Secrets to living to 100 and over
Would you like to live to be over 100? Well, the odds of achieving that goal seem to be against those living in Nigeria, based on what the life expectancy data shows. According to the WHO, the average life expectancy in Nigeria in 2015 was around 54 years of age. This is an alarming statistic considering that for the global population, the average life expectancy that same year was around 71 years of age. Nigeria unfortunately falls far behind many countries when it comes to health outcomes and longevity.
The odds of living to a triple digit age in Nigeria are seemingly grim based on population statistics. But if you plan to make it to 100, then you must start taking necessary measures to cultivate an abundance of healthy habits at an early age to promote longer life.
If you ask any centenarian what their secret to longevity is, you may receive a wide range of surprising answers. Those who are 100 or older may have certain anecdotal stories, superstitions, or daily practices they strongly hold which they deem to be the key to long life. Recently, a 104-year-old Michigan woman made headline news as she attributed drinking a can of diet soda daily as her secret to longevity. (In case you are wondering, there is no evidence to support that diet soda can extend your longevity, and it is highly unlikely as it has zero nutritional value.) In the same vein, I’m sure if you ask a Nigerian who has lived to 100 his/her secret to long life, the response would be equally interesting.
What we know for sure about longevity is that genetics will surely play some role in determining your lifespan. And even if you come from a lineage of centenarians, that does not guarantee your longevity by any means. There are always environmental and lifestyle factors that come into play in determining how long you will live. Undoubtedly, there are bad habits that will lead to health conditions down the line that may shave some time off your lifespan. Therefore, the goal is to always adopt healthy habits to help you live as long as possible. There are known geographic pockets of the world, coined “blue zones” that have been researched and found to have notably higher than normal amounts of centenarians. Two popularly studied “blue zone” regions include Okinawa, Japan and Loma Linda, California. These groups mostly adhere to very healthy modes of living that help them live longer. There are very basic and rudimentary lifestyle and dietary lessons we can all take away from these groups which may just help add more years to our lives.
Here are five very simple habits from these “blue zone” communities:
Control your portion size
Portion control is at the core of healthy eating, and it’s one habit that may help you live longer. The Okinawans of Japan engage in what they call “hara hachi bu”. What this means is they eat up until they feel no more than 80 per cent full. This is one practice worth incorporating into your life to avoid overeating, excess calories, unhealthy weight gain, and chronic conditions associated with obesity.
Stay physically active
Physical activity is the common denominator shared by most centenarians. It is one of the most important factors necessary to help improve longevity. Some form of exercise is usually integrated into daily life even in very old age, whether it’s by means of gardening, walking, hiking, or other activities. Remaining sedentary isn’t part of the health equation.
Avoid processed food
The fast food culture has undoubtedly become more mainstream in Nigeria. There seems to be a growing trend of eating out for a majority of meals. It may not be possible to prepare every meal at home but recognize that fast food has low nutritional content and tends to include highly processed ingredients promoting high cholesterol and heart disease. Most “blue zone” areas focus on healthier plant-based diets with minimal amounts of meat which provide higher nutritional value.
Your outlook on life matters! Maintaining an attitude of contentment and positivity about life in general may offer some degree of health benefit. This outlook is an integral part of any centenarian’s life. Identifying your passions and continuing with activities that bring you true joy will not only help you thrive as you grow older, but will also keep you young at heart.
Maintain your spirituality or faith
The inhabitants of Loma Linda, California have a huge community of Seventh Day Adventists. They have a strong faith-based practice which is buttressed on the tenant that one should always treat their body like a temple. Research has shown that those who are religious, spiritual, or follow such faith-based beliefs tend to live longer.
And although the chances of being a centenarian in Nigeria may not favour the majority, based on the statistics, we can all still learn a lot from the basic habits of those living in “blue zone” regions who have made it to 100.
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