Monday, June 23, 2008

'Living to 100' Author Shares Research Findings

Courtesy of:

Lifestyles of Centenarians

Robert W. Griffith, MD
June 18, 2004

Professor Thomas Perls of Harvard Medical School is the founder of the New England Centenarian Study (NECS); this study reports on the heath of some of the United States' oldest citizens. He has distilled the most interesting results in his book "Living to 100". Here are some further extracts. Robert Griffith, Editor.


While we were studying centenarians' cognitive function, we were also looking at their individual characteristics, hoping to find something that would account for their ability to live to 100. Our goal was to find out what made centenarians healthier than the vast majority of people. Some highly visible studies had indicated that environmental and behavioral factors -- like diet, exercise habits, access to health care -- were much more important than inherited abilities in coping with aging.


Most researchers believe that studies of diet, lifestyle, and personality would yield more concrete, usable information about healthy aging. However, one morning we were at a lecture at Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, where we happened to bump into Lester Steinberg, the son of one of our NECS subjects. At 79, Dr. Steinberg shows all the signs of slow aging we've become accustomed to seeing among centenarians' children, and he continues to practice medicine in the Boston area. Lectures such as the one we were attending are frequently accompanied by breakfast buffets; Dr. Steinberg reached out for a particularly sugary Danish.

"Do you really want to do that?" we said, surprised at Dr. Steinberg's choice of breakfast fare.

"Why not?" he replied. "I bet if you really knew what all the centenarians grew up eating, even my mother, you would be astounded. Back at the turn of the century, everyone ate fatty, salty foods. Storing food was the big problem, and people ate salted fish and meat, and pickled meat and vegetables. Everyone ate as much sugar and fat as they could find, because it was scarcer. I'm sure my mother grew up eating Danishes, and for all I know, they're probably good for me!"


We then turned to another important and easily measurable dimension of lifestyle: formal education. But when we looked among our subjects for signs of higher learning, again we found a great variety of backgrounds and histories. Only two of our study subjects had advanced degrees: MIT mathematics professor Dirk Struik and psychology PhD Lucy Boring. Some of our centenarians may have educated themselves extensively. Others may have been great readers but for not followers of any professional discipline. However, the average educational level our subjects attained was the 10th grade, which was completely consistent with the times they grew up in. Centenarians tell us it's not formal education that allows one to live to 100 in good cognitive and physical health.


Another avenue that lay open to us was the study of personality. Why did some people cope so well with aging and remained happy and engaged in life, while others with equal or perhaps even greater financial and health resources became miserable in old age? As we began interviewing our subjects, their stories of survival became more amazing and impressive to us. We had previously suspected that one of the reasons centenarians were able to live cell so long was that, just as they had avoided disease, they had also been lucky enough to skirt dangerous and stressful situations. But we quickly found out how wrong we were.

Personality is one of the most important factors in survival. We see this in war, in treatment of disease, in sports, in academics, and in the type of terrible episodes Mrs. Blunder has lived through.1 And we see it as an important component in the lights of centenarians. Something about centenarians allows them to accept the many losses of loved ones that occur along the road to 100, to live with limitations that come with growing over, and to deal with the feelings of impending mortality that certainly hang more heavily as time goes on. Not only do centenarians endure these upsets, but they frequently flourished despite them -- writing poetry and autobiographies, learning to paint, winning golf tournaments.

Stress-resistant personalities

To identify lifelong personality traits that might lead to healthy aging, we administered personality testing to 60 centenarians. The NEO Five-Factor Inventory is a personality assessment tool that has been widely used to study neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeability, and conscientiousness in older individuals. It was very revealing to find that centenarians, particularly women, are relatively immune to neuroticism. The term "neuroticism", the most important and pervasive domain of the five personality traits, is really a measure for what has been called "negative emotionality" or unhealthy feelings, like anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. It includes such emotional facets as depression, anxiety, hostility, self-consciousness (social unease), impulsiveness, and vulnerability. For example, older people who are high in neuroticism would see advancing age as a crisis, and might begin to worry about an unhappy retirement and poor health.

