Lifestyle vies with heredity in centenarian stakes

Thu Jun 7, 2012 9:09am EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Genetics may be the best predictor of longevity, but lifestyle choices, including staying connected with family and friends, are key components to reaching the age of 100, according to a new poll released on Wednesday.

More than 80 percent of 100 men and women who have already hit the milestone said being socially active had helped them get there, and a similar number of baby boomers believe it will help them reach their 100th birthday.

"Scientifically we know that the formula, the best predictor, for how long someone will live has traditionally been how long their immediate relatives have lived, so we know genetics is a strong factor," said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare, which conducted the survey.

"But we are seeing more and more that lifestyle choices -- physical exercise, diet, staying engaged, having a social purpose -- are becoming a stronger and stronger influence," she said in an interview.

Like their children and grandchildren, centenarians have turned to the Internet to stay connected.

About a quarter of 100-year-olds questioned in the telephone survey said they had access to the Web, double the number just a year ago. Of those, more than half use the Internet to view and share photos, and nearly as many send and receive email and search the Internet for information.

Centenarians were also almost as likely as baby boomers to have used an online dating service -- 6 percent of boomers, compared with 4 percent of the oldest generation.

"They are all realizing that the keys to longevity are around mental, physical and emotion health," said Randall.   Continued...