Have you thought what your life would be like if you lived to be over 100 years old? If you imagine yourself disabled and miserable, you might be happily surprised to learn of the results of a recent medical research study from England that examined the medical records of more than 35,000 people who died in the UK from 2001 to 2010.
Researchers are studying centenarians more than ever, since this is a rapidly growing segment of the population. In the UK, the number of people over 100 years old doubles about every decade.
Many of these people did not have easy lives. They lived through two world wars, a deadly worldwide flu epidemic in 1918, and many overcame personal health crises when they were younger. But somehow they survived through all this and managed to reach a very old age.
Interestingly, the main finding of the research, published June 3 in PLOS Medicine, was that many of those over 100 years did not linger and suffer chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and dementia—these were the diseases that affected the “younger” population of people under age 99.
The people who died at over 100 years were more likely to die from a sudden decline in their health, whereas the younger group—under 100 years—were more likely to die of chronic conditions. For example, among those age 80 to 85 years, 19% died of heart disease and 24% died of cancer. For centenarians, those percentages were 9% and 4%.
Among centenarians, the most common cause of death was frailty or “old age” (28%), followed by pneumonia (18%). Death certificates in the UK are considered highly reliable, so the frailty or “old age” cause of death indicates that the individual probably did not die from some underlying chronic disease. The centenarians were less likely than people 80 to 99 years to spend long periods in the hospital or intensive care unit; the oldest people were more likely to die relatively suddenly (probably the better alternative).
Much medical research is focused on how these people live so long. Animal studies indicate that about 30% of longevity s determined by our genes, but that 70% is determined by your lifestyle, diet, and many factors under your own control.
The factors that lead to an extremely long life are both physical and behavioral. Centenarians typically were non-smokers, not obese, kept physically active, ate a healthy diet, and got adequate sleep.
But the behavioral factors might be just as important. Being easygoing and extroverted seems to help longevity, as well as having a real purpose in your life. Keeping busy doing things you love is important. Some people kept working even after age 100 if they loved their work, but one feature of happy old people is that many of them were generous in helping others. They often put others’ needs before their own.
A positive, optimistic attitude appears to be important, along with avoiding excessive stress, anxiety, or depression. Happiness and laughing appears to do wonders for your immune system, decreasing the general level of inflammation in the body. A popular medical theory is that this inflammation—worsened by factors such as smoking, lack of sleep, and obesity—is a main cause of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
We hope that by following our posts, you might learn many of the hints that will help you live beyond 100 if that is what you want!
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