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BEYOND BODY

To 100 and Beyond!

By: Marc Evans Abat, MD, FPCP, FPCGMTo 100 and Beyond!

I will be honest – I really do not have a lot of 100-ish-year-old patients that you can really converse with clearly and ask for expert advice on how to be 100. The following information will come from advice readily available online plus some of my own observations based on my patients.

First and foremost, before being envious of people reaching 100 years of age or more, you must consider that reaching this age should be accompanied by having the best quality of life possible.  It is hard to fathom a life at that age when you are entirely confined to bed, spending your days and nights in a room, and totally dependent on all activities of daily living.  But the good news is, we are now able to capitalize on the insights of those who are currently living or those who have lived actively and gracefully to age 100 or more.

They will always say: It’s in our genes!  A robust genetic makeup is one dominant aspect of living long.  Centenarians most likely have parents or grandparents who lived longer.  This may also partly explain why some people live long despite having a few bad habits here and there.  Some of the adverse effects of bad lifestyle decisions are mitigated to some extent by their good genetic makeup; you can hear it from a lot of folks – people who were smokers but lived long or people eating tons of bacon and other fatty food but living to a ripe age.  And yet somehow, the complexities of their genetics had protected them up to a considerable extent.

Lifestyle still has a significant effect.  More importantly, studies both local and abroad show that these lifestyle patterns should be started when we are younger and should be sustained until late in life.  Practicing a healthy lifestyle later on may have fewer benefits because damage to the body has already set in on top of changes related to aging.  Many super seniors would attest to moderation in everything: diet, alcohol intake, exercise, sleep, and work.  However, there would always be some variation. 

Many would attest to a lean healthy diet (and there would be a lot like Mediterranean, DASH, Weight Watchers, etc.) but a few would also swear by occasional indulgences to guilty pleasures although infrequent.  Most have avoided alcohol, but some indulge in a shot of whiskey or bottle of beer daily.  Exercise seems to be a very potent aspect needed to live long, as most of these centenarians have been physically active (either through work or athletics) since they were young.  Many have also maintained a lean body structure because of being active, or at least, have maintained a significant amount of muscle mass.  Most, if not all, have avoided tobacco smoking.

Centenarians also make sure they have a sharp mind and this had started even when they were young.  Their curiosity and zest for learning did not stop after retirement.  Learning also is not limited to books, while ever-reliable tools to maintain learning, or to traditional academics.  With the widening of horizons through improvements in transportation, traveling provides a unique avenue for further learning. The Internet and other available technology have also helped many seniors, including centenarians to learn about their changing world.

The emotional heart should also be nurtured.  Keeping connections with friends and other seniors, family, and colleagues provide the centenarian with renewed zest to live.  As many of them will say: Being happy is important, showing and giving love so much more.  That happiness translates to many habits: wearing racy lingerie, enjoying pranks on friends, eating chocolate every now and then, and indulging in bourbon or red wine daily.  Again, it seems that emotional well-being may unwittingly mitigate some of the adverse effects of bad habits.

Finally, all will say that one should live stress-free.  If a problem can be solved, then one should not worry.  If something cannot be solved any which way, then avoid worrying also.  The later years are too short to be spent worrying about every little thing.

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