Advancements in medicine and technology make it seem like anything can be accomplished — even growing old.
Aging is a reality for all of us, but there has been a recent increase in life expectancies, according to the National Institutes of Health. More and more people are reaching the golden age of one hundred years old.
These individuals, commonly referred to as centenarians, comprise one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the country. There are currently about 70,000 Americans who have reached the incredible 100-year mark, but that number is expected to rise to about 600,000 by 2050, according to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau.
What is it that keeps these bodies going decades longer than the average individual? According to U.S. News Health results from studies of centenarians, it seems there isn’t one definite cause that causes extreme longevity. Genetics, lifestyle and personality all add to reaching that magic number.
Centenarians are 20 times as likely as the average person to have a long-lived relative, according to Dr. Nir Barzilai, a geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
Few things seem to be as important as having a long-lived family, according to Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine at Boston University. Perls, who manages the world’s largest study of centenarians, found that about 50 percent of centenarians have first-degree relatives or grandparents who had also achieved very old age, and many have exceptionally old siblings as well. Men with centenarian siblings have nearly a 17 times greater chance than other men of living to 100 and women with centenarian siblings have a 9 times greater chance.
According to the Perls, lifestyle choices are the most important key to living a long healthy life. Excessively drinking alcohol, smoking, eating red meat and not controlling stress can decrease life expectancy. A healthy lifestyle means a healthier future.
The mental side of one’s lifestyle plays an immense role in aging as well. Understanding age-related psychological change remains essential for advancing understanding of how age impacts behaviors and decisions that shape our social relationships, physical and mental health and even physical functions.
The oldest person to have ever lived, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was Jeanne Louise Calment. She died in France in 1997 at the age of 122. In a New York Times article, she stressed the importance of relaxation.
“If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry about it,” she said.