Have you ever wondered about how the longest living people in the world reach such advanced ages?
That might raise additional questions…
How many years have passed in your lifetime? How much have you aged?
These may seem like the same questions worded differently, but honestly, they are not. How many years have passed in your lifetime is related to the physics concept of time. Time is not the date on the calendar or the hour on your watch. Time is a humanmade concept to represent the measurement of how we move through space.
How much you have aged is your perception of your age. Currently, there is an expression of “40 is the new 20” or “I’m 70 years young”. These are the perfect representations of how our perception of age can change how we feel and how we feel can change how we age. These concepts, along with understanding our bodies, aid us in living longer and better lives. Researchers reveal what the longest living people in the world have in common.
The biology of aging
Put simply, aging is the process of our various cells either no longer regenerating, recycling abnormally, or no longer working correctly.
Our entire body is made up of cells. Groups of cells make up tissue, and groups of tissue form together to make up our organs and muscles. In youth, our organs have no need to work at maximum capability, which provides us with a reserve. After age 30, we start to use up that reserve at 1% a year.
At some point, we are no longer using a reserve, and we are using up what we have. The less we take care of ourselves, the faster we burn up cells because they are functioning in a less than optimal environment and having to work harder.
Which cells become affected or the speed that they are affected can vary from person to person. One person may demonstrate heart damage at 45, where another may only demonstrate joint weakness. Specialists who study aging, gerontologists, believe there are multiple variables that contribute to these inconsistencies.
Common health indicators of aging
These are just a few:
- Your genetics or hereditary traits
- The environments in which you live
- The culture you were raised in or surround yourself with
- Foods you eat and quantity
- Level of activity
- How, or if, you relax
- Past illnesses or injuries
We can easily include smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol use, chronic exposure to toxins, or metals to this list.
Aging of the mind
- Parts of our brain shrink, mainly related to learning and complicated mental tasks. It usually occurs in the frontal lobe and hippocampus.
- Neurons decrease their communication with each other in certain regions. This is related to a decrease in hormones.
- A decrease in blood flow
- Possibility of increase in inflammation
- Fewer synaptic connections, thus resulting in thinning of the outer ridge of the brain.
- Myelin, or the brain’s nerve bundles, shrink.
Those changes correspond with specific symptoms:
- More difficulty in remembering names, numbers or finding the right words
- Multitasking becomes more challenging
- Maintaining attention is more difficult
- Takes more time to memorize new information
None of this means that individuals can’t learn new things, improve language or vocabulary, or make new memories. Age does not mean your learning ability has to change.
Of all of the things that change as we age, the most impactful for directing how much abilities decrease is blood flow. Our brain requires 20% of our blood to function correctly. Exercise or any form of physical activity is key to keeping yourself as mentally sharp as possible. Done in addition to maintaining those neurons connecting by learning and doing new things, you can keep your brain sharp for your lifetime.
Common traits of the longest living people
As of yet, there is no scientifically proven “elixir of life,” no magic potion, nor time travel back to our youth. What there is, are living examples of centenarians, people who have successfully lived 100 or more years, of an active, cognizant life. These individuals were, or are, of various nationalities, either sex, and from differing cultures, beliefs, and countries. Their commonality is primarily in just the fact that they have lived 100 or more years and did so following roughly the same principals.
Dan Beuttner, a National Geographic journalist, was written about in Well and Good. In this article, the commonalities between centenarians that he found during years of interviews are summarized. These points came from his book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.
While on his travels, he noted a stronger similarity in a specific zone of countries that he called the Blue Zone. Their practices are not exclusive and can be adopted by anyone. The Blue Zone consisted of Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece. He focused his findings of these similar lifestyle choices down to what he called the “ Power 9”.
The “Power 9” Habits of the Longest Living People in the World
1 – Natural movement.
Keeping the body moving, doing more of what it was designed to do, like walking, light to moderate lifting, bending, and stretching, keeps all the joints working, muscles stretched, heart pumping and blood flow moving, which is essential to all parts of the body, including the brain.
2 – Know your daily purpose.
As it is said in sales, “Know your WHY.” Why do you want to get up every morning? Everyone needs a sense of purpose and focus. It is relatively easy to have a goal when you have children or a career. What happens when your children are grown? When you no longer need to work? Why do you get up in the morning? For some, it may be their grandchildren, their friends, religious order, tending the garden, or building that treehouse you’ve always wanted. The point is continually have something to strive for, or that motivates you each day.
3 – Maintain low-stress levels.
Stress is inevitable, but chronic stress is deadly, and yet it is avoidable. If your stress levels make you feel depressed, anxious, and without control, then you need to look at either contributor to the situation or how you perceive the situation. Learning to let go of a lot of little things can truly make big things much more manageable.
4 – Don’t eat until you are 100% full.
It takes 20 minutes for food to get to our stomach, which means we have most likely eaten an entire meal before the brain has even received the message that the stomach is full. In many of the Blue Zone areas, the individuals ate until they were 80% full.
5 – Focus more on vegetables and fruits.
When it came to diets, most of those who lived the longest tended to eat far more plant-based foods, including healthy grains. They only ate meat only 2-3 times a month, had minimal sugar in their diet and no processed foods.
6 – Limit alcohol to 2 drinks.
While drinking alcohol, particularly wine, is suitable for your diet, excessive drinking is not. Excessive alcohol is generally considered above 1-2 drinks per day.
7 – Be part of a community.
Have you ever lived somewhere, maybe due to a job, and you just never really felt happy or at peace? It is vital to find a location that matches your beliefs, interests, morals, and that you feel a part of. The hustle of a city is not for everyone, and neither is the quiet of the country. Find your community.
8 – Keep in contact with your family.
Families in the Blue Zone tended to have a closer-knit family in which everyone looked out for each other. Knowing that you are not living your life alone and that others are available to help you and share things with as well is essential to feel needed, important, and safe.
9 – Remain Social.
Socialization and a sense of belonging are good for the soul and your mind. Humans are social animals. This doesn’t change because you become older. Socialization has shown to aid in preventing depression, decreasing stress, and increasing cognitive function and memory. People who are more social also tend to move around more because they feel safer.
Final Thoughts on Following the Habits of the Longest Living People
Age is just a number. It merely reflects how many times you have been on this Earth as it rotated around the Sun. How it affects you has many variables, but you certainly have control. There is no reason that you cannot stay mobile, mentally alert, and active during all or the majority of your lifetime under normal circumstances. Researchers, both in science and in interviews, reveal what the longest living people have in common. The beauty is that it doesn’t require a lot of money, time, or a magical pill. We can time travel through our minds. The more mobile we keep our bodies, the better our brains function, and the younger we feel.