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Healthy at 100!

There are many stories of long-lived centenarians around the world but a small village on the Amalfi coast of Italy seems to hold the record on the number of individuals over 100 years old in relation to the number of residents in the village. The town of Acciaroli only has 2,000 people in it but a little over 300 of them are over the age of 100--and healthy!

Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that few of this town's residents suffer from heart disease, Alzheimer's or arthritis, even though many of its aged population are significantly overweight and some even smoke. Drinking wine also appears to be a popular part of their lifestyles and may be one of the unproven reasons for their longevity.

Researchers from the University of California at San Diego and the Sapienza University of Rome have been studying the residents of this tiny village for several years now and while their research isn't complete, some of their findings may explain this extraordinary longevity and how Americans might learn from the lifestyles of these centenarians.

Healthy foods: It appears that the residents eat a modified version of the Mediterranean Diet. They eat a lot of anchovies which are loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They also eat a lot rosemary, which contains a compound that boosts blood flow to the brain and may improve memory and cognitive function.

Exercise: The villagers get plenty of exercise in their everyday lives. They typically do not jog or engage in aerobic classes but they do move--they walk everywhere, along the beach, hike in the nearby hills and for many of the older residents, move around in their gardens.

Stress Management: Outside of the larger cities, Italians in general seem to have a lower level of stress and are known for spending a lot of time outdoors. There is a significant amount of research that shows spending time outdoors connecting with nature results in a deeper sense of contentment and lower stress levels among many individuals. A laid-back lifestyle has been shown to contribute to lower blood pressure and lower levels of stress hormones, essential components of overall health.

The researchers summarized their findings to date as a combination of good genetics, plant genetics of the locally grown food, the diet they eat, the fact that virtually all the villagers live an active lifestyle, and never being in a hurry or feeling pressured to meet deadlines. Living to 100 years old or older is a noteworthy goal but living to that age and being healthy is a goal to strive for. Perhaps there are some very important insights we can learn from these centenarians.

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