What centenarians and their children have in common

Did you know that there is a group of people that ages slower than the rest of us? They live to 100 and beyond while staying lucid and disease-free.

This means they can live happy and independent lives well after they hit the century mark.

If you think this sounds like a dream come true, then you’ll be happy to hear that you can become one of these people too.

But first, you have to understand their secret to longevity. Lucky for you, it’s a secret that science is finally on the verge of cracking…

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Researchers from Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo found that if you want to attain centenarian status (live past 100) or even supercentenarian status (live past 110) you have to stay short on inflammation and long on telomeres.

Telomeres are the DNA at the end of chromosomes… and scientists have gotten really excited about their connection to aging and disease in recent years.

Well, it turns out, that people who live to 100 and beyond maintain long telomeres for a long time (much longer than most of us)… and so do their offspring.

Telomeres gradually get shorter as you age, but the children of centenarians (who researchers expect might become centenarians themselves) have the telomeres of a 60-year-old even when they’re 80 or older.

But researchers also found that once you get really, really old, your telomere length does eventually shorten… so they don’t believe that long telomeres are the single most important factor when it comes to reaching that 100-year mark.

That honor goes to the biological process of inflammation. ..

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Avoid inflammation: avoid disease and death longer

Researchers found that the offspring of centenarians and centenarians themselves have noticeably lower inflammation levels than the rest of us.

Of course, inflammation levels continue to increase with age, even in centenarians, but those who were able to keep inflammation levels low stayed cognitively alert, physically healthy and managed to cheat father time by living a good decade or two longer than your average Joe.

“This study, showing for the first time that inflammation levels predict successful aging even in the extremely old, makes a strong case to assume that chronic inflammation drives human aging,” said Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, one of the lead researchers in the study.

Numerous medical experts have written about inflammation and its role in chronic disease. So it makes sense that keeping it under control — thus avoiding disease — contributes to centenarian status.

The good news is that there are a lot of ways to decrease inflammation in your body… so if you want to become a centenarian or supercentenarian you can. Just try doing some of the following:

  • Eat alkalizing anti-inflammatory foods like polyphenol-rich green tea, turmeric, onions, berries, green leafy vegetables, salmon, walnuts and broccoli. And conversely, avoid inflammation-producing foods like dairy, sugar, alcohol and trans-fats.
  • Take inflammation-reducing supplements like omega-3s, white willow bark, curcumin, cat’s claw and resveratrol.
  • Exercise a lot. The best type of exercise for reducing inflammation is any exercise that brings your heart rate to about 60 to 80 percent of its maximum capacity. So a power walk would be a good inflammation-reducing exercise option.
  • Relieve stress with practices like meditation, yoga, tai chi and massage. All of these have documented inflammation-reducing properties.

One thing is for sure… if you do all of these things, you’ll stack the aging deck in your favor — which means you’ll be well on your way to being a future member of the centenarian (or supercentenarian) club.

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  1. Arai, C.M. Martin-Ruiz, M. Takayama. “Inflammation, but not telomere length, predicts successful ageing at extreme old age: a longitudinal study of semi-supercentenarians.” EBioMedicine. October 2015, V. 2:10, p.1549–1558.
  2. C. Maroon, J.W. Bost, A. Maroon. “Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief.” Surgical Neurology International. 2010; 1: 80.
  3. A. Woods, K.R. Wilund, S.A. Martin, B.M. Kistler. “Exercise, Inflammation and Aging.” Aging and Disease. 2012 Feb; 3(1): 130–140.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.