msn health and fitness
First there’s #HowOldRobot— the app that tells you how old you look (come on, we know you tried it). Now there’s a calculator that predicts how old you might live. But unlike Microsoft’s app, the Living to 100 Calculator is based on actual science, and Thomas Perls, M.D., a geriatrician at Boston Medical Center and professor at Boston University School of Medicine, created it so you can easily guesstimate your lifespan. Of course, your odds of becoming a centenarian are partly based on your genes, but there are a few helpful habits the app proves you can pick up even if you don’t hit the genetic jackpot. Learn ’em now and who knows—maybe you’ll be blowing out 100 candles on your b-day cake.
YOU’RE MORE PHOEBE THAN MONICA.
That is, you do your best not to be neurotic like the ultra-competitive chef on Friends, According to findings from Boston University’s 20-year-long centenarian study, those who live longest don’t dwell on things, and they tend to let their feelings be known when something bothers them. “Internalizing stress can translate into a range of diseases, like hypertension and cardiovascular disease,” which could obviously lead to an earlier death, says Dr. Perls. So if you’re typically wound tighter than a Slinky, channel your inner Phoebes and try meditating, running freely through the park, or maybe even belting out your best rendition of Smelly Cat.
YOU HAVE LOTS OF FRIENDS.
And not just Facebook friends. A review of 70 studies with more than 3.4 million participants found that people who were socially isolated were at a 29 percent higher risk for early death. And those who simply felt lonely—even if they had friends—were at a 26 percent higher risk. Translation: quit viewing time with pals as negotiable. Brunch with your bestie or book club with your girlfriends is just what the doctor ordered.
Next time you feel guilty about casually running along while a marathoner blazes by, pat yourself on the back—you’re likely to live longer (and, let’s be honest, feel a lot less pain when you get home). A 12-year study of healthy joggers and non-joggers found that 1 to 2.4 hours of jogging per week at about a 12-minute mile pace netted the lowest mortality rate. Shockingly, the fastest joggers had about the same risk of death as the couch potatoes, possibly because very strenuous cardio over decades could affect the heart. Now, we’re not saying that you’re better off being sedentary, but the old adage may be true: slow and steady really does win the race.
YOU’RE A GO-GETTER.
Out of the following two statements, think about which you agree with more: “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them” and “I sometimes feel as if I’ve done all there is to do in life.” If you lean toward the former, you likely have a greater sense of purpose, and researchers found that that typically means you’ll live longer. The takeaway: Setting goals is good for your lifespan, and no, you don’t have to aspire to be president like Mellie Grant. Things like “read one new book a month,” “register for a 5K,” or “take a sewing class” are equally as beneficial.
YOU LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE.
If “It’s not about the years in your life, but the life in your years” is a mantra you live by, well, you’re likely to hang around a lot longer. A small study found that centenarians tend to be optimistic and consider laughter an important part of life, while another revealed that the majority of 100-year-olds think laughing and having a sense of humor is crucial for healthy aging. But listen, we get it—sometimes your day just isn’t going in a glass-half-full direction. When that happens, do your best to incorporate more giggles into your day. A weekly date with The Tonight Show or a queue of funny cat videos could be just what you need to reach those golden years.
YOU GET THOSE QUALITY ZZZ’S.
Forget “I can sleep when I’m dead.” A United Healthcare survey revealed that super agers make bedtime a priority, with 79 percent of ’em regularly logging eight or more hours each night. “Sleep is exceptionally important for healthy aging,” says Dr. Perls. When you rest, your body gets to work on vital functions and your cells and tissues recover from the stresses of daily life. Not to mention studies have linked too few zzz’s to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and a weakened immune system. To reap the rewards, try to go to bed and wake up at consistent times (yes, even on the weekends), avoid caffeine in the afternoon, and use your bed primarily for sleep and sex (not TV, phone calls, or work).
YOU GO ON VACATION.
Consider this yet another reason to book that beach getaway. A study in Psychosomatic Medicine found that men who took an annual vacation were 19 percent less likely to die, and an earlier study found that women who vacayed at least twice a year had a significantly lower risk of heart disease than those who only got away every six years or less. “It’s possible that people who take regular vacations prioritize time off and down-time, and this provides protection from disease,” says study author Brooks B. Gumps, Ph.D., a public health professor at Syracuse University.
YOU EAT LIKE THE ITALIANS.
We’re not talking about Olive Garden and Sbarro—we mean the diet found in the olive-growing regions of Mediterranean countries. Researchers in Italy looked at the eating habits of people in western Sicily (an area that has six times as many centenarians as the rest of the country) and, sure enough, the older folks ate a typical Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats from olive oils, nuts, and seeds, while avoiding red meat, refined carbs, and sweets. Snack on fruit or nuts, eat fish at least twice a week, and flavor your food with herbs and spices to mimic the lifestyle.
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YOU HAVE KIDS LATER.
Gone are the days of having kids in your early 20s, and now science says it’s cool if you want to make your career the priority for a while. Many centenarian women have a history of bearing children after 35; one study even found that women who gave birth after the age of 40 (without fertility assistance) increased their odds of reaching 100 four-fold. “It’s not that becoming a mom later in life promotes longevity,” says Dr. Perls. “Rather, it’s an indicator that a woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly and the rest of her body likely is as well.”
YOUR DENTIST LOVES YOU.
Taking care of your pearly whites goes hand in hand with longevity, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Dr. Perls and his team of researchers discovered that people who lived to 100 were unlikely to use dentures, and most of their own teeth were still in tact. “This makes sense because gum disease is associated with inflammation and heart disease,” says Dr. Perls. Time to bust out the floss again, and this time actually use it.
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