Living to 100 is much more likely if you have a healthy weight—very few centenarians are obese and in fact, most of the men are lean. But nutrition goals go beyond achieving a healthy weight: The diet that’s most linked to lower risk of chronic disease and a longer life is one that emphasizes moderation, and relies on mostly plant-based foods and less on animal products. It definitely doesn’t include much processed food and it doesn’t resemble the typical Western or American diet.• Don’t Smoke!
But you needn’t necessarily become vegetarian.
The longest living Americans (as a group) are probably The Seventh Day Adventists, whose health habits—dictated by their religion—include vegetarianism.
On the other hand, the island of Okinawa, Japan, is home to some of the leanest and longest-lived people on earth. Their diet isn’t vegetarian but light in calories and heavy with plants. They eat mainly foods with low caloric density.
The classic Mediterranean diet—also associated in studies with good health and a longer lifespan—is also plant-rich and relies on vegetables, fruits, beans and grains, fish and a little meat and poultry. It is, in my opinion, extremely delicious, very practical and relatively easy to cook.
There’s no doubt about it—smoking is the cause of many serious diseases and shortens life. There are very few people with a substantial smoking history that achieved long and healthy lives and they’re the exception which proves the rule.
Physical activity is key for health maintenance and for prolonging life. Physical activity doesn’t require a gym membership, running a marathon or the latest exercise trend. Walking and leading an active lifestyle are much more typical of the studied centenarians. If you want to keep your mind fully engaged you’ll need to exercise your brain, too. Mental stimulation improves brain function and protects against cognitive decline, as does physical exercise.
Long-lived people seem to be better at handling stress. There is no universal recipe for stress reduction, though. I personally find that being out in nature is the best stress-relief—it beats even yoga. But I’ll admit I forget all about the importance of stress reduction when I’m busy and stressed.Dr. Perls also advises good sleep, aspirin (although aspirin for healthy people that aren’t at special risk for heart attacks is falling out of favor lately) and tooth flossing for a longer life—but the topics above are generally considered the biggies.
Social connectedness also appears often in recipes for healthy and long lives. Are meaningful relationships also a tool in stress reduction? Probably, although some might argue with that as they recall, for example, stressful family gatherings.
“Most of the studies we examined do not provide strong evidence for beneficial health-related effects of supplements taken singly, in pairs, or in combinations of three or more…However, several other studies also provide disturbing evidence of risk, such as increased lung cancer risk with β-carotene use among smokers.”Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, beta carotene, folate and the mineral selenium, are heavily promoted as disease-prevention and anti-aging tools. But the antioxidant supplements failed miserably in clinical trials; they haven’t been shown to protect against heart disease cancer or stroke, and in fact their use has been associated with increased mortality.