The Secrets of Centenarians

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How would you like to blow out 100 birthday candles? More than 84,000 people living in the US today have reached that mark, and the number of centenarians (100-year-olds) is expected to increase to 580,000 by 2040. Per Capita Iowa ranks third in the nation in the number of centenarians.

Many scientists estimate that longevity is based 20 percent on genetics, with 80 percent determined by your lifestyle choices and environment.

A Day in the Life

A poll of 100 people who turned 100 in 2010 provides a snapshot of the healthy habits that keep them going strong:

>>More than 80 percent communicate with a friend or family member daily. At Amelia House, a senior living residence in Council Bluffs, seniors can socialize with like-minded individuals in an independent and friendly environment.

>>Three out of four eat nutritionally balanced meals every day.

>>75 percent get eight hours or more of sleep.

>>72 percent laugh or giggle every day.

>>62 percent pray, meditate or engage in spiritual activity daily.

>>Four in 10 stay active by walking or hiking at least once a week; 31 percent stay active by gardening.

>>32 percent of the centenarians eat organic foods regularly.

>>17 percent are currently doing some type of volunteer work.

An increasing proportion of centenarians are also staying sharp by using new technologies: 12 percent have listened to music on an iPod or similar device, 11 percent have watched a video on YouTube and 8 percent have sent a text or instant message.

Community Is Key

Centenarians often live in close-knit communities where stress levels are low and the connection to nature is high, with a clean environment and plenty of fresh air and good water. Researchers are learning that where you live – and how you live – are significant factors in longevity.

Some centenarians claim a single habit as the key to long life, such as doing crossword puzzles, drinking a glass of wine a day or singing in the shower. But it's far more likely that the right combination of healthy habits, social connections, brain-boosting activities, good genes – and a little luck – are the secrets to living 100 years or more.