3 is self-imposed calorie restriction practiced in Okinawa. It is a Confucian teaching that espouses eating until you are only 80% full. This practice most probably has contributed to the high incidence of longevity on the island.
According to a New York Times article by Jon Gertner:4
“There seems little doubt that calorie restriction can have significant effects on secondary aging. A recent spate of papers in some of the world’s leading medical journals demonstrate that in small studies, human subjects following such diets experience astounding drops in cardiovascular risk factors; a forthcoming review on cancer risks in animals with such diets, moreover, suggests a stark correlation — fewer calories mean fewer tumors.”
Calorie restriction seems to extend life and also helps to avoid risks of certain diseases.
We may need 25 times more vitamin D than what the government recommends as healthy. And a whopping 70 to 80 percent of the population is not getting enough vitamin D.5
Vitamin D deficiency causes autoimmune disease and diabetes mellitus type 2 in children and adolescents; autoimmune disease, hyperparathyroidism, low bone density, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in adults; and osteoporosis, fall risk, and periodontal disease in adults.6
Our bodies can make their own vitamin D from sunlight but most of us do not get enough sunlight.
How can we fix this? Spend more time under the sun if possible, eat vitamin D rich food such as eggs and fish, and supplement.
Eat fruits and vegetables, exercise daily, and don’t smoke. We know that these things could help us live longer lives. But just as important is strong social ties.7
All 3 places with the highest concentration of longest lived people in the world have strong family and social ties. Author Dr. David R. Hamilton explains:
“We are wired for social contact. Our health thrives when we connect with each other and suffers when we are lonely. It seems that at the heart of all things, being connected sustains life.”
His advice? Get connected. Call your loved ones more often. Join a club. Invite neighbors and friends for dinner more often. “When we do, we do ourselves a favor, but we do our family, friends, or anyone else we connect with, a favor too,” Dr. Hamilton concludes.
Everybody knows exercise is good for you. A more interesting question is: How much exercise do you actually need to live longer?
Expert epidemiologist I-Min Lee of Harvard Medical School and her colleagues analyzed data involving studies on 650,000 people over 40. They were followed for 10 years on average.
The answer they got is surprising. Meg Selig shares the results in an article published in Psychology Today. 8
“…people who chose to walk briskly for just 11 minutes per day (75 minutes each week) added 1.8 years to their life, compared to non-exercisers. That’s a nice boost for 11 minutes of walking per day! And it gets better. Those who walked 22 minutes every day (or 150 minutes/week or 30 minutes 5 days a week, following the federal recommendation) gained 3.4 years of life on average.
“The people who increased their life span the most walked 43 minutes a day, lengthening their life by an average of 4.2 years. After 43 minutes, the benefits of longevity tended to level off.”
Does 4 years of life for less than 45 minutes of exercise sound like a good deal? Indeed!
Half of all American adults suffer from gum disease. That’s a whopping 64.7 million adults older than 30 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).9
CDC also reports that as of 2012, a quarter of all American adults have untreated dental caries (tooth decay).10
According to Mayo Clinic, oral health can affect and may be affected by the following conditions:11
- Cardiovascular disease
- Premature birth and low birth weight
- Alzheimer’s disease
In a study that followed 5,611 older adults for 9 years, researchers found that not brushing can increase risk of death by up to 35%, not flossing increases risk by 30%, and not seeing a dentist within a year increases risk by up to 50%. 12
Men with a high frequency of orgasms are 50% less likely to die than men who don’t orgasm often, according to a study.13
Similarly, “Women who had a higher frequency of achieving orgasm during intercourse tended to live longer than their less fulfilled peers,” according to Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D.14
“Sexual satisfaction tends to play a role in a happier marriage, and happier marriages play a role in greater sexual satisfaction. And we know that people in stable, fulfilling marriages tend to be healthier,” Dr. Friedman further explains.
Health and a long life for doing something so enjoyable? You bet!
It sounds obvious. But not too many people actually know how to eat right.
