Secrets of Centenarians – the 9 habits of successful Centenarians!

As a doctor I have always been interested in knowing the secrets to a long life. Many people who lives long lives have very few if any diseases, apart from an old body (if you can consider that a disease) and remain surprisingly sprightly even in their 90s. Many others bravely tackle their medical and age related challenges and live a long life aided by modern medical treatments. So it was extremely exciting to find an article in The National Geographic Traveller magazine (Indian edition -May June 2022) which spoke about food and lifestyle habits of people who had a greater chance of living long lives (Centenarians) in certain areas of the world. The article quoted from research done by Dan Buettner, a longevity researcher who called the 5 specific areas of the world, where people were more likely to live up to a 100 yrs, the BLUE ZONES. The article seemed to suggest that these elderly people were living long lives because they were healthy rather than because of modern medicine.

These geographic areas are the following:

1. Greece- Icaria

2. Italy – Ogliastra, Barbagia, Seulo of Sardinia.

3. Japan -Okinawa.

4. Costa Rica – Nicola peninsula

5. USA – Loma Linda, California (Seventh day Adventists)

While the article highlighted the various food cultures of the people in these areas, I was more interested in Buettners “Power of Nine”,the factors/cultural/societal habits that were common to the people who lived in these 5 areas. Lets have a look at these habits.

1. Moving naturally – daily walking and gardening.

2. Purpose – motivation to get up in the morning.

3. Down shift – activities like prayer, meditation and naps and evening drinks with friends)

4. The 80% rule – to always eat only until 80% full.

5. Plant slant – significant portions of beans and greens and small portions of meat.

6. Wine @5 – moderate drinking.

7. Belong – to be part of some faith based community.

8. Loved ones first – to have close family ties.

9. Right tribe – strong social circles.

Many of these points are what I suggest to patients who have clinical depression. It would seem that happiness could be the answer for a long life if one were to remain physically active and eat right ( if you have read about what my grandfather had told me mentioned in my earlier article on longevity). Stress release by exercise and being physically active, stress control by meditation and living in a supportive/encouraging and positive social environment and consuming moderate amounts of alcohol could hold the key to a long life.

I hope and pray that you will incorporate these factors into your life and live long!


Do more pushups and live LONGER?

A new article published in the Jama this year find a strong association between man’s capacity to do push ups with long term benefits in reducing Cardiovascular events and improving cardiovascular risk factors.

Cardio vascular disease is the term used to describe all diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels including Coronary Artery disease, Strokes, Transient Ischaemic attacks, Heart failure, Aortic disease, valvular heart disease and arrhythmias.

Physical inactivity and lack of exercise has long been recognised as an independent risk factor in development of heart disease, Cancer, Alzheimers disease and strokes. Assessing cardiorespiratory fitness and to correlate it with beneficial effect in the prevention of cardiovascular disease is often time consuming, expensive and requires the professional facilities in a hospital.

The authors of this paper have performed a nice study recruiting active fire man from the state of Indiana USA and following them up over a 10 yr period. The participants were 18 years and older. A detailed history was taken first (with regards to Healthy lifestyle, smoking and alcohol habits,marital status, family history of illnesses, education levels) they were then examined physically (height weight, blood pressure and resting heart rate were measured ) anthropometric measurements were taken and they were tested for their push up capacity and also a maximum exercise stress test was done with modified Bruce protocol.

For checking the push ups capacity a metronome was set to 80 beats per minute the, the staff doing the study counter the number of pushups until 80 was reached or more than 3 beats were missed or the participants stopped due to exhaustion or complaints of breathlessness dizziness or chest pain.

When they analysed the results they had 1562 who participated over a 10 year period. The cohort had a mean age of 39 and a mean BMI of 28. Information regarding the push-up capacity was available in 1104 participants.

They found that the Push ups capacity was inversely related to most baseline risk factors of coronary artery disease such as age, BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, glucose and smoking status. And it was positively associated with VO2 max values. During the period of follow up 37 cardiovascular disease related outcomes were noted. Participants who were able to complete 40 pushups had a 96% reduction in cardiovascular disease event compared to those who could complete 10 pushups or less only. Push ups capacity was noted to be associated with not only a reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease but also in the reduction in the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The authors conclude that assessing push up capacity is a low cost predictor for Cardiovascular disease risk in a middle age man and is a good measure of cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength.

Take Home lessons

1. Check out how many push ups you can do without a break.

2. If you can’t do 40, you would be well advised to start working on your fitness.