Charles A. Bertrand, M.D., FACP, DIM-CD (Ret.)
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College
and at the Medical University of South Carolina


Recently, there have been two interesting articles written about centenarians... the first was in the Johns Hopkins Medical Letter, Nov. 2001, and the second was in the Harvard Health Letter of January 2002. Both were well-written and quite interesting.

At present there are about 70,000 centenarians in the United States. The mid-range prediction for 2050 is 800,000. It seems incredible, doesn't it?

What does it take to live so long? Well, these individuals are generally robust with a positive outlook on life. They have enjoyed good health and have good health habits such as

Looking back a hundred years... sanitation has improved markedly in many countries, vaccination has been successful and some diseases, in some countries, have been eradicated. Antibiotics have played a role as well as many other medications that have been developed during the 20th century.

The Hopkins article was more about Okinawa- this island is part of the Japanese archipelago. The inhabitants have an average life span of 81 years, the highest in the world, and there are 600 centenarians on the island! They are not obese, have low-fat intake and low cholesterol levels and are physically active. Not many automobiles for them... foot power and bicycles are the major means of transportation. They have 80% fewer heart attacks than Americans, have less stress and have good support groups.

Several years ago I saw a retired doctor who had been a patient for many years. He was 97 years old, but looked much younger. He stood erect, wore a sports jacket and slacks and a bright bow tie. I asked him, jokingly, how long he was planning to live. He replied "About 100 years, I should say."

I asked him, "Why 100?"

Well, he said, "I've been reading the obit pages since before you were born, and I've learned one thing."

"What's that?", I asked.

And he replied, "Not many people a hundred years old die and so, I figure that if I make it to 100, I'll live forever!"

What an attitude! With that plus the other key factors mentioned above, he just kept going!

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