Centenarians are natural stress-shedders, but what comes easily to them because of their innate personalities may have to be consciously learned by the rest of us. This doesn't mean we can't do it with enough efforts or practice, just as those of us without natural athletic ability have learned to hit a tennis ball or ski down a mountain reasonably well. Myer Saxe, a 100-year-old man who rose from newsboy to owner of a large shoe factory, attributes his abilities to shed stress not to an easy-going personality but to a conscious decision at a certain point in life that he was going to be a "fun guy". "I decided not to worry about anything . . . I saw that worrying didn't do any good."

Although we may not be able to change our basic personalities, we can change how we respond to situations. For example, people with hard-driving, achievement-oriented personalities are probably not going to change their basic tendencies, mellow out, and avoid stressful situations. However, they can learn from centenarians that managing stress is important. They can learn the advantages of being adaptable and changing those aspects of their lifestyle that do not contribute to health. They can make conscious decisions to spend more health-enhancing time with family and friends. And they can gain a new perspective on their strivings by taking a humorous look at themselves.

With their stress-resistant personalities and low risk for neuroticism and depression, centenarians are natural stress-shedders who shrug off life's slings and arrows with relative ease. If people can emulate centenarians, either through stress reduction programs, alternative approaches like yoga, or a regular physical exercise program, we believe they stand a much better chance of coping with the mental and physical problems of old age.

Some survival strategies of the centenarian lifestyle are unexpected. One of our centenarians' most effective self-protective devices comes from their ability to lighten their emotional load with humor. Many older people become sensitive about discussing illness, sex, and the prospect of death, or become preoccupied with troubles. In contrast, a visible and consistent component of the centenarian repertoire is humor.


Humor not only helps us cope emotionally, it also helps us to think creatively and solve problems. It encourages and enables our minds to keep active, which is one of the most important defenses we have against aging. In a kind of cognitive reframing, it allows us to approach situations in a new way. As in the saying "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade," humor can turn an embarrassing situation, like accidentally stepping off a dock and getting soaked, into a hilarious and memorable story. Humor often helps people put physical or psychological pain aside so they can get on with their work and lives. Doctors and nurses working with terminally ill patients can use humor as a way to "package and send off" the emotions they themselves feel while watching people die. In the same way, centenarians use humor to gain perspective on their own imminent deaths.


Despite the unavoidable fact that they have outlived numerous family members and friends, nearly all centenarians have many meaningful relationships. They are almost never "loners". William Cohen, 101, who viewed independence as important to his longevity, realized that a close family was just as important. "The goal when you're older is to keep family close," he said, "to be independent, but to have them to help. As you get older, you need people, not dollars and cents."


One of the most interesting paradoxes we found in the study was that a relatively high proportion of female centenarians -- about 14% -- lacked the most important social connection in our culture: marriage. A surprisingly large proportion of our centenarian women never married, even though marriage was an important goal for young women of this generation. However, these lifelong single women were surrounded by loving people of all ages. Marion McDonald, a former Harvard Medical School chemistry instructor who never married, sent out nearly 150 greeting cards each year that she had painted and lettered herself. She received visits and telephone calls from former students across the country, who sought her advice and conversation.


National polls show that religious behavior and attitudes are more prevalent in people over 65. Half of these people go to church each week and three-quarters of them agree with such statements as, "I constantly seek God's will through prayer," and "I believe God loves me even though I might not always pleased Him." Among persons 65 and older, 82% say their religious beliefs are a very important influence in their lives.


One of the key reasons for centenarians' longevity, we believe, is their adaptive capacity. Adaptation is not exclusively passive, nor is it limited to responses to environmental stimuli. The full repertoire of adaptation includes the ability to control the environment and to take charge of situations.

However, when centenarians see that they cannot continue an activity to which they have become accustomed, they quickly either find a workable new way to do the activity or substitute a more manageable one. Several of our centenarians took the unusual step of arranging their own admissions to nursing homes and assisted living environments. Most older people fight fiercely against this loss of independence, and then deteriorate noticeably. When the best solution is a nursing home, centenarians jump in and get comfortable.

