What’s the Secret to a Long Life? Lessons from Centenarians Around the World

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Written By AgeSong Editor

We are a team of passionate writers who curate engaging content about aging. Our goal is to inspire and empower individuals to live their best lives as they grow older. 

Many of us aspire to live long, healthy lives, but what are the secrets to achieving this goal? One source of inspiration may be the world’s centenarians, those individuals who have reached the age of 100 and beyond. These remarkable people have lived through wars, pandemics, and countless other challenges, and yet they have managed to thrive and enjoy life well into their golden years.

But what is their secret? How have they managed to live such long and fulfilling lives? Researchers have studied centenarians around the world to uncover the factors that contribute to their longevity, and here are some of the key takeaways.


Many centenarians follow a simple, plant-based diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Sometimes called the Mediterranean diet, this diet is low in processed foods, sugar, and animal products, and could be a factor in their longevity.

The Mediterranean diet is often cited as one of the healthiest diets in the world, and for good reason. This eating pattern is based on the traditional diets of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. It is characterized by high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and olive oil, with moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and dairy, and minimal intake of red meat, processed foods, and sweets.

Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can have numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But can it also help you live to old age? 

Here are some of how the Mediterranean diet may contribute to longevity:

Rich in Antioxidants

The Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which are all rich in antioxidants. These compounds can help to protect the body against oxidative stress, which is a major contributor to aging and disease.


The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, nuts, and fish. These fats have been shown to improve heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is a major cause of death among older adults.


The Mediterranean diet is also anti-inflammatory, thanks to its emphasis on whole foods and minimally processed ingredients. Chronic inflammation is another major contributor to aging and disease, and by reducing inflammation, the Mediterranean diet may help to promote longevity.

Balanced and nutrient-dense

The Mediterranean diet is well-balanced and provides a wide range of nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. By providing the body with the nutrients it needs to function properly, the Mediterranean diet can help to support overall health and well-being.

Easy to Follow

Finally, one of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is so effective is that it is easy to follow and can be adapted to fit a wide range of tastes and preferences. This makes it a sustainable way of eating, which is key to maintaining good health over the long term.


Regular physical activity is another important factor in longevity. Many centenarians engage in regular exercise, whether it’s walking, yoga, or gardening. Even moderate levels of activity can have significant health benefits.

Regular exercise has numerous health benefits, including the ability to increase longevity. The benefits of exercise on longevity have been proven through various studies, and the mechanisms by which exercise improves health and longevity are well understood.

One of the primary ways exercise increases longevity is by reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. These diseases are major causes of premature death, and regular exercise can help prevent them. Exercise also helps to maintain a healthy weight, which is another factor that can contribute to a longer life.

Additionally, exercise has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce stress, both of which can have positive effects on overall health and longevity.

Another way exercise can increase longevity is by improving the immune system. Regular exercise has been shown to increase the production of immune cells, which can help the body fight off infections and diseases. Exercise has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to numerous chronic diseases.

Social Connections

Strong social connections are important for mental and emotional well-being, and many centenarians maintain active social lives. They may participate in community activities, volunteer, or spend time with family and friends.

Social connections and relationships are essential for overall well-being and have been shown to have a significant impact on longevity. Studies have found that people with strong social connections tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health outcomes than those who are socially isolated.

One of the primary ways social connections can improve longevity is by providing a sense of belonging and purpose. Having strong social bonds can give individuals a sense of meaning and significance in their lives, which can help reduce stress and improve overall mental health. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on physical health outcomes, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Social connections also provide opportunities for individuals to engage in healthy behaviors. People who are socially connected are more likely to engage in physical activity, eat healthier, and avoid harmful behaviors like smoking and excessive drinking. This can have a significant impact on overall health and can contribute to a longer life.

Another way social connections can improve longevity is by providing emotional support during times of stress and hardship. Having a strong support system can help individuals cope with difficult situations and reduce the negative impact of stress on the body. This, in turn, can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like depression, anxiety, and hypertension.

Positive Attitude

A positive attitude can help keep us motivated and resilient, and many centenarians have a strong sense of purpose and meaning in life. They may have a positive outlook on life and may find joy in simple pleasures and everyday experiences.

As we age, it becomes increasingly important to maintain a positive mental attitude. A positive outlook can have a profound impact on physical and mental health, and it can help individuals maintain a sense of purpose and enjoyment in life.

One of the primary benefits of a positive mental attitude is that it can help reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. As we age, we may face challenges such as the loss of loved ones, health issues, and retirement. These challenges can be difficult to navigate, but a positive mindset can help individuals cope with them and maintain a sense of hope and optimism.

Another benefit of a positive mental attitude is that it can help reduce stress levels. Chronic stress has been linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. By maintaining a positive outlook and finding ways to manage stress, individuals can reduce their risk of these and other chronic health conditions.

In addition, a positive mental attitude can help individuals stay engaged and active in their communities. This can help combat loneliness and social isolation, which are major risk factors for poor physical and mental health outcomes in older adults.

Finally, a positive mental attitude can help individuals maintain a sense of purpose and meaning in life. This can be especially important as we age and face changes in our health, relationships, and daily routines. By finding joy in simple pleasures and maintaining a sense of purpose, individuals can continue to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives well into their later years.


While lifestyle factors play a significant role in longevity, genetics also play a role. Some people may be predisposed to live longer lives and may have certain genetic markers that contribute to their health and longevity.

The role of genetics in longevity is a complex and ongoing area of research. While genetics do play a role in determining lifespan, it is important to note that lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and stress management also have a significant impact on longevity.

Several genetic factors have been linked to increased lifespan. One of these is the presence of the FOXO3 gene, which is associated with a longer lifespan in some populations. Other genes that have been linked to longevity include the CETP gene and the APOE gene.

However, it is important to note that the expression of these genes can be influenced by environmental factors. For example, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise can influence the expression of genes related to inflammation and oxidative stress, which are linked to a range of chronic diseases and can impact lifespan.

Additionally, genetics can impact the risk of developing certain chronic diseases that can impact lifespan. For example, certain genes are associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease, which is a major cause of premature death.

While genetics do play a role in determining lifespan, it is important to focus on lifestyle factors that are within our control. By prioritizing healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress, we can optimize our health and potentially extend our lifespan, regardless of our genetic predispositions.


Of course, there is no single “secret” to living a long life, and everyone’s path is unique. However, these factors can provide valuable insights into the habits and behaviors that can contribute to a long and healthy life.

Centenarians around the world have much to teach us about how to live long and fulfilling lives. By following their example and adopting healthy habits, we can improve our chances of living a long and healthy life. Whether it’s through diet, exercise, social connections, a positive attitude, or a combination of these factors, we can all take steps to enhance our well-being and enjoy life to the fullest.