How Not To Die: Centenarians Across the Globe


There’s a way to make it to the ripe age of 100, or even longer – hundreds of people across the globe have been around since as early as WWI! From Hojancha, Costa Rica, Okinawa, Japan to Loma Linda, California, centenarians have been living simple lifestyles that have supported their longevity. The commonalities are consistent and quite simple to implement into our busy, on-the-go lifestyles.

How Not To Die: Centenarians Across the Globe

Healthy Eating Habits

According to Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons For Living Longer, “The secret to eating right for the long run is emulating the environment and habits of the world’s longest-lived people.

A plant-based diet is a huge piece of what’s allowed centenarians to thrive. The majority of centenarians across the globe never had the chance to develop a taste for or even a habit to consume highly-processed foods. A traditional diet of plant-based foods has been consistent for the majority, if not all, of these centenarians’ lives. Most of them actually cultivate their own fruits and vegetables in their gardens, as well as the staples in their cultures (i.e., durum wheat, sweet potatoes, maize, etc.). These foods have provided tons of health benefits over time.

Several centenarians also believe that Earth sustains life through plants which provide us with all
the nutrients we need in order to survive. There has been evidence that some centenarians eat meat, but only on special occasion. This is due to the limited availability and high cost of meat, only allowing for occasional meat consumption during holidays or family gatherings. However, the majority of a centenarian diet consists of beans, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fresh non-GMO fruits and vegetables.

Movement is Key

We all know that exercise is important and that it leads to a happier, healthier you. So what makes centenarians so different from the general population when it comes to being active?

We tend to focus on specific workouts, or even just one general type of exercise, such as running, biking, or
weight lifting. According to David Buettner, centenarians engage in regular, low-intensity physical
activity through daily routines. A routine is established and each day brings an expected combination of muscle-strengthening, balancing, and aerobic activities.
While some centenarians spend time each day ‘exercising’, many consider the daily work they’re involved in as their movement. Whether it be construction, dog walking, or even a run-around mother of three, daily movement will continue to support our longevity.

Consider ways to add extra movement into your day. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, ride your bike rather than drive your car, or even take a nightly stroll in the park. Centenarians continually push themselves to keep their body working as long as possible.

Minimize Stress

Our Western societies require long, strenuous work hours, leaving us with minimal time to enjoy the simple things in life. Centenarians set time aside each day to either meet up with loved ones, rest in the middle of the day, or spend time out in nature. Slowing down allows us to appreciate the beauty around us and gives us time to connect with ourselves. When we find time to explore our spiritual side, we increase our levels of dopamine, our ‘feel-good hormones’, and serotonin, our ‘happy hormones’. We’re better able to truly see the world around us, rather than what we wish it to be.

When we think about stress, very few know what it actually does to the body. A body’s natural response to stress is to increase inflammation. Stress can be stemmed from anything – work, family, environment, etc. As stress increases, so does inflammation. This could lead to several illnesses and diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.

Live With Purpose

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No matter one’s age, personal goals are a huge part of continual growth. Centenarians also believe that daily exercise for the brain is extremely important. This can reduce chances of Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, strokes, and even stress. Push yourself in a new direction that is challenging. Learn a new language, pick up a skill that you’ve always wanted to try, or even teach yourself to play an instrument.

Take some time to maximize your mental sharpness. Dr. Thomas Perls of Boston University Medical School says, “It’s just like strength training, only for your brain.”


Author: Erica Reichstein

Image Credit: Getty Images