One of the most important reasons that the Okinawans, the Sardinians, the Seventh Day Adventists of California, and the Panamanians in San Blas islands live exceptionally long lives is their healthy diet.15
Here are just 8 foods that may help add to your years:
- Beans and lentils – rich in protein and antioxidants.16
- Whole Grains – “People who consumed higher amounts of fiber, particularly from grains, had a significantly lower risk of dying over a nine-year period compared to those who consumed lower amounts of fiber, according to a new National Institutes of Health study,” wrote Jennifer Corbett Dooren in an article published in The Wall Street Journal.17
- Fish – rich in omega-3 fatty acids protect the heart from disease and stroke. However, the United States Environmental Agency (EPA) advises against eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because of their high mercury content.18 Emily Main, in an article published by Rodale News, recommends wild-caught salmon from Alaska and longfin squid (wild-caught, from the U.S. Atlantic) instead.19
- Fruits and Vegetables – “An obvious one, yes, but undoubtedly something everyone can benefit from. Vitamins, minerals, and fiber aside, each fruit and vegetable provides its own unique blend of health-promoting phytonutrients. Don’t forget about sea vegetables, which are criminally underrated and underrepresented in mainstream nutrition circles,” comments dietician Andy Bellatti in an article published in the Huffington Post.20
- Nuts – There are several studies that show eating nuts is positively correlated with longer lives. Eating more nuts is associated with lower risks of chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus type 2 and cardiovascular diseases.21
- Sweet Potatoes – Probably one of the reasons Okinawans live so long. “Okinawa’s indigenous vegetables were particularly interesting: their purple sweet potatoes are rich in flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin E and lycopene,” write Michael Booth for The Guardian.22
- Olive Oil – A study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2007 talks about “several lines of evidence [that] point to olive oil and the olive oil-centered Mediterranean diet as conducive to longevity.” The longevity effects are attributed to olive oil’s powerful antioxidants.
Cook Your Own Meal
Cooking your own food also promotes longevity. “A new study found that people who cook up to five times a week were 47 percent more likely to still be alive after 10 years,” according to a Huffington Post article.23
“The pathways to health that food provides are not limited to its nutrients or components, but extend to each step in the food chain; from its production, to purchase, preparation and eating, especially with others,” explains Professor Mark Wahlqvist, lead researcher of the said study.
Our own nutritionist, Julie Haugen, MS, RDN, LDN encourages clients to choose organic when possible and avoid meats that are not free of antibiotics or hormones when buying foods at the grocery store.
Foods to Avoid
In an article published on How Stuff Works, Maria Trimarchi identifies 9 foods to avoid.24 They are:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Shelf-stable condiments
- Swordfish and some tuna
- Processed meat
- Microwave popcorn
- Stick margarine
- Anything deep fried
Rockwell Nutrition also published the infographic called The 5 Worst Food Ingredients to Avoid that could help you stay clear of risky food ingredients when shopping for groceries.
A study “found that after a three-month stay at a meditation retreat, people showed higher levels of an enzyme associated with longevity,” writes Maia Szalavitz in an article published in Time magazine.25
This enzyme is telomerase – it repairs telomeres. Telomeres are found at the end of chromosomes; they prevent the chromosomes from unraveling.
Continued cell reproduction makes the telomeres shorter and less effective in protecting the chromosomes. It is most likely one of the reasons that we age.
“After the three-month intervention, researchers found that the meditators had on average about 30% more activity of the enzyme telomerase than the controls did,” Szalavitz further reports.
Sitting lowers your life expectancy as much as smoking does. Yes, you read that right.
“Sitting for more than three hours a day can cut two years off a person’s life expectancy, even if he or she exercises regularly, a new study finds. Watching TV for more than two hours a day can shorten life expectancy even further, by another 1.4 years,” writes Alice Park in a Time magazine article.26
If your job involves sitting in front of your computer all day it can be particularly challenging to limit your time sitting to less than 3 hours.
“Experts suggest standing up as much as you can, like when you’re talking on the phone. Don’t ‘ping’ your co-workers; get up and go over and talk to them. It might even improve communication too,” Andrea Smith shares in an article published in Mashable.27
Standing desks help too.
“Studies show that reduced cognitive function can age us prematurely and reduce life expectancy. It is well known in the medical community that people who have advanced stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia do not live as long as those free from these conditions,” writes Dennis Kravetz in the Huffington Post Blog.28
The good news, according to Kravetz, is that your chronological age can be cheated. Adult brains can still grow neurons and synapses just like babies. He suggests the following to keep your brain young: exercise, watch and read actively, take up a new hobby, solve all types of puzzles, play board and card games, visit zoos, museums and historical sites, become a student again, attend workshops, manage stress, and address depression.
