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How to live to 100

How long can a person possibly live? Any tips on how we can live that long? —jordana_ql@gmail.com

Scientists who studied survival data dating back to 1900 from more than 40 countries have calculated that the absolute limit of human lifespan is 125 years. Only a few people have gotten close to that limit. The oldest verified person on record was a Frenchwoman, Jeanne Calment (1875 to 1997), who lived to be 122 years and 164 days.

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Determinants of lifespan

Our maximum lifespan is dictated by the genes that we have inherited from our parents. At birth, we are already programmed to grow old and die. Currently, researchers have already identified some of the genes—which act in concert with each other—that influence health and life expectancy. Those among us who have been lucky enough to have inherited superior genes have a shot at 125, but even the unlucky ones, experts say, can realistically hope to live to 100.

Although our maximum lifespan is determined by our genes, how long we live is defined by our lifestyle. Thus, a person with superior genes is not guaranteed a life span that is longer than that of lesser mortals because an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to chronic diseases and premature death.

The major lifestyle factors associated with chronic diseases are smoking, an unhealthy diet, and sedentary living. The chronic disorders, on the other hand, that cause most premature deaths are obesity, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. Thus, to markedly increase your odds of living to a ripe old age, you simply need to address the factors and disorders listed above and a few others that likewise contribute to premature aging and death.

Proven measures for a long life

We should be able to live our maximum lifespan if we:

Do not smoke. Science has long ago established that smoking causes lung and a variety of other cancers. Furthermore, smoking also causes cardiovascular and respiratory diseases including atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes.

Maintain a desirable body weight. Excess weight increases one’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, high blood levels of cholesterol, gall bladder disease, sexual and reproductive problems, sleep apnea, and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, and some cancers.

Eat a healthy diet—low-salt, low-fat, high-fiber with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Cutting back on salt is the most important step to a healthy diet. A high sodium diet increases blood pressure.

Exercise regularly. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days a week. Exercise can come in a variety of ways—jogging, walking, swimming, dancing, doing household chores, etc.

Monitor blood pressure and fasting blood sugar. Hypertension or diabetes mellitus, if they arise, should be controlled with the help of a physician.

Drink moderately. While moderate amounts of alcohol have been linked to some health benefits, overindulging increases the risk of certain cancers and liver disease. It also contributes to high blood pressure.

Get enough sleep. There is no activity that enables the body to recuperate as much as a good night sleep.

Become socially active. People who keep in touch with friends and relatives are less susceptible to depression. They also tend to recover from illnesses faster.

Learn to handle stress. Leave your worries in the office. Start a hobby. Unwind by listening to music, taking a walk, etc.

Email inquiries on health matters to: medical_notes@yahoo.com