With Americans living longer than ever before, reaching 100 is no longer a rarity. Still, less than 1 percent of us live to be a century old. While it’s true that a lot about longevity is handed down in genetics, there are ways to help put the odds in your favor, says nationally renowned doctor Michael Roizen, M.D.
“As a doctor, I find that there are certain signs that indicate to me that a patient is going to have a very long life,” says Dr. Roizen, chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute and a bestselling author who serves as medical advisor to “Beautiful Minds: Finding Your Lifelong Potential,” a national health campaign. Here are signs that Dr. Roizen say indicate you may have an unusually long life span:
1. You lack certain signs of aging.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, gray hair and overall wrinkling are NOT signs of premature aging. Signals of a long life include the lack of: crow’s feet wrinkles, balding in the area of the temples, earlobe wrinkles, and little raised yellow bumps on your eyelids.
2. You’ve got balance.
“The ability to stand on one leg for more than 15 seconds with your eyes closed indicates that your mind will remain sharp into old age,” says Dr. Roizen, who writes a syndicated column with Dr. Mehmet Oz. Although the significance of this ability is not fully understood, it indicates a strong cerebellar system, which oversees coordination, which correlates closely with brain age. You can improve your balance through exercises such as yoga and ping pong, which improve balance and coordination.
3. You exercise intensely.
“Being able to exercise at a rate of 11 METS or more on a treadmill indicates you may live a long life,” says Dr. Roizen. A MET is a unit of exercise expenditure that measures the amount of oxygen you take in, and, the more strenuous the exercise, the more METS you are utilizing. A body at rest uses one MET, on the other hand, strenuous sports like racquetball and basketball, which weigh in at the 10-12 MET level, add longevity. A good training program will help boost your MET level.
4. You steer clear of simple carbs.
We need carbohydrates for energy, but eating too many simple carbs – table sugar, added syrups, and processed grains – as opposed to complex ones can actually age your body faster. Research shows that excess sugar affects your proteins, a factor that can lead to premature aging. To avoid this, choose foods that have complex carbohydrates instead. These include high-fiber whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits such as apricots, grapefruit, prunes, plums, pears, and oranges.
5. You choose olive oil.
We all need dietary fat, but it turns out that the type of fat we eat can make the difference between living to 100, and a life cut short by heart disease or cancer. Although we most often think of saturated fat in terms of clogging the coronary arteries, it turns out that this type of fat also turns on the gene that promotes inflammation, and having a body that is in an inflammatory state not only can lead to heart attacks, but also obesity, cancer, and mental dysfunction. Eating a diet that is low in saturated fat (plant-based, for instance) and choosing monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats promotes longevity. So instead of butter, choose olive oil, walnut oil, peanut oil, or canola oil.
6. You are calm.
Meditating daily or knowing how to keep your cool under stress is another potential sign of long life. Although the mechanism isn’t completely understood, stress ages the body and shortens life. Exercise is one way to blow off steam. Other ways to manage stress include deep breathing and learning a stress management program.