“A . . . review of the health effects of volunteering found that helping others on a regular basis — like serving food in a soup kitchen or reading to the blind— can reduce early mortality rates by 22%, compared to those in people who don’t participate in such activities,” writes Maia Szalavitz in a Time magazine article.29
But you can’t simply write a check and expect to live longer. You have to make regular sacrifices and exert genuine effort to help others. The participants in the study volunteered for at least an hour every month, often longer and more frequently.
Szalavitz attributes the health benefits to increased social contact. Helping others reduces loneliness too. The effect of loneliness is similar to smoking as it increases the chances of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and dementia.
If you’re planning to volunteer don’t take it to the extreme, though. If helping others becomes a burden, it can lead to burn-out.
Married people, particularly males, live significantly longer than their single friends according to several studies. 30 Brian Palmer of Slate explains:
“Having a family gives people something to live for, which may discourage risky behaviors like smoking and riding a motorcycle. Married men commit suicide at lower rates than singles, possibly for the same reason. Your spouse may urge you to get a mammogram, wear sunscreen, or have that worrisome mole checked out. A life partner provides an outlet to discuss personal stresses. . .”
“Married people may remain more intellectually engaged with others, which helps avoid dementia. And healthy people may be more likely to attract a mate and marry than unhealthy people.”
On the downside, getting married also increases the risk of becoming obese.
Also, according to Dr. Howard S. Friedman in an interview by Veronique Greenwood published in The Atlantic, marriage is “health-promoting primarily for men who were well-suited to marriage and had a good marriage. For the rest, there were all kinds of complications.”31
Dr. Friedman co-authored the book “The Longevity Project”.
“Women who got divorced often thrived. Even women who were widowed often did exceptionally well. It often seemed as if women who got rid of their troublesome husbands stayed healthy—most women, it seemed, can rely on their friends and other social ties. Men who got and stayed divorced, on the other hand, were at really high risk for premature mortality. It would have been better had they not married at all,” Dr. Friedman further comments.
Aside from drinking lots of water, you can also consume these beverages that are particularly helpful if you want to live longer.
“The benefits of green tea are numerous, legion, and undisputed. Regular consumption of green tea has been shown to be associated with lower rates of cancer and with decreases in body fat. And the catechins (plant chemicals) in green tea are known to be powerful antioxidants as well as highly anti-inflammatory,” says Jonny Bowden, PhD who can’t seem to praise green tea highly enough.
The Japanese’s risk of dying of heart disease or stroke is 30% less than Americans, Shinichi Kuriyama, MD, PhD tells WebMD in an interview. Kuriyama attributes this difference to the Japanese habit of drinking green tea.32
In Kuriyama’s study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, she and her colleagues found that Japanese women who drink more than 5 cups of green tea are 31% less likely to die of heart disease compared to Japanese women who consumed less than 5 cups. Japanese men who drink more green tea are less likely to die of heart disease or stroke by 22%.
Information from more than 400,000 volunteers ages 50 to 71 who didn’t have any major diseases at the start of the study in 1995 were studied by researchers at the National Cancer Institute. Of these volunteers, more than 50,000 died by 2008.
The researchers found that men who reported drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day were 10% less likely to die compared to men who didn’t drink coffee. For women, the number is 13%.
“It’s not clear exactly what coffee had to do with their longevity, but the correlation is striking,” writes Gretchen Reynolds in an article published in The New York Times.33
Alcohol (in Moderation)
It’s not just red wine that promotes health. All kinds of alcohol, in moderation, are beneficial in that they can reduce blood clot formation, change blood pressure, help prevent artery damage, and raise LDL cholesterol.34
Worms that typically live up to 15 days lived up to 20 to 40 days after they were ingested with ethanol, the same type of alcohol found in wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages humans consume. Researchers found that very small amounts had the longevity effect. Larger quantities didn’t make the worms live longer.35
Why should we care? Because we share 50% of the same genes as those worms.
Here’s the deal though.
“The bottom line is that moderate volumes of alcohol do seem associated with fewer heart attacks and other cardiac illness — but only if that volume is spread out evenly, with one or two drinks a day, rather than clumped together in sporadic binges, says Jürgen Rehm, lead author of the study . . . published in the journal Addiction,” writes Tom Blackwell for the National Post.36
While there are several studies that suggest that moderate drinkers are most likely to outlive both non-drinkers and heavy drinkers, the reason behind not drinking must be considered too.
Patrick M. Krueger, PhD writes:
“. . . adults who have consumed very little alcohol throughout their lives, due to interests in being responsible family members or for moral reasons, have mortality risks that are as low as those who drink in moderation.”37
Doctors discourage starting drinking alcohol to prevent heart disease because alcohol can be very addictive. Too much drinking can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, liver damage, and certain types of cancer.
So, if you do choose to drink, do it moderately. (Just in case you missed the moderation part.)
Below are supplements that show the most potential to increase lifespan as proven by research.
Carnosine fights oxidative DNA damage.38 Susan Evans wrote a detailed post on the longevity benefits of carnosine.
Astragalus contains a substance (TA-65) that increases the length of telomeres. Think of the DNA as shoelaces and the telomeres are the aglets at the end that protect it from unraveling. TA-65 was also found to help with glucose tolerance, osteoporosis, and skin fitness.39
Acetyl l-carnitine improves metabolic function and decreases oxidative stress.40 It also improves mental focus and energy, enhances both short-term and long-term memory, relieves depression, slows down Alzheimer’s, protects the brain from stress, helps repair physically damaged nerves, increases learning capacity, and enhances immune function.
Alpha-lipoic acid scavenges for free radicals, chelates metals, and improves glucose and ascorbate handling. It is a well-know antioxidant but its therapeutic potential goes beyond those provided by antioxidants.41
Resveratrol without a doubt helps with lengthening lifespan. Researchers believe there is conclusive evidence that this compound promotes health and longevity.42
Yes it’s the wonder substance found in red wine. However, if you want to get enough resveratrol from red wine to enjoy its longevity benefits, you’ll have to consume 3 to 4 barrels of the beverage daily.
Royal Jelly is another supplement that fights oxidative stress. In a study, it was shown to increase the lifespan of mice by 25%. 43
Vitamin D fights inflammation. A study found that high serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer telomeres in the white blood cells of women.44 The vitamin D from the sun and in supplements have the same beneficial effects.
Researchers in China and Canada have identified 30 nutrients that could help extend life. You can read about it at Life Extension.
Because we like you so much and you made it all the way to this page, here are a couple of free downloads.
Click here to download “The Centenarian’s Checklist”
Don’t forget to download “The Four Horsemen of Aging” by Jonny Bowden using the form on the right.
- List of 100 Verified Oldest People. Wikipedia. Retrieved: August 12, 2014
- The Secrets of Long Life, Dan Buettner, National Geographic Published November 2005. Retrieved August 11, 2014
- Hara hachi bu. Wikipedia. Retrieved: August 12, 2014
- The Calorie-Restriction Experiment, Jon Gertner, The New York Times, Published October 7, 2009. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- Vitamin D: Why You Are Probably NOT Getting Enough and How That Makes You Sick, Mark Hyman, MD, Huffington Post, Published May 22, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- Vitamin D Deficiency: Implications Across the Lifespan, Rebecca Wike Malone& Cathy Kessenich, Journal of Nurse Practitioners, Published 2008. Retrieved August 13, 2014
- Why Friends May Be Your Ticket to Living to 100, David R. Hamilton, Ph.D., Huffington Post, Published October 20, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- What Is the Exact “Dose” of Exercise Needed for Longevity? Meg Selig, Psychology Today, Published May 9, 2013. Retrieved August 13, 2014.
