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How to increase your lifespan

By Moira Visoiu

Bessie Cooper, the woman who was listed as the oldest living person, died on Dec. 4 at the age of 116. The Georgian woman was declared the world’s oldest person in January 2011. She subsequently lost the title to another woman, but regained it when that woman died later that year. The title of world’s oldest person now belongs to 115 year old Dina Manfredini of Johnston, Iowa.

The oldest known person of all time was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who lived to be 122 years and 164 days old and died in 1997. She is reported to have consumed olive oil with every meal, ate lots of chocolate and drank port wine. She saw the Eiffel Tower being built and she once met Vincent Van Gogh over 100 years ago when she was 13 years old.

People who live to 110 are known as super-centenarians. Although such people are very rare (there are only about 300 – 450 super-centenarians in the world) you can still do your best to achieve longevity. Here are some (unsurprising) tips on how to increase your life span:

1. Reduce calorie consumption - A behavioural factor favoring longevity is calorie control. Eat off small plates and pay attention to fullness cues. Eat only until you feel about 80 per cent full. Calorie reduction has been proven to increase the life span of rats in laboratory tests.

2. Reduce fat consumption - 25 to 35 per cent of your total calories should come from fat. When you do eat fat, choose fish, nuts and foods prepared with olive oil. The fat sources in these foods are high in monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. Saturated fat in red meat, full-fat dairy products and butter should be used sparingly, and all trans fat should be avoided.

3. Avoid processed foods - Stick to whole grains, fruits and vegetables and aim for one to two cups of raw vegetables each day.

4. Drink Tea - Tea is a staple for centenarians in Japan and China. It is not unusual for tea lovers to consume four to six cups a day. Although there is no scientific consensus on how many cups of tea per day reap more health benefits, intakes above two cups are associated with fewer cognitive declines. Both black and green tea are good for you, so have a cuppa and enjoy!

In addition to these important dietary habits, you should exercise regularly, maintain a healthy body weight, and don't smoke if you want to maximize your life span.

May you live to 120!

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