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Secrets to Longevity

In the 20th century the average life expectancy improved by 30 years-the greatest gain in 5,000 years of human history. Centenarians-folks who make it into the triple digits-aren't such an exclusive club anymore. This group has more than doubled from 1990 to 2006.

How do we account for these dramatic leaps? Advances in health, education, and disease prevention and treatments are high on the list-and that makes sense. But what you may not know is that seemingly unimportant everyday habits, or circumstances in your past, can influence how long and how well you'll live. Here is the latest research on longevity-science-based signs you're on a long-life path:

  1. You have a (relatively) flat belly after menopause [or andropause]. People who are too round in the middle (35 inches or more for women, 40 inches or more for men) are 20 percent more likely to die sooner.
  2. You embrace techie trends. Learning to twitter, google, email, and even date online, help keep us mentally spry and socially engaged.
  3. You skip cola (regular and diet). Scientists in Boston found that drinking one or more regular or diet colas every day doubles your risk of metabolic syndrome-a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, and excess fat around the waist, that increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  4. You eat purple food. Concord grapes, blueberries and red wine all get that deep, rich color from polyphenols-compounds that reduce heart disease risk and may protect against Alzheimer's disease by keeping blood vessels flexible and healthy.
  5. You don't like burgers. A few palm-sized servings (about 2½ ounces) of beef, pork or lamb now and then is no big deal, but eating more than 18 ounces of red meat per week ups your risk of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer risk also rises by 42% with every 3½-ounce serving of processed meat (such as hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats) eaten per day.
  6. You run for 40 minutes a day, for a total of 5 hours per week. Runners don't get just less heart disease-they also develop fewer cases of cancer, neurologic diseases, and infections. Even 20 minutes a day of any activity that leaves you breathless can boost your health and keep the immune system young.
  7. You'd rather walk than drive. "Fit" people-defined as those who walk about 30 minutes a day-are more likely to live longer than those who walk less, regardless of how much body fat they have.
  8. You don't have a housekeeper. Just by vacuuming, mopping or washing windows for a little more than an hour lowers risk of death by 30%.
  9. You're a flourisher, meaning you have a positive outlook on life, a sense of purpose and community.
  10. You're in a drama-free marriage or relationship. Knowing you have people who support you keeps you healthy mentally and physically. Chronic stress weakens the immune system and ages cells faster, ultimately shortening life span by 4 to 8 years.
  11. Your friends are healthy. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, it's important to associate with people who have similar goals.
  12. You were a healthy weight teen. Being overweight at 14 increases risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood, and adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than those without the condition.

[Excerpted from article by Sandra Gordon, based on content provided by Prevention.]