- CDC: Half of American Adults Have Periodontal Disease, American Academy of Periodontology, Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Oral and Dental Health, CDC, Retrieved August 14, 2014
- Oral health: A window to your overall health, Mayo Clinic, Published May 11, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Dental Health Behaviors, Dentition, and Mortality in the Elderly: The Leisure World Cohort Study, Annlia Paganini-Hill, Stuart C. White, Kathryn A. Atchison, Journal of Aging Research, Published Online June 15, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Sex and death: are they related? Findings from the Caerphilly cohort study, BMJ, Published December 20, 1997. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Orgasms, Health and Longevity: Does Sex Promote Health? Howard. S Friedman, Psychology Today, Published February 12, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Eating for Longevity, Peter Jaret, WebMD, Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Anti-Aging Properties of Beans, Mark Stibich, Ph.D., About.com, Updated April 9, 2008. Retrieved August 14, 2014
- Fiber-Rich Diet Linked to Longevity, Jennifer Corbett Dooren, The Wall Street Journal, Updated February 15, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish, United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2004, Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- The 10 Healthiest Fish on the Planet, Emily Main, Rodale News, Published February 27, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Seeking Longevity? Eat Real Food, Andy Bellatti, Huffington Post, Published August 22, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Eat Nuts, Live Longer, Alexandra Sifferlin, Time magazine, Published November 21, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- The Okinawa diet – could it help you live to 100?, Michael Booth, The Guardian, Published July 19, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Home Cooking Increases Longevity, Cambridge Study Shows, Huffington Post, Published May 18, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- 10 Absolutely Worst Foods to Eat, Maria Trimarchi, HowStuffWorks.com, Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Explaining Why Meditators May Live Longer, Maia Szalavitz, Time, December 23, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Get up! Sitting Less Can Add Years to Your Life. Alice Park, Time, July 10, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
- Start Moving! Sitting Can Reduce Your Life Expectancy [STUDY], Andrea Smith, Mashable.com, Published July 10, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
- 10 Ways to Boost Your Cognitive Fitness and Longevity, Dennis Kravets, Huffington Post, Published May 2, 2013. Retrieved August, 19, 2014.
- Helping Others Helps You to Live Longer, Maia Szalavitz, Time, Published August 23, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
- In Sickness and In Death, Brian Palmer, Slate, Retrieved August 19, 2014.
- The Longevity Project: Decades of Data Reveal Paths to Long Life, Veronique Greenwood, The Atlantic, Published March 10, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
- Green Tea for Long Life? Daniel J. DeNoon, WebMD, Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- This Is Your Brain on Coffee, Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times, June 6, 2013. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart? Mayo Clinic, April 25, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Drinking Benefits: How Alcohol May Affect Longevity And Heart Health, Mary Kate Sheridan, Published January 30, 2012. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Slow and steady the way to alcohol’s health benefits: study, Tom Blackwell, The National Post, Published January 20, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Alcohol and Life Expectancy: Unraveling the Mystery of Why Nondrinkers Have Higher Risk of Premature Death, Patrick M. Krueger PhD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Published August 23, 2013. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- The effects of carnosine on oxidative DNA damage levels and in vitro lifespan in human peripheral blood derived CD4+T cell clones, Paul Hylanda, Orla Duggana, Alan Hipkissb, Christopher Barnetta, Yvonne Barnetta, Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, Published January 2001. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- The telomerase activator TA-65 elongates short telomeres and increases health span of adult/old mice without increasing cancer incidence, Bruno Bernardes de Jesus, Kerstin Schneeberger, Elsa Vera,Agueda Tejera, Calvin B. Harley and Maria A. Blasco, Aging Cell, Published April 14, 2011. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Feeding acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid to old rats significantly improves metabolic function while decreasing oxidative stress, Tory M. Hagen, Jiankang Liu, Jens Lykkesfeldt, Carol M. Wehr, Russell T. Ingersoll, Vladimir Vinarsky, James C. Bartholomew, and Bruce N. Ames, PNAS, Published February 12, 2001. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Alpha-lipoic acid as a dietary supplement: Molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential, Kate Petersen Shaya, Régis F. Moreaua, Eric J. Smitha, Anthony R. Smitha, Tory M. Hagen, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – General Subjects, October 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- New Study Validates Longevity Pathway, David Cameron, Harvard Medical School, Published March 7, 2013. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Royal Jelly prolongs the life span of C3H/HeJ mice: correlation with reduced DNA damage. Inoue S, Koya-Miyata S, Ushio S, Iwaki K, Ikeda M, Kurimoto M., Experimental Gerontology, Published September 2003. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women, J Brent Richards, Ana M Valdes, Jeffrey P Gardner, Dimitri Paximadas, Masayuki Kimura, Ayrun Nessa, Xiaobin Lu, Gabriela L Surdulescu, Rami Swaminathan, Tim D Spector, and Abraham Aviv, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Published November 2007. Retrieved August 20, 2014.