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Living past 100

by jmaloni
Mon, Aug 29th 2011 07:00 am

by Jeff Paterson

I have to chuckle when I read an obituary that describes someone as a "centurion." Centurions were Roman soldiers, and no one alive today is old enough to have served in Caesar's army.

People who hit the 100-year mark are properly called "centenarians," and there are more of them all the time. The Census Bureau estimates that the number of American centenarians will grow from about 105,000 today to about 601,000 in 2050.

Currently, about 90 percent of centenarians are women. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, aging experts agree that women have an edge in longevity due to hormones, genetics, natural immunity, and behavior.

Indeed, longevity comes from our genes as well as our life choices. We may not be able to control our genes, but we certainly can control our behavior. Here are some strategies for adding years to our life and life to our years:

•Physical activity contributes to longevity. A study by the University Medical Center of Rotterdam in the Netherlands found that regular, moderate physical activity can add anywhere from one to three years to people's lives.

•It also pays to be with other people. A Harvard study showed that socializing is as important as exercise when it comes to living longer.

•A recent Berkeley study found that those who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die early. The only activity with a slightly greater health benefit was to quit smoking.

•On that subject, a study in the American Journal of Public Health said that smokers who quit at age 35 lived 6.1 to 8.5 years longer than continuing smokers. Even those who quit later in life saw benefits. Smokers who quit at age 65 added one to three years to their lives.

Here's to our centenarians, present and future!

Jeff Paterson is HANCI's communication director. Information about HANCI is available at 285-8224 or www.hanci.com.

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