After reading about Japan’s world leading 80,000 centenarians I’ve been keen to learn about the secrets of longevity.
I found this article, originally published in 2013, about Katharine Weber, of Winnipeg, Canada fascinating, then 102 – she lived another for another five years – here she shares her eight secrets to a longer, healthier and fuller life.
1. Never act your age
In Okinawa, Japan, a region with the longest-living people in the world, residents are considered children until they hit 55, and a ritual called kajimaya heralds a return to youth on their 97th birthdays. In Sardinia, Italy, the traditional greeting, a kent’annos (“May you live to be 100”) is appropriate in a place where age is celebrated and people work into their 90s. Katharine has never stopped searching for new experiences. In her 70s, she toured across Russia, Siberia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. A decade later, she made two treks to China. “Age has never stood in her way,” says her niece Katharine Bergbusch.
2. Shut down stress
Consciously keeping stress at bay is also proven to be key in reducing your risk of chronic inflammation and keeping cortisol levels low (research shows prolonged cortisol spikes may accelerate aging, damaging areas of the brain associated with memory). The best way to battle stress is to carve out time for the hobbies you enjoy. It’s also important to find time in your day for quiet reflection. Research shows meditation may increase the activity of enzymes that rebuild telomeres, the sequences of DNA linked to aging that act like the plastic ends of shoelaces — the more they fray, the more you show your age.
3. Eat quality
Calorie restriction (CR) — eating 30 percent fewer calories per day without eliminating essential proteins, vitamins and minerals — has the potential to extend life and slow aging. In recent studies of rhesus monkeys, with whom we share 95 percent of our genes, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have followed the primates for over 20 years and found CR delayed the onset of many age-related diseases. Even more compelling: Those who consumed fewer calories were stronger and looked younger than their counterparts on regular diets. Twenty years after the study began, 80 percent of the calorie-restricted monkeys were still alive, compared with 50 percent of the monkeys on normal diets.
4. Sleep and have sex
“Most North Americans live in sleep deficit,” says Wassef. “If you look at long-lived cultures, you’ll see they get routine, adequate sleep. They prioritise it and they don’t feel guilty about it.” Lack of sleep can offset important hormonal balances and it contributes to weight gain, depression and heart disease. A little nocturnal action also has lifelong benefits. A study by Duke Medical Center in North Carolina found a woman’s past enjoyment of sex (indicating a history of a healthy, active sex life) was one of the top three most important predictors for increased and enhanced longevity, adding as much as four extra years.
5. Move every day
Exercising today offers benefits beyond tomorrow. Yoga, dance, tai chi and other core-building workouts improve balance to help you avoid falls as you age. Research shows the fountain of youth may flow between the treadmill and dumbbells. “Muscles weaken with age; physical activity helps rejuvenate their stem cells and promote circulation,” says Dafna Benayahu, a medical researcher at Tel Aviv University. “Regular workouts may undo signs of aging elsewhere in the body.” One study found the cells of gym users who clocked 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week looked about 10 years younger than non-exercisers.
All the way across the globe, centenarians cherish close ties. In Okinawa, they form part of a person’s ikigai, or reason to live. Elders connect with young people and report some of the lowest depression levels in the world. “Centenarians generally don’t stay isolated,” says Wassef. “Prolonged loneliness can weaken the immune system.” He points to a study involving 7,000 people: Women who felt friendless were five times more likely to die from breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.
7. Tweet about it
There’s a growing movement in social networking among the 65-and-older set. Nearly half of all internet users are between the ages of 50 and 64, and social networking among those 50 and older rose from 22 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2010. Googling grandmas report up to a 30-percent decrease in loneliness and symptoms of depression, according to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. On weekday mornings, Katharine does crossword or Sudoku puzzles and catches up on the Winnipeg Free Press to help her stay sharp.
8. Just believe
A survey of centenarians found almost a quarter attributed longevity to their faith. Katharine doesn’t fear death, but she also doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. Instead, she finds peace in her belief in a higher power and the goodness of people. Even if you’re not religious, you can tap into the power of belief, whether it’s getting involved in your community, volunteering for a cause you find important or finding peace outdoors in nature.
Read the full article here.