What Does it Take to Reach 100?

We all feel that we are invincible until we are not. Every passing year gives rise to new ailments and pains. But there are always a lucky few that do not seem to have as many problems as others. Those lucky few can even live up to 100 years old and beyond! These incredibly formidable people are often affectionately nicknamed “centenarians”. 

Many have questions on how these individuals make it to 100 years old and there may be some varying reasons as to why. Most become vulnerable due to time and chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and memory loss. They also are vulnerable to the stresses of life like their job, family and finances. A lot of studies that examined the health factors of centenarians found that their own feelings about their health is a strong indicator of survival. So how centenarians react to their life experiences and stress indicate that most of them are happy and open people. Another important factor of living longer is physical activity. Centenarians tend to have a more active lifestyle throughout their life and well into their 90s. 

There are several parts of the world where becoming centenarian is almost normal. Those places are Sardinia (Italy), the islands of Okinawa (Japan), Loma Lina (California), Nicoya (Costa Rica), and Ikaria (Greece). Theses places have had routine studies centered around these anomalies compared to the rest of the world. What was found was that these centenarians did not have any semblance of heart issues, dementia, or depression. The United States and many other countries do not have many living centenarians compared to the mentioned above places due to high prevalence of heart diseases and cancer. 

If we could examine Sardina, Okinawa and Loma Lina, we can have a sense of what their centenarians have in common. Some of the similarities seen are family, no smoking, plant-based diets, exercise, and social engagement. Family is a priority to centenarians and are often the center of their lives. Smoking is obviously a dangerous activity and should be avoided at all costs. Including a plant based diet in one’s life helps rid them of toxic foods and keeps them informed of healthy options. Engaging in exercise that is low level like gardening and hiking are more preferable and easier on the body. And finally, social engagement that includes social interactions with friends and family is also beneficial. 

Besides habitual and behaviors of centenarians, it is found that the genetic of these remarkable people matter. Genes and environment are very important factors for longevity but one outweighs the other depending on the stage of life. It is studied with many centenarians throughout the world that their genes only influence whether they will be able to push past the age of 90. And those that live past 90 most likely are of clear state of mind and have less familial degenerative problems passed down to them. 

Many can look at their health expectancy versus life expectancy. Health expectancy is known as the number of years ahead of you at any given age compared to life expectancy which is known as the number of years you are expected to live to. It has been found recently that health expectancy is increasing slowly and steadily than life expectancy so basically people will tend to be in good health until late in life. This is what has caused the life expectancy to increase in many developed countries (almost up to 80).   

All in all, no one really has a choice of whether they can live to be 100 or beyond in age. One can be lucky or unlucky but as acknowledged above, there are several habits that can be picked up on that can increase your chances of a healthy life, whether or not that helps you to live up to a 100 years old. Every year, the bracket of centenarians living increases as healthcare improves and that is exciting. A generation that has lived to see World War 1 and everything after brings into perspective how much the world has changed and how much this generation has lived through. 






Radhika-Alicia Patel