Healthy life choices for living to 100

Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet with Walnuts. (PRNewsFoto/California Walnut Commission)

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Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet with Walnuts. (PRNewsFoto/California Walnut Commission)

Although most people think longevity is solely related to genes, it really depends on genes, attitude and lifestyle. Centenarians attribute their long lives to eating well, being optimistic and keeping busy. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, there will be 1.1 million people 100 years or older. Do you want to be one of them?

There are several things you can do to start living right and working your way to the triple digit numbers.

1. Be your own best advocate when it comes to your health. Know what medicines you're taking, why you're taking it and for what duration. Know if your medications have any contraindications and be aware of all side effects. Explore alternative ways you can deal with your condition so you can perhaps eliminate some of the medicines. The reason why this is important is to keep your medications simple and your side effects low.

2. Be smart about what and how much food you consume. Nobody forces you to finish what's on your plate. Research shows that portion size has increased and that it is related to an increase in obesity. Therefore, understand that you and only you can reduce your food consumption. Do it because obesity is related to many debilitating illnesses, which shorten your hopes for a long lifespan. Conscious eaters have lower blood pressure, reduced body fat and diminished risks for heart disease and even cancer. Eat a Mediterranean diet, which includes colorful fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish and whole grains. Keep a trim waist for a healthy heart. Be active. The more you move, the more you maintain flexibility, range of motion and responsiveness.

3. Associate with other optimistic, light-hearted people. As you age, you'll notice that discussions tend to be directed toward illness or misfortune. Avoid those conversations by focusing on how much you appreciate your life and how good it's been for you. Some people also try lifestyle changes, like meditation, relaxation, and yoga exercises to keep their perspective upbeat and focused on the sunnier side of the spectrum. Others seek professional help through cognitive-behavioral therapy to change their negative thoughts into more logical, hopeful thinking. Your body tends to thrive when you feel supported, encouraged and connected.

4. Drink moderately and don't smoke.

5. People who are married tend to live longer than those who never married, or who are divorced or separated. Of course, don't just get married for the sake of it. Those in unhappy relationships tend to lose the health benefits associated with that kind of commitment.

6. If your goal in the latter part of your life is to have long-term loving relationships and many special friends, that is a good recipe for longevity. Maintaining strong social groups and lively interactions keeps you alert, active and involved.

7. Live in the countryside. The less pollution you experience, the healthier you will feel and be. If you can't move out of the city, make visits to the beach, lake resorts or other open areas a weekly adventure. The further you are from car exhausts, factory residue and other pollutants, the less your body has to work to fight off these harmful toxins.

Successful aging is really based on good psychology and lifelong choices. Therefore, start now to reduce your stress, to keep your mind active and occupied, and to be the best you can be. While age keeps creeping up, there is hope that you can turn the clock around and be healthier in your later years. The goal is to not only live longer, but also to live healthier. Being 90, with a poor quality of life, is not something to aspire towards. Rather, if you can be as healthy as a 60 year old, that is really something. It is not too late to change your lifestyle to reflect a healthier way of being, and the time to start is now. Therefore, be aware of how your behaviors may be sabotaging your health and well-being. The fountain of youth is right at your fingertips. Grab hold and don't let go.

Amy Sherman is a licensed mental health counselor and trainer. She is the founder of Baby Boomers' Network, a resource designed to give baby boomers the insights, information and inspiration they need to live their best lives. To learn more, go to Sherman is also the co-author with Rosalind Sedacca of "99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50 and Yes, 60!"

(c) 2010, Basil & Spice
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