The next extracts from Professor Perls' deal with the differences between men and women in their marathon race to centenarian status. You can buy his book "Living to 100" at Amazon; click here


* Living to 100: Lessons in Living To Your Maximum Potential at Any Age. TT. Perls, MH. Silver, 1st edition, Basic Books, New York, NY, 1999

1. Mrs. Blunder is one of the centenarians who survived the Nazi invasion of Austria and the loss of many of her relatives.

* * *

Professor Boring?! Is she ever in the wrong profession!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Britain's Oldest Man, 112, Still 'Full of Life'

Mr Allingham said he felt 'on the crest of a wave' on his 112th birthday

Long life secrets of oldest man

Henry Allingham, Britain's oldest man, has joked that his secret to longevity is "cigarettes, whisky and wild women".

Born in Clapton, east London, in 1896, when Queen Victoria was on the throne, the 112-year-old's life has spanned six monarchs and 21 prime ministers.

He has described the current Queen, who he has met on several occasions, as a "lovely lady", and said it was a "great honour" to meet her.

Friends of Mr Allingham have described him as an "incredible man" who remains full of life.

Dennis Goodwin, his friend and chaperone, said: "He is an example to us all. He keeps up with all the events and functions that he is invited to.

"Last year we counted that he had clocked up 47 events which is quite something for a man his age.

"He knows what's going on around him and enjoys the company of people."

Naval battle

But the 112-year-old did not have the easiest start in life.

His father died from tuberculosis in 1898, when Mr Allingham was 18 months old. When he was 19, his mother died.

The teenager then enlisted with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as a skilled mechanic and a year later, in 1916, he was involved in the greatest naval battle of the World War I, the Battle of Jutland.

A year before the end of the war, he was posted to France to support the Royal Flying Corps, and helped service and rescue aircraft which crashed behind the trenches.

In 1919, after leaving the RNAS, Mr Allingham married 22-year-old Dorothy Cater in Chingford, Essex.

The couple went on to have two daughters, and he now has five grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

His wife died 38 years ago, while his daughters both died in their 80s.

Following his armed forces career, Mr Allingham worked in engineering roles, and was in a senior position with car manufacturer Ford by the time of his retirement in 1960.

In 2003, he received France's highest military honour, the Legion D'Honneur, at a ceremony at Eastbourne Town Hall.

In 2004, at the age of 108, he laid a wreath and led the service in the Lord's Prayer at the 90th anniversary of the World War I at the Cenotaph.

To mark Armistice Day in 2005, Mr Allingham travelled to St Omer, near Calais, France, to lay wreaths to fallen comrades.

German greeting

A year later, aged 110, as the oldest British World War I veteran, Mr Allingham met his German counterpart, Robert Meier, 109.

The men greeted each other warmly and laid a wreath at the war memorial near Witten town hall.

Mr Meier said it was "amazing" that both men were still alive and went on to say: "Why did we have to have a war?"

In 2007, Mr Allingham marked his 111th birthday on board the Royal Navy's oldest warship, HMS Victory, at Portsmouth.

A military flypast of aircraft from the Royal Navy's historic flight and the RAF marked the occasion.

Eight of Mr Allingham's grandchildren and great grandchildren and their partners flew from their homes in the United States to join him for his 112th birthday.

On reaching the grand age, Mr Allingham said he felt "on the crest of a wave".

He said: "People ask me how I've done it, and I just say that I look forward to another tomorrow."

* * *

There are videos of Mr. Allingham on the BBC page, if the page is still up, anyway.

Mr. Allingham manages to stay positive and always look forward to the future while enjoying activities and people around him every day. Keeping engaged with life is important.

Britain's Oldest Man, WWI Vet, Is Supercentenarian

Members of Mr Allingham's family travelled from the US for the party

Britain's oldest man, thought to be one of three surviving UK World War I veterans, has celebrated his 112th birthday with a VIP lunch and fly-past.

