Diet, exercise, optimism, and long-term, loving relationships all play important roles in how long and how well we live.

Matt Fuchs, Washington Post »

All humans share 99.9 percent of their genes. This explains why even “super-agers,” born with tiny genetic differences that promote longevity, almost never surpass 110. (Jeanne Louise Calment of France was an outlier, living until the age of 122, the current record.) Some animals make it well beyond that mark, according to Jan Vijg, a molecular geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Scientists know just one way for humans to live 170 years like a giant tortoise: become a giant tortoise.

What’s clear is that certain lifestyles help individuals live longer than they otherwise would — including the genetically blessed. Harvard researchers found that healthy habits add nearly 15 years of life expectancy. “That’s over $100 trillion in health-care savings,” said Harvard biologist David Sinclair.

Today, our bodies still infer a state of scarcity if we consume lots of vegetables, switching on the longevity genes. Indeed, such a diet is associated with longer lives, according to the Harvard study. Becoming a full-fledged vegetarian probably isn’t necessary, but, to maximize what longevity experts call “healthspan,” at least 50 percent of protein should come from vegetable sources, Longo said.

He advises getting other proteins mostly from fatty fish while moderating your intake of starchy carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes. Research has shown that older people who routinely devour such carbs may be more likely to become cognitively impaired. Try to replace them sometimes with foods such as lentils or extra vegetables, which have more fiber and minerals than refined carbs, said Kris Verburgh, a nutrigerontologist and author of “The Longevity Code.”

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