Healthy Aging Tips From Centenarians

Everyone would love to live to a ripe old age, but not if it means looking and feeling like an overripe old vegetable. I have seen centenarians around the world who defy our stereotypes of the aging experience.

Everyone would love to live to a ripe old age, but not if it means looking and feeling like an overripe old vegetable. I have seen centenarians around the world who defy our stereotypes of the aging experience.

Over 20 years ago, while in Shanghai, I took note of the thousands of seniors – a great many of them centenarians – meeting up in parks each morning to practice tai chi. I was truly amazed by their agility, sharp minds and overall state of health. Intrigued by this discovery, I began studying the lifestyle and habits of centenarians around the world. Here are a few secrets of longevity that will have you looking forward to your 100th birthday!

Tai Chi: An Exercise in Anti-aging
Tai chi, the choreographed meditative exercises that have been a healing art in China for thousands of years, is practiced by over 100 million people worldwide and owes its popularity to a simple fact: It is enjoyable and it makes you stronger. Recent studies confirm that when practiced regularly – 30 minutes, three times a week – it has numerous health benefits including: increased energy, decreased stress, an immunity boost against viruses, lowered blood pressure, better cognitive functioning, increased joint mobility, an improved cholesterol profile, relief from fibromyalgia symptoms, and even a better night’s sleep. It also increases leg muscle strength and provides better balance and posture.

Perhaps the best part is that tai chi is a gentle exercise that can be performed by anyone at any age. For an instructional video, click here.

Centenarians I have met also take advantage of other rejuvenation techniques the Chinese have known for thousands of years, like acupuncture, acupressure and energy healing. These techniques increase energy, promote health, and balance the body and the mind.

Diet: The Cornerstone of Longevity

It is no surprise that diet is an essential factor to health and longevity. So, what should you be eating? In my studies, I found that the centenarians of two reputed “longevity capitals” – Okinawa, Japan, and Rugao County, a rural community four hours north of Shanghai – shared a nearly identical diet. These long-lifers eat mostly fish, vegetables, mushrooms, seaweed, corn and buckwheat – and virtually no meat. Scientists have confirmed the health benefits of a diet high in fish and vegetables and low in other animal products. These centenarians are living examples, as they suffer from very little heart and liver disease and have negligible rates of cancer and degenerative diseases.

When it comes to longevity, environment is half of the equation. From the verdant valleys of Ecuador and the rugged mountains of Armenia to the pristine foothills of the Himalayas, centenarians live in environments that exhibit the same characteristics: clean air, good water, low stress, close communities and unspoiled nature.

Take a tip from these centenarians and drink only filtered water. Connect with your community in a positive way. Find every way you can to bring nature into your life, from planting more trees in your area to keeping a few houseplants. Avoid the environmental factors that are damaging to our wellbeing and planet. Learn what to look out for; a few things to avoid include pesticides used on vegetables, hormones injected into meat, and dioxins from bleached paper products.

Keep It Simple!
Centenarian lifestyles are simple. The centenarians I have known lead active lives and get plenty of rest. They are dedicated lifelong learners and avid travelers. Enjoy your years and you will have many more years to enjoy!

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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