7 Secrets to Living to a Ripe Old Age

Alexander Imich, the world's oldest man, has died peacefully at home in Manhattan. He was 111. According to his niece, Imich put his long life down to a simple combination of good genetics, decent nutrition and exercise, and not having children.

But does this tally with the advice of other centenarians? We round up the sometimes contradictory secrets of some of the world's longest-lived men and women.

Eat well and relax

Misao Okawa of Japan is currently the world's oldest woman. She is of a similar mind to Imich. "She always says the secret to living a long time is to eat a good meal and relax," says her nurse.

No alcohol, plenty of water… and a good cigar

Until he was overtaken by Japan’s Okawa, Denmark’s Christian Mortensen had the longest lifespan on record, dying at the age of 115 years and 272 days. His secret? "Friends, a good cigar, drinking lots of good water, no alcohol, staying positive and lots of singing will keep you alive for a long time."

Smoke, drink and make merry

On the other hand, the British war veteran Henry Allingham had wildly differing advice (though he agrees on the smoking, at least), putting his longevity down to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women."

Garlic, porridge and prunes

Other centenarians cited specific aspects of their diet as a key secret of their success. George Cook - who gave up smoking at the age of 97 - lived until 108. He suggested garlic as a possible reason for his long life. "It keeps the blood thin." David Henderson, who lived to 107, gave credit to porridge, prunes, and never going to bed on a full stomach.

Raw eggs and plenty of sleep

The oldest woman in Europe, Emma Morano, was advised to eat two eggs a day - one cooked and one raw - and has kept up the habit into her 114th year. Another factor may be a decent night's sleep: Emma gets to bed at dusk and is up at dawn, while Okawa also cites an uninterrupted eight hours' sleep every night.

Find a good partner

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, for