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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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October 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 7)

The secrets of the centenarians
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

The secrets of the centenarians image

Want to live to 100? Of course you do, and science has a few suggestions to help you get there.

Not smoking (of course) and being socially active help, as does living in communities that have good walking trails and a wide age range. Oh yes, and being a woman.

Good genes help, but environment is more significant, say researchers at Washington State University. Looking at the centenarians in the state, the researchers say that those living in areas where there are plenty of places to walk and has a population of all ages are big factors. Economics also plays a part, and people living in more prosperous urban areas and small towns are also more likely to celebrate their hundredth birthday.

By comparison, having good genes have just a 20 percent part to play, the researchers add.

It can also come down to race. African Americans and Native Americans are less likely to reach 100 than their white counterparts.

Keeping active social networks is also key, say researchers at the University of Ontago, who looked at the lives of 292 centenarians in New Zealand. That and not smoking seemed to be the two common factors shared by the group.

Everyone in the group was relatively healthy and didn't suffer from chronic disease—and that could be because of a strange biological phenomenon that happens as we age. After the age of 80, rates of depression, diabetes and dementia start to decline, the researchers discovered, although rates of high blood pressure (hypertension) increased by 30 percent between the ages of 60 and 100.

Aside from not smoking and keeping socially active the other major factor on hitting 100 was being female. Of the centenarians in the study, 75 percent were women and were also less likely to develop chronic health problems.

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(Source: Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 2020; doi: 0.1007/s40520-020-01552-w)

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