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Top tips for living longer

There are more than 1,100 centenarians in Singapore, and that number is rising every year. You can be one of them.

Fancy being a centenarian? According to statistics, more people across the world are achieving that goal, thanks to scientific advances and medical breakthroughs. And no, living to 100 here does not mean being infirm, incapacitated or confused. One can be in reasonably good physical and mental shape for a century and beyond if one wanted to.

The body, according to some scientists, can reach a maximum age of 120. And, as certain communities such as the Okinawans in Japan, the Ikarians in Greece and the Sardinians in Italy have shown, it often boils down to lifestyles and habits. Members of these communities typically live to 90 or 100, and their cultures have become models for the rest of the world.

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The longest living person on record was a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Calment. She lived to 122, from 1875 to 1997. She rode a bicycle till she was 100, smoked cigarettes till 117, recorded a song when she was 120, and joked and flirted for much of her life.

Considering that Singapore men live till 80 and Singapore women till 86, could you extend your life by 20 or 14 more years respectively to be a healthy centenarian too? Some scientists say yes.

Research on ageing has come a long way to show how you can stay healthy and happy for 100 years or more. Prof Stuart Kim of Stanford University says that living to 110 and beyond still requires exceptional genes. However, he and other experts agree that diet and exercise can add at least five to 10 years to your life. Here’s some other advice:

  • Eat right

    In a nutshell, take daily five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, three servings of wholegrain foods, and two servings of dairy products. On top of that, take a serving of nuts every other day, oily fish every third day, and green tea, chocolate and red wine judiciously. Avoid sugary foods and processed food. Also, eat less than you have to.

    Dr Shuhei Kyo of Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital and Institute of Gerontology quotes a Japanese saying: "Hara hachi bun me", or "Eat till your belly is 80 per cent full." In lab experiments, mice that were allowed to eat as much as they wanted died within two years. Mice that were only allowed 70 per cent of their normal caloric intake prolonged their lives by 25 per cent. Other studies have also shown the benefits of fasting. Meanwhile, a study of the famous "Blue Zones" - places such as Okinawa, Sardinia and Loma Linda where people typically live till 100 - found that their diets consist mostly of plants, especially beans. They eat meat rarely and always in small portions. On the whole, they don't suffer from heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes. The phenomena lasted centuries until the arrival of fast food restaurants and supermarkets in some of these communities. Today, even the Okinawans have seen their life expectancy decline, possibly due to their changing diets.

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Adapted from The Business Times.