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Genes, Not Healthy Living, Get Most to Age 100
Date:8/3/2011

hether today's elderly people acted any differently back around age 70 than people in general. Were they healthier? Did they smoke less and exercise more?

The answer: Not really. "We found that our centenarians by and large did not adhere to any specific healthful diet more than the other population did," Crandall said. It was the same for smoking and exercise. Only 43 percent of men aged 95 and older, for example, reported engaging in regular exercise of moderate intensity, compared with 57 percent of men in the comparison group.

However, there was one interesting difference. Researchers found that although men and women aged 95 and older were just as likely to be overweight as their counterparts in the general population, the centenarians were significantly less likely to become obese.

It's not clear if the extremely old people in the study continued to indulge in bad habits such as smoking. When the elders were asked why they thought they had been able to live so long, most (apparently correctly) did not single out lifestyle factors. One-third reported a history of family longevity, while 20 percent believed that physical activity also played a role in their long life. Others attributed a positive attitude (19 percent), a busy or active life (12 percent), less smoking and drinking (15 percent), good luck (8 percent), and religion or spirituality (6 percent) to their centenarian status.

Although lifestyle factors did not appear to greatly influence the centenarians' longevity, the researchers stressed that people not blessed with longevity genes should definitely watch their weight, avoiding smoking and exercise regularly -- all things associated with a longer life span.

Olshansky said the findings underscore the importance of genetics to life span. "The only way anyone has any chance at all of living an exceptionally long life is if they won the genetic lottery at birth," he said.

But, he said, your choices about health ca
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