Investigación · 31 January 2018

Supercentenarians: What are they hiding?

Por cenie
Supercentenarios ¿Qué esconden? - Investigación, Sociedad

If you ask any centenary what is his secret to longevity, you can receive a wide range of surprising answers. Those who are 100 years old or older can have certain anecdotal stories, superstitions or daily practices that they defend with force and that they consider the key to a long life.

Recently, a 104-year-old Michigan woman made headlines as she attributed the daily drinking of a can of Coca-Cola Light as her secret to longevity. In case you ask, there is no evidence to support that it can prolong life, and it is highly unlikely since it has zero nutritional value.

What we do know with certainty about longevity is that genetics will surely play an important role in determining your life expectancy. And even if you come from a lineage of centenarians, that does not guarantee your longevity in any way. There are always environmental and lifestyle factors that come into play to determine how long you will live. Undoubtedly, there are bad habits that will lead to health conditions later that can reduce the time of life. Therefore, the goal is to adopt healthy habits that help you live as long as possible. There are known geographical zones in the world, called "blue zones", that were investigated and found a notably higher number of centenarians than normal. These groups adhere mainly to very healthy lifestyles that help them live longer.

Control the amount of food

Portion control is the core of healthy eating, and it's a habit that can help you live longer. The Okinawans of Japan participate in what they call "hara hachi bu". What this means is that they eat until they feel full at no more than an 80 percent. This is a practice that is worth incorporating into your life to avoid overeating, excess calories, unhealthy weight gain and chronic conditions associated with obesity.

Stay physically active

Physical activity is the common denominator shared by most centenarians. It is one of the most important factors needed to help improve longevity. Some forms of exercise are usually integrated into daily life even in old age, whether through gardening, walking or other activities. Being sedentary is not part of the health equation.

Avoid processed foods

The culture of fast food is certainly a health hazard. It may not be possible to prepare each meal at home, but it is important to recognize that fast food has low nutritional content and tends to include highly processed ingredients that promote high cholesterol and heart disease. Most "blue zones" focus on healthier diets in plants with minimal amounts of meat that provide greater nutritional value.

Think positively

Your perspective of life matters! Maintaining an attitude of satisfaction and positivity about life in general can be a degree of health benefit. This perspective is an integral part of anyone's life. Identifying your passions and continuing activities that bring you true joy not only helps you thrive as you grow older, but also keeps you young at heart.

Maintain spirituality or faith

The people of Loma Linda, California have a large community of Seventh-day Adventists. They have a strong faith-based practice that is the mantra that you should always treat your body like a temple. Research has shown that those who are religious, spiritual or following, religious beliefs have a longer time.

An active social life can be the secret to brain health

For nine years, experts at the Centre for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's at Northwestern University have looked at "supercentenarians": men and women over the age of 80 whose memories are as good or better than people 20 to 30 years younger. Every two years, the group filled out surveys about their lives and received a battery of neuropsychological tests, brain scans and a neurological exam, among other evaluations.

Previous research from the Northwestern group provided tantalizing clues, showing that the supercentenarios have distinctive brain characteristics: thicker cortices, a resistance to age-related atrophy and a larger left anterior cingulate gyrus (a part of the brain important for attention and work memory).

The brain scans also showed that they experience a brain aging twice as slow as the average person of their age. "This suggests that they are on a different trajectory of aging, they are losing their brain volume at a much slower rate than the average age."

But the structure of the brain alone does not completely explain the unusual mental acuity in this group, suggested Emily Rogalski, who is responsible for the study: "It is likely that there are a number of critical factors that are involved," she said.

For their new study, the researchers asked 31 supercentenarians and 19 cognitively normal older adults to complete a 42-item questionnaire about their psychological well-being. The supercentenarios stood out in one area: the degree to which they reported having satisfactory, warm and trusting relationships.

"Social relationships are really important for this group and could play an important role in preserving their cognition," said Rogalski, which is consistent with other research that links positive relationships with reduced risk of cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment. and dementia.


Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal