- Aging & Longevity
Live to be 100
One of my life goals: To see my 100th birthday.
This page is a part of a "bucket list" project, listing things I want to do before I die.
Well, one of the things I want to do before I die is reach the age of 100. So here's a little how-to for myself, looking at the things that will give me the best chance of reaching my goal of longevity.
(All the photos of beautiful centenarians on this page are from Wikimedia Commons.)
Estimate your life expectancy - Well, this is good news for me!
This is the screenshot of my result when I tried the Life Expectancy Calculator at LivingTo100.com. Dr. Thomas Perls thinks I should expect to make it to age 97! And that's despite the fact that when I took his test I had to admit that I've currently fallen off the exercise wagon.
That gives me hope that if I step up my efforts to take care of myself I can be around for a nice long time.
Some articles about longevity
I looked through a lot of magazine articles that talked about living to be 100. There were plenty of people who were ready to tell me what to do in order to have a long life. Who should I take seriously?
The articles that I paid the most attention to were the ones that had documentation to support their claims.
These are the articles I found that included citations of research:
- How To Live To 100 -- Forbes.com (Robert Langreth)
Pick your parents well, exercise into old age and eat your veggies.
- How to live to be 100 -- Time.com (Richard Corliss; Michael D. Lemonick)
A lengthy article that discusses research about medical means of extending longevity as well as lifestyle changes that ordinary people can make to prolong their lives.
- 11 Health Habits That Will Help You Live to 100 -- USNews.com (Deborah Kotz)
You don't need to eat yogurt and live on a mountaintop, but you do need to floss.
Behaviors that prolong your life - These were the top two!
In everything I read, there were two things that were universally recommended for increasing longevity:
- Exercise -- This was mentioned over and over again. Some of the longest-lived people in the world are active as a part of their everyday lives. They weren't going to the gym, though. They were gardening, doing chores, chopping wood, riding bikes, and more than anything else, walking.
I really enjoy walking, but I haven't done it in months. I think that often the thing that keeps me from taking a daily walk is the feeling that I don't have time. That 45 minutes that I spend walking isn't "productive", ya know. So what I need to do is give myself permission to push all of those urgent things on my To-Do List to the side for a little while every day and allow some time just for me.
- Eat more plant-based foods and less meat -- This is the other point that came up in almost everything I read. More fruits and vegetables, more beans, more grains, less fat, less meat.
My diet varies a lot, based on the busyness of my schedule and my financial state. When I have either the time to cook things from scratch or the money to buy healthy convenience foods, I do very well. But when both time and money run short, I'll eat whatever I can put my hands on. 99-cent burger? Bring it on!
But there are some foods that I include in my diet that do pretty well on all fronts: time, budget, and health as well. My favorites are:
- Whole grain pasta
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes (6 minutes in the microwave!)
- Wild salad (at the right times of year when the weeds are growing)
More ways to keep those birthdays coming! - These are the other factors that were mentioned
All of the following issues also pop up on "how to live to be 100" lists, although they're not emphasized as much as the exercise and the food choices.
- Genetics-- Choose your parents carefully!
I was blessed in this area! I seem to come from long-lived stock on both sides of my family. I have one grandparent who is still alive and is about 90 years old, and the three that have passed away all lived to be nice and old as well. Hooray!
- Controlling your weight -- I'm pretty good on this one, too. All my life I've been a skinny girl, and the slight touch of middle-age spread that I have now is unlikely to pose any serious health problems.
- Not eating too much -- The people of Okinawa (one of the spots that is known for having lots of centenarians) have a custom of only eating until they feel four-fifths full. Most Americans, myself included, are conditioned to eat until they feel stuffed, so this is certainly an area that I can put some thought into.
- Having a sense of community -- I was surprised to see this being addressed on the longevity lists, but it is supposed to be a beneficial factor in prolonging life. Being a faithful and active member of a church puts me in a good position on this issue.
- Don't smoke -- Not surprising to see this mentioned. And it's not an issue for me. Next.
- Red wine -- I've frequently heard people talk about the health benefits of red wine, but I think it'll be OK if I pass on this one. I don't drink, and I don't plan to start. I'll find other ways to add that last three years to my life expectancy.
- Don't retire-- The recommendation here is not that you have to keep on working the very same 9-5 job until your dying day, but after you quit "working" you should find another purpose. Start a business. Volunteer. Run for Congress. Maybe make yourself a really awesome bucket list and start accomplishing those goals! But don't just sit in the rocking chair reading the obituaries every morning. Stay in the game.
I think this will be easy enough for me to do. For one thing, it's going to be a very long time before I can even afford to retire!
- Floss -- Yes, they said floss. This decreases the mouth bacteria that can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels. I don't floss that often. I ought to start.
- Get enough sleep -- Yes, sleeping is good for you. This is a significant issue for me. I am very bad at going to bed on time. As I write this, it is currently 12:18 am Pacific time. But I'll be heading to bed soon. As soon as I finish this page. Really. Promise.
- Get your nutrition from whole food, not supplements -- The vitamins and minerals that are available through supplements cannot take the place of the host of nutrients found in real food.
- Manage your stress -- I'm not sure how I do on this. I don't go around feeling highly anxious that often, but I am sort of a chronic low-level worrier. Is that a normal part of life, or am I stressed? I need to do more research about that.
- Have solid routines for your daily way of life -- Having routines about things like sleep, work, eating, and relaxation keeps the body regulated and is good for long-term health. My daily life tends to be disorganized and chaotic. Definitely room for improvement on this one.
What's standing in the way of YOUR 100th birthday?
In which of these life-prolonging behaviors do YOU need the most improvement?
Books about longevity - These are book by or about centenarians
Out of the "how to live to be 100" books I saw on Amazon, this one seemed to be the strongest in citing research to support its claims.