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Happy 150th Birthday: Is It Possible?

May 24, 2012 06:10PM ● By Erin Frisch

Happy Birthday

If he and those who knew him are to be believed, Li Ching-Yuen lived a remarkably long life. Although investigators saw no difference between him and any Chinese man in his 60s, Li Ching-Yuen was supposedly 265 years old at the time of his death in 1933. While most people cannot imagine living to half that age, there are researchers who believe that the first generation of humans who can expect to celebrate their 150th birthdays may already be here.

By 2008, America boasted 84,000 citizens over 100 years old. Believe it or not, most of these were not frail elders on life support, barely able to function. Many centenarians remain active—even working—well past the age that most people have retired. This may be one of the secrets to their longevity. Regular exercise such as walking or swimming for 30 minutes at least three times a week has been shown to extend life expectancy by several years.

Modern medicine also has a role to play in the longevity of the population, but it’s not the main role that people would expect. You may think that living to 150 would come with a lot of health problems that could affect quality of life. However, with the advances that have been made in preventive medicine, there is no reason to think that you or anyone else who makes it to 150 can’t do so without the debilitating illnesses that the present population of elderly suffer. There are tests now that can detect cancers at their earliest stages and measures that can help patients prevent strokes, heart attacks, and Type 2 diabetes. For those who wish to live past the century mark in good health, the main role a doctor should play is helping them to stay well—which means helping to prevent them from getting sick in the first place.

Of course, medical advances are not the only factor determining how long a person may live. There are genetic factors as well that can help predict a person’s life expectancy. If your parents lived to a ripe old age, there is a better chance that you will too. Scientists have discovered genetic mutations that appear to extend the life expectancy of certain mice. They have also observed certain genetic variations among people that are similar to those in centenarians, but not present in the rest of the population. Since you can’t control your genes, it’s a better idea to deal with the factors you can control.

Besides exercise and regular checkups and screenings, another thing you can do to live longer is to eat a healthy diet. Doctors stress the importance of eating plenty of green, leafy vegetables as well as getting enough fiber. This is critical, as the difference between this generation’s potential longevity and the possibility of dying at ages younger than the preceding generation is our rate of obesity.

Another factor is the link between religion, friends, and long life. It appears that social interaction is crucial to human health, so maintaining and nurturing relationships is another way to celebrate more candles on your cake.

Finally, you need to continually challenge yourself. Word puzzles, learning new languages, and learning to play an instrument are all ways to make sure that your mind stays as healthy as your body. Maybe 100 will be the new 80.

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