Well, I certainly don’t have a crystal ball (but I do have a crystal bowl….), but there have been some studies done recently on people who’ve lived a very long life to see whether there were any common denominators among them. As it turns out, there were. Here are a few:
1. How fast can you walk? A recent University of Pittsburgh study found that how fast you walk can be as good a predictor of how long you will live as things like your blood pressure or your cholesterol. They found that a 70-year-old man who walks 2.5 miles an hour compared to the same age man who walks only 1 mile an hour is expected to live eight years longer than the slower man. For a woman, that difference is 10 years.
2. A social network. No, Facebook and Twitter do not count. As it turns out, those connected to others (real live people, that is), whether it be their family, friends or members of their house of worship, all have a tendency to live longer. Statistically, widows live longer than widowers (and even longer than still-married women), and it has something to do with the social bonds women form with one another, says Dr. Leslie Martin – co-author of The Longevity Project, a study that began in 1921 and spanned eight decades.
3. Having a positive attitude. The University of Texas found that people who had a positive attitude were significantly less likely to become frail compared to pessimists. The researchers suggested that positive emotions may have an impact on health by altering the body's chemical balance.
4. Conscientiousness. According to the authors of The Longevity Project, conscientiousness is also a big indicator of longevity. That may be because conscientious people are more likely to live a healthy lifestyle, follow doctors’ instructions, and have positive relationships. They are also less likely to smoke, have unhealthy eating habits, and take reckless risks.
5. You’re a woman. Not to hate on the guys or anything. Of the 71,000 people over the age of 100 in the U.S. in 2010, a whopping 80 percent of them were women. There’s not one clear reason why, but studies suggest that it could have to do with female hormones, the lower rate of cardiovascular disease among women, and the higher tendency for males to smoke.
Of course, all of the above is based on probability and is not, by any means, a sure thing. Just as there are people with high cholesterol who have never had any heart issues, there will be men that outlive their wives or people who are positively grumpy at the age of 100. There are lots of things you can do every day to improve your chances of living longer — eating better, for one. And exercising more, of course. The bottom line, though? Life is unpredictable. So smile more, laugh more, and love more, and try to savor every moment that you have.
Photo: Levy Carneiro Jr/Flickr