Health and Fitness

The Secrets of Centenarians

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How would you like to blow out 100 birthday candles? More than 84,000 people living in the U.S. today have reached that mark, and the number of centenarians (100-year-olds) is expected to increase to 580,000 by 2040.* Per Capita Iowa ranks third in the nation in the number of centenarians.

Many scientists estimate that longevity is based 20% on genetics, with 80% determined by your lifestyle choices and environment.

A Day in the Life

A poll of 100 people who turned 100 in 2010 provides a snapshot of the healthy habits that keep them going strong:*

More than 80% communicate with a friend or family member daily. At Amelia House, a senior living residence in Council Bluffs, seniors can socialize with like-minded individuals in an independent and friendly environment.

Three out of four eat nutritionally balanced meals every day.

75% get eight hours or more of sleep.

72% laugh or giggle every day.

62% pray, meditate or engage in spiritual activity daily.

Four in 10 stay active by walking or hiking at least once a week; 31% stay active by gardening. Some have access to an exercise program and scheduled transportation to activities and events.

32% of the centenarians eat organic foods regularly.

17% are currently doing some type of volunteer work.

An increasing proportion of centenarians are also staying sharp by using new technologies: 12% have listened to music on an iPod or similar device, 11% have watched a video on YouTube and 8% have sent a text or instant message.

Community Is Key

Centenarians often live in close-knit communities where stress levels are low and the connection to nature is high, with a clean environment and plenty of fresh air and good water. Researchers are learning that where you live — and how you live — are significant factors in longevity.

Some centenarians claim a single habit as the key to long life, such as doing crossword puzzles, drinking a glass of wine a day or singing in the shower. But it’s far more likely that the right combination of healthy habits, social connections, brain-boosting activities, good genes — and a little luck — are the secrets to living 100 years or more.

* Source: U.S. Census Bureau.   * Source: Evercare by United Healthcare May 2010 100@100 Survey, 

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