Henry Allingham is also the last surviving original member of the Royal Air Force - formed 90 years ago.

A Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, involving a Lancaster bomber, Spitfire and Hurricane, honoured the occasion.

The party for Mr Allingham, from Ovingdean, near Brighton, was being held at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

A planned jump by the Royal Air Force Falcons Parachute Display Team had to be cancelled because of low cloud, but the team delivered a birthday card, signed by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, by Chinook helicopter.

Following the fly-past, a two-seater single-engine Tutor aircraft performed an acrobatic display above Cranwell college's main building for the assembled guests, including his great-great-grandchildren Erik Carlson, two, and four-month-old Lila Rose Gray.

Air Vice Marshal Peter Dye (retired) and Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns attended the event.

Mr Allingham was also presented with a birthday card and cake by children from Cranwell Primary School.

When asked for the secret of long life, Mr Allingham said: "I don't think there's a particular reason.

"The only thing I can say is all my life I have lived within my limitations, take life slowly, don't get any stress or strains.

"The more birthdays I enjoy the longer I live."

And he said: "The fly-past was a very nice gesture and I want to show my appreciation.

"I really enjoyed it, I wasn't too tired which was a good thing actually."

'Modest man'

AVM Dye said: "Henry is a most modest man but I also think he is the most incredible of individuals.

"He has a passion and a determination to tell people about his experiences and to bear witness to those who served like him in World War I."

He said Mr Allingham recognised he was "incredibly lucky" to survive the experience, but was " determined to talk" about it and what it meant.

Now partially deaf and almost blind, Mr Allingham, who was born in Clapton, London on 6 June 1896, lives at St Dunstan's home for blind ex-servicemen, in Ovingdean.

His life has spanned six monarchs and has taken in 21 prime ministers.

Mr Allingham grew up without a father after he died from tuberculosis in 1898. His mother died 17 years later.

He went on to have two daughters with his wife Dorothy Cater, whom he married in 1919, and now has five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

His wife died 38 years ago, while his daughters both died in their 80s.

Mr Allingham's grandson David Gray, 59, from northern Michigan, said his grandfather was nine months younger than the oldest person in the world, and the joint-second oldest person in the world.

He said: "It's remarkable. Not only has he lived to this long but he has still got his mental faculties intact.

"Our whole family are very proud of him."

Mr Gray added it was "pretty special" the RAF put on "this kind of celebration", which got better and better each year.

Mr Allingham was accompanied on the visit by close friend Dennis Goodwin, who is also founder of the First World War Veterans' Association.

He said Mr Allingham's favourite tipple was a cup of tea with one sugar every morning.

Mr Allingham is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and also fought at the Somme and Ypres where he was bombed and shelled.

He joined the Royal Air Force when it was formed from the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the Army's Flying Corps in 1918.

His many medals and honours include the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Legion D'Honneur - the highest military accolade awarded by France.

He has joked that the secret to his longevity is "cigarettes, whisky and wild women".

* * *

Still has a sense of humor!

There are a bunch of videos of him on the BBC page (while still available), if interested.

It's amazing that he's still cognitively intact and maintains a "passion" to tell people about WWI. Having the will to stay engaged with life, people, and interests seems as important as the reliably noted stress-resistant lifestyle and attitude.

He also faced significant stressors and setbacks, such as the early deaths of loved ones, but kept on.

So much for the theory that daughters inherit their fathers' lifespans and long telomeres, as both of Allingham's daughters died in their 80s. I suppose they could have inherited a particularly exaggerated tendency toward worrying or something like that from the mother. All it takes is one proclivity like that to cancel out the rest of the fantastic genes.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Centenarians Reflect on Life Choices

Centenarians Are Generally Content with Their Lives

Most centenarians are satisfied with the lives they've led, content with their current health and well-being, and well prepared for the future, according to a survey conducted by Evercare, a leading provider of health plans for frail, elderly, disabled, and chronically ill individuals in the U.S.

Sixty-one percent of respondents indicated they would not have done anything more with their lives, while 78% said there was nothing they would have done less of. Some respondents said they would have traveled more and worked less, while others said they would have spent more time with their families. Some admitted they should have spent less time sitting around and doing nothing, exercised more, saved more money, or pursued more education.

When asked what the best periods of their lives were, ages 20 to 39 ranked highest. Approximately three-quarters of respondents said that faith and spirituality play a central role in how they are preparing and approaching for the future, with an equal number of respondents believing in life after death. Respondents said the biggest changes in society over their 100 years of life have been in transportation and technology, and in people's values and attitudes toward one another.

* * *

It's not exactly a window into the tools of longevity attainment, but valuable nonetheless. The insight centenarians have from their unique perspective offers wisdom about what we ought not to miss in our own lives so we, too, can age contentedly, which is much more important than seeing a specific number of sun revolutions chosen due to a number system that is arbitrarily based on groupings of ten.

I find it interesting that so many centenarians (1/4) are not religious and don't believe in life after death. They're by no means a majority, but the value/prevalence of the belief in immortality and that control can be relinquished to an omnipotent being, which is thought to play a role in stress reduction, seems to have been overstated in prior anecdotal reports. My guess is that it reflected the general belief system of their cohort, and as time goes on, fewer and fewer members of any cohort will have been raised religiously.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Centenarian Food Composition Analysis

The long version of the original study is a PDF file, which is available here:

Here is a nice summary of it I found on some forum (since I can't copy and paste the PDF text):

Originally posted:

Whoa182Tue, May-23-06, 00:06

I wasn't sure whether to post this as it is not low carb, but we are all looking for better health and centenarians don't get to their age without being in good health right? Some believe all carbs are pure evil, few believe that fiber is damaging to our health, and fewer still believe that vegetables are just poison!... Well the centenarians would disagree as they consumed an average of around 465g of them!

I figured that some of you might be interested in it at least... So here it is :thup:

A survey of the dietary nutritional composition of centenarians

To read the whole thing go here:


ObjectiveTo make a survey of the nutritional composition of the diets of centenarians.

Methods Thirty- four centenarians were selected as subjects. Retrospective surveys were made on the variety and amounts of food consumed and their nutritional composit ion. Physical examinations with laboratory tests such as cardiograms, ultrasoni c B rays, and blood, urine and hair tests were performed. Neutron activation te sting was done on hair content. The transmission turbidimetric method was used to measure apolipoprotein content.

Results The main food of the centenarians showed the characteristics of low calories, protein and fat but high fiber and mineral content. Laboratory results showed that the content of the elements of Cu, Se and Mn in hair was higher (P<0. 01) . Zn was normal. The apoA1/apoB100 ratio was higher than in the contro l group (P<0. 0I), and total cholesterol (TC) was lower than in the control group (P<0. 01).

Conclusions The variety of diet and its nutritional composition may be the main factors influencing not only the content of elements in body, but also the levels of apoA1 and apoB100, which may be helpful in preventing arteriosclerosis and forming and maintaining immunity. The diet of these centenarians might aid in preventing cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and malignant tumors.

Some important parts:

- Diets were low in calories (1419k/cal), protein and fat, but high in fiber and minerals
- Vegetable intake was high
- -apoA1, apoB100, TC, HDL- C and LDL- C levels of centenarians are all lower than those of the control group
- It seems as though their healthy eating habits was the main reason for their longevity

and my fave

-the typical diet of Japanese centenarians shows sweet potato slices as their main staple food which is very similar to the diet of Chinese centenarians

I love my sweet potatoes! :hyper:

* * *

Here is something the poster left out: the Chromium level from the hair analysis was very low as well. It's interesting that even though chromium has been touted for its effect on blood sugar, it has also been shown to mutate mitochondrial DNA, which is the biggest no-no in longevity attainment, since mitochondria have not yet evolved a method for repairing its DNA. This is also why a methionine-restricted diet can be beneficial (perhaps contributing to why many centenarians seem to be vegetarianesque).

I love that sweet potato is a commonality between Japanese and Chinese centenarians. And look at the sheer quantity that they eat:

Okinawan Quick Summary - CNN Transcript

This is a transcript from a CNN morning show, courtesy of the above website.

Dr. Craig Willcox on CNN, American Morning

From CNN: American Morning


The following is an edited* transcript from the December 14th broadcast of CNN's American Morning, with comments and corrections added by Dr. Craig Willcox, co-creator of the Okinawa Diet™ and co-authtor of The Okinawa Program and The Okinawa Diet Plan:

HEMMER: Time to page the good doctor. Sanjay Gupta all the way from Tokyo now. On the Japanese island of Okinawa, living longer has become a fact of life.

I will talk to Sanjay in a moment about that. First, though, some background from here in Japan and CNN's Atika Shubert.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Guess how old Makato Nakamatsu (ph) is? Seventy? Eighty? Ninety, maybe? Try 100 years old.

This sprightly great grandmother of 13 is just one of more than 800 centenarians living in Okinawa, the largest verifiable and healthiest concentration of 100 year olds in the world.

On the islands of Okinawa, diseases like cancer, diabetes, and hypertension are rare. Healthy seniors are seen actively at work fishing and farming, seemingly immune to old age.

Okinawa is home to the world's oldest and healthiest people and part of the secret seems to be right on this fishing boat. Elderly fishermen who work late into their lives and of course eat the daily catch. And that turns out to be part of the secret of the Okinawa fountain of youth: staying active and eating well.
That, according to Dr. Craig Willcox, who has studied Okinawa's centenarians for more than a decade.

DR. CRAIG WILLCOX, GERONTOLOGIST: I think they just came up with the right formula, Okinawa. They're doing a lot to either avoid or delay these diseases associated with aging.

SHUBERT: We asked Dr. Willcox to show us how the Okinawans do it. He took us to the market.

WILLCOX: Let's have a look at this. Wow. See that purple color?

(I was pointing out the lycopene content of dragon fruit as well as other Okinawan fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and sweet potatoes, that are extremely high in carotenoids, anti-oxidants and essential vitamins and minerals - DCW.)

SHUBERT: First, eat lots of colorful fruits and veggies. That means carbs too, but unrefined. Brown rice or whole wheat.

(It is important to eat whole carbohydrates that are high in fiber and that have been refined as little as possible in order to maximize nutritional content as well as minimize the negative effects of unrefined carbs on blood sugar levels. Eating carbs low on the Glycemic Index as well as minimizing quick-release carbs in the diet will keep you healthy and slim throughout life (See pages 33-37 and 89-95 of The Okinawa Diet Plan as well as pages 92-101 of The Okinawa Program for a more in depth explanation of the importance of eating the right carbohydrates) - DCW).

WILLCOX: The traditional diet is very vegetable heavy. Over 70 percent of the daily color intake came from vegetables.
(The staple of the traditional Okinawa Diet was the sweet potato, a nutritional powerhouse and great source of unrefined carbohydrates. Also loaded with beta-carotene, B vitamins, C, E, calcium, potassium, iron and fiber. Over 200 case-control studies have shown that people who consume a diet higher in vegetables suffer from lowers rates of chronic diseases, including cancer, and live longer. - DCW).

SHUBERT: Second, eat moderate portions of protein, especially heart healthy fish and tofu. But also a surprising Okinawan favorite: pork. But just a little.
(The traditional meat in Okinawa was pork but its consumption was limited to ceremonial occasions. Thus, the Okinawan elders have consumed very little meat over the course of their lives. Even now their meat consumption remains less than a quarter of what most people eat in North America. - DCW).

WILLCOX: The way that this is prepared in a traditional Okinawan style would be to boil this down and keep pouring it off until you pour off all the fat.

SHUBERT: Third, follow Okinawan table etiquette. Eat until you are 80 percent full and no more. That keeps calories in check.

Is that the secret to Nakamatsu's exuberant good health? She's certainly happy to share her healthy lunch, but also recommends daily exercises. Apparently when you live past 100 you know some pretty good dance moves. And if you do all that, she says, she'll come visit you when you turn 100.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Okinawa, Japan.


HEMMER: What a life for her. We're paging the good doctor now. Sanjay Gupta, at the CNN Center.

How are you, Sanjay? Good morning. Tell us about this fountain of youth. How you doing? GUPTA: Good morning. Yes, really interesting, obviously. Okinawa (is) a great place to look at as far as centenarians go. A couple of facts to point out.

First of all, with regards to Okinawa. So they live longer, lower rates of Alzheimer's. If they leave the island, those things go away. Why, is the question? Atika sort of mentioned a couple of these things.

(Okinawans consuming a meat-heavy diet in Brazil live 17 years shorter on average than those who consume the traditional diet in Okinawa. Okinawans who migrate to Hawaii and consume an East-West blend of foods, or East-West fusion diet tend to live almost as long as Okinawans in Okinawa - DCW).

Vigorous physical and mental exercise throughout their lives. A diet low in fat and salt. High in fruits and vegetables.

Also a couple of other interesting things that we found in our research on this -- soy, a significant part of the diet, 60 to 120 grams of soy daily and eat only until you're 80 percent full.

(Soy founds are high in flavonoids and people who consume high amounts of soy products have generally been found to suffer from lower rates of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast and/or prostate. Women who consume more soy have usually been found to have a decreased incidence of menopausal related symptoms such as hot flashes, as well as lower rates of osteoporosis - DCW ).

Atika mentioned this, it's called hara-hachi-bu, Bill, that's the name of it -- it's called eat only until you're 80 percent full. That's going to make you eat fewer calories. Really important.

(As we point out in The Okinawa Diet Plan, eating foods that are low in caloric density has been shown to increase life expectancy - DCW)

Also an important sense of social belonging. Everyone from the youngest in this community to the oldest in this community has a sense of place and is respected as such, Bill. All these things seem to have a factor as well.

(As we pointed out in our first book, The Okinawa Program, strong social support networks are associated with longevity--DCW)

HEMMER: Yes, is this exclusive only to Okinawa, Sanjay, or do you find if you put out the map of the world do you find other areas of the world where you see similar aging rates?

GUPTA: Well, Okinawa is one of the best, certainly, around the world, but there are other places around the world that have high concentrations of centenarians. Take a look: Okinawa topping the list but also Nova Scotia, Canada, for example. Sardinia, Italy as well.

(Okinawa has the highest age-validated centenarian population in the world at 47 per 100,000 population vs about 10 per 100,000 in the US. - DCW)

If you want to look around the world as far as life expectancy Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan all around 81. Japan as a country 81.

Canada 80, France 79. USA 77. China 72 and Botswana only 30. The reason it's so low in Botswana really has to do with high infant mortality rates there, Bill.

(These rates differ according to whose data you use but Japan comes out on top in very case. Of the Japanese, the Okinawans are the longest-lived at 78 years for men and 86 years for women on average. Botswana also is suffering from the AIDS epidemic and has lost approximately 10 years of life expectancy in the past couple of decades - DCW)

HEMMER: What about personality traits, Sanjay? Do you see any common link that would conclude any research as to why some people are living longer than others?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, there are some significant personality links and this is probably one of the most interesting things about it. If you look at the personalities of people. Strong but flexible characters. They tend to be more dominant in terms of their personality.

Also a bit suspicious. Suspicious of those around them, sometimes. But they're very practical minded. And tend to be more relaxed in general. Another important thing that we found as well, Bill, is that the people who lived longer oftentimes had helpers or people that they associated with who were much younger than them. That was both their -- they got some help from those young people as well as sort of a passageway into being young themselves, perhaps making them live longer, Bill.

(As we pointed out in our first book, personality and longevity experts seem to agree that a positive outlook, as seen in optimistic, emotionally stable, and flexible personalities is a definite advantage for coping with stressful life circumstances. They tend to be emotionally resilient and strong-willed types. Through personality testing we found that Okinawan centenarians tended to score high in “self-determination” and “self-confidence” and low in “tension” and “time-urgency.” See pages 245-251 of The Okinawa Program for further information on personality and longevity. - DCW)

HEMMER: How about that woman in the story that Atika showed -- she was just vibrant -- absolutely.

Hey, thanks, Sanjay. Very interesting stuff. Eighty percent filled and then stop. Talk to you later. Oh, I like that too. We'll talk to you later.

Ogimi Okinawans Sleep Well, Eat Well, and Work Hard

Living the good life, dying a 'good death'

Sat, Sep 08, 2007
The Straits Times

Speech by Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan

LAST week, I spent some time in the Japanese island of Okinawa. It has a population of 1.4 million, largely concentrated in the capital city of Naha. But it also has a significant rural-sector population spread over 40 small towns and villages. I visited one such village, called Ogimi.

The village has a reputation as 'the village of long life'. It has the highest number of centenarians, adjusted for population, in Japan and, most probably, in the world. Out of 3,500 people, 1,050 are above 65 and 100 above 90. Among them, 16 are above 100: one man and 15 women.

Okinawa has 740 centenarians. In comparison, Singapore has over 500, but out of a much larger population of 4.5 million. What is particularly impressive about Okinawa and Ogimi is that 80 per cent of their elderly live independently, requiring no hospital or nursing-home care. They manage quite nicely on their own, with support from family and community and in close communication with those around them.

I visited Ogimi not to seek the secret of longevity. A local academic who has studied this subject and observed the villagers for years briefed me on his research. As genetic factors are beyond our control, his briefing focused on non-genetic factors, of which there are many. But he singled out three important ones that help explain the villagers' longevity.

First, their traditional diet: They eat more pork, more tofu, more dark green vegetables and more seaweed than other Japanese. And their salt intake is low, about half of Japan's national average and many times lower than in Western countries.

Second, they are physically active. They exercise a lot and keep active all their lives. They work for as long as there is work available. It is common to see some of the villagers continue to work into their 70s and 80s, even in laborious work such as farming and weaving.

When work is not available, they are committed to an active social life, in senior citizens' clubs, village events and volunteer activities.

Third, their active daily life in turn benefits their sleep at night. They sleep easily and while they do not sleep long, they sleep soundly with little interruption.

So this is the Ogimi secret to longevity: a healthy diet, an active life and good quality sleep. I had several longevity meals and also joined the villagers in their activities, of which there were many: folk dancing, singing, socialising or simply helping one another. The elderly are fiercely independent and are proud of their independence. The oldest woman is 106 and lives with her daughter who is 80. Although recently wheelchair-bound, that does not stop her from coming to the community centre to observe the village dancing and simply to socialise.

Given their diet and regular activity, the prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is way below Japan's national average. Osteoporosis is also less of a problem, with the incidence of hip fractures at half the US rate. Unlike most elderly villagers in other parts of the world, the old folks in Ogimi walk with straight backs. I did not meet any hunchbacked residents.

We talked about the younger generation. They lamented the erosion of traditional village lifestyles and worried a lot about the bad influence of fast food. They prefer their 'slow food' tradition - prepared from fresh ingredients and cooked slowly to carefully remove the animal fat. They also practise 'hara hachi bu': eating moderately and only to 80 per cent full. The other 20 per cent, they believe, will only go to enrich doctors. We did not meet any who were obese.

Ogimi is, of course, not entirely a bed of roses. Among the 16 centenarians, three are bedridden, including the oldest man who, at 108, also suffers from dementia. I visited several nursing homes where the bedridden elderly were being served. Just like in some of our nursing homes, many seemed unaware of what was going on around them.

The difference is that their residents are one generation older. We met many grandparents who were in their 80s but still fit, looking after bedridden great-grandparents. The parents who form the third generation were, however, missing, having to work in cities. The children who could form the fourth generation are few in number, if any, as Japan is facing a rapidly declining birth rate.