5 Easy Things You Can Do to Help You Live to 100, Researcher Says
Try introducing these habits into your life to increase your longevity.
We all want to get the most out of life and extend our years, perhaps even making it into the coveted club of centenarians. Of course, some factors are out of our control, but if you think you need to make grandiose changes to drastically improve your longevity, think again. According to researcher and author Dan Buettner, there are a few simple adjustments you can make to up your chances of living to 100.
Back in 2004, Buettner identified the "Blue Zones," which are the world's regions with the healthiest and longest-living populations. Using his observations, Buettner identified five specific things these people do that extend their lives far past those of people in other regions. Read on to discover easy habits that will help you live to 100.
Eat a plant-based diet.
In a Sept. 2023 video on Instagram, Buettner outlines his top five recommendations, starting with eating a whole-food, plant-based diet.
In a post on the Blue Zones website, Buettner says that 95 percent of your food should come from a plant or a plant product. Limiting "animal protein" is important—as those in the Blue Zones eat far less meat than we do here in the U.S.
Additional recommendations include eating about three ounces of fish each day, minimizing dairy, eating no more than three eggs per week, limiting sugar, snacking on nuts, and eating at least a half cup of cooked beans every day. If you're going to have bread, which is a staple in three of the five Blue Zones, Buettner suggests switching to sourdough or 100 percent whole wheat bread.
When it comes to beverages, those in the Blue Zones drink coffee, tea, water, and wine. Yes, you read the correctly, wine can actually help the body absorb plant-based antioxidants. And in general, people who drink in moderation tend to outlive those who don't. (Moderation is key: Buettner also points out that more than two glasses for women and three glasses for men each day can have adverse health effects.)
Get eight hours of sleep.
Buettner's second tip is to try and get eight hours of sleep a day. Those who live in the Blue Zones "rise with the sun and sleep with night," getting somewhere between eight and 10 hours.
"Getting good sleep is arguably the most important thing you can do to add years to your life and also enjoy the journey," Buettner says in an Oct. 2022 Instagram post. "In fact, we know that if you're sleeping less than six hours a day, you're probably 30 percent less happy than you would be if you're getting a full eight hours."
He continues, "The way I get my good eight hours is I sleep in a room that gets completely dark, I take out or turn off all electronics completely, and I set the thermostat to 69 degrees, which is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep."
Know and be able to articulate your sense of purpose.
People in the Blue Zones also have a key sense of purpose in life, according to Buettner.
The Japanese even have a word for having a purpose in life, "ikkigai"—and research has shown that people who can communicate this purpose live longer. A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) linked purpose with a lower risk of all-cause mortality after 50, while a 2014 study also illustrated the correlation between having a clear goal in life and longevity.
Not sure what your purpose is? In a Jan. 2 video, Buettner suggests a "fairly simple exercise" to identify it.
"Take a piece of paper—and people haven't reflected on this, most Americans have never reflected on this—you put four columns and list the things that you love to do, then right next to it … your passions, what you're good at, and then you look at the commonalities on where your gifts are, where can you put these passions and skills to work," he says. "And once you're clear on that, if you then design your career around the intersection of those things, you're setting yourself up for success in life."
Move naturally all day long.
Another important thing that people who live to 100 do is move throughout their day. This may sound challenging if you have a desk job where you're sitting for hours on end, but Buettner says it doesn't have to be anything too intense.
"I'm not talking about going to run marathons or doing CrossFit, but I'm talking about walking and gardening," he says in the Sept. 2023 video.
"People think they have to go pump iron or run triathlons, or 'break a sweat,' but actually, walking gives you about 90 percent of the physical activity value of training for a marathon," he added in an Oct. 2023 interview.
Find friends with healthy habits.
The fifth and final recommendation is probably the most important, Buettner says, and it involves the people you surround yourself with.
"Curate four or five friends who you can count on on a bad day and who have healthy habits themselves, because we know that health habits are contagious—and when it comes to longevity, there's no short-term fix," Buettner says in the Sept. 2023 video. "Friends are long-term adventures. Surround yourself with the right ones and you got a good chance of making it to 100."
This is particularly vital when you're over 40, Buettner explains in a June 2023 video.
"This might sound trite, but one-third of Americans over age 40 say they're lonely—and if you're lonely in America, it shaves about eight years off your life expectancy," Buettner says.
It can be intimidating to try and make friends as you get older, and Buettner concedes that it's not the easiest process. However, if you take the time to meet new people, he says it's "the best investment you can make in yourself."
Buettner recommends finding "like-minded friends" by volunteering and doing something you enjoy, whether it's taking care of dogs or delivering meals to those in need. You should also go through your personal network.
"Send an email to someone you like and say, 'Let's have lunch. Let's step out for a walk. Let's do wine at five,'" Buettner says in the video. "At the end of the day, we'll spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars as a country going to diets and joining clubs and going to the gym, when really, the best thing you can do for your health and your longevity is make that new friend."
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