Submitted by ub on Wed, 03/14/2012 - 17:57

Centenarians are very special and tough as nails. They are individuals whose life span passes 100. But for those relying on healthy habits to reach age 100, please read carefully and take plenty of notes.

Centenarians indulge in smoking and drinking just as much as their shorter-lived counterparts. They do not follow healthier or more stringent diets than anyone else. They're just as likely to be overweight, and may even have exercised less. So what contributed to their unusually long lives?

Scientists have long debated the roles of nature and nurture in longevity. Centenarians are far more likely than the average person to have long-lived relatives, suggesting that long life may be largely inherited. And yet published studies have shown that identical twins separated at birth and reared apart can have vastly different life spans, where one lives exceptionally long, and the other dying long before that. This indicates that genes have only so much influence.

These studies found that the people who lived to 95 and beyond did not seem to exhibit healthier lifestyles than those who died younger. 43% of the male centenarians reported exercising regularly at moderate intensity, compared with 57% of men in the other group. About 24% of the men in the older group drank alcohol daily, compared with 22% in the other group. Among women, they found that the same percentage in both groups reported following low-calorie diets.

Almost 30 percent of the women who lived exceptionally long were smokers, slightly more than the 26% of women in the comparison population who smoked. About 60% of the older men smoked, and 74% of their shorter-lived counterparts did.

Men and women in both groups were also just as likely to be overweight as people in the general population. The one difference in that area was that centenarians were less likely to be obese. Only 4.5% of men in the older group were obese, compared with 12% of the other male subjects. A similar pattern was found among women.

So did all that hard living just make them happier, contributing to their extended life spans? Much has been made over the years about optimism and other social factors that may contribute to longevity. But in the latest study, only 19% of the people who lived past 95 said they believed a “positive attitude” played a role in their longevity, while just 6% credited their religious faith or spirituality.

As part of this year’s Bronx Week celebrations, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. wants to honor 100% of Bronxites that are 100 years of age or older. If you, or someone you know meets this criteria and would like to participate in this event, please contact Larcenia Walton at