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A group of more than 100 centenarians living within an eight-town radius of Boston were the subjects of a study initiated in 1994.

The co-directors of the New England Centenarian Study (NECS)—Thomas Perls, M.D., M.P.H., and Margery Hutter Silver, Ed.D.—have published their observations in medical literature and in a popular book titled Living to 100: Lessons in Living to Your Maximum Potential at Any Age (Basic Books).

You can see some of the important characteristics they share below:

  • Significant obesity is rare.
  • Smoking history is extremely rare.
  • They score low in a type of personality testing that measures neuroticism (based on a preliminary study). A lack of neuroticism translates into not dwelling on problems and therefore managing stress well.
  • They have a history of showing signs of aging very slowly and markedly delaying or even escaping age-associated diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

Many children of these centenarians (age range of 65 to 82) appear to be following in their parents' footsteps.

Diet and Longevity

According to Longevity: Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide (AlternativeMedicine.com Books), eating certain foods can add years to your life:

  • Garlic detoxifies the body of heavy metals, reduces cholesterol, decreases blood pressure and acts as an antibiotic.
  • Soy decreases cholesterol, boosts thyroid hormone levels, reduces cancer risks and promotes good bacteria growth.
  • Citrus or fresh-squeezed juice prevents abnormal blood clots, lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol.
  • Nuts are high in the good type of fat and lower the incidence of heart attacks.
  • Mushrooms have various good benefits. Shiitake mushrooms enhance immune system function and fight infection and cancer; reishi mushrooms lower blood pressure and cholesterol; maitake mushrooms lower blood pressure and may help control diabetes.
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens and others) regulate white blood cells and activate liver detoxification enzymes.
  • Legumes (peas and beans) are effective at reducing cholesterol levels and help fight diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
  • Seafood (salmon and coldwater fish) is high in omega-3 fatty acid, lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol and reduces blood clotting.
  • Yogurt The friendly bacteria in yogurt protects against carcinogens, reduces cholesterol, controls yeast infections, alleviates diarrhea and helps with constipation.
  • Spices (curry powder, turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, sage, thyme and rosemary) are anti-cancer, immune-stimulating, antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering and exhibit a multitude of health-enhancing effects.

Whether or not your family history predisposes you to live a long time, you'll still need to make good lifestyle choices regarding your physical, spiritual and emotional health. You will be rewarded with improved prospects for longevity, as well as greater peace and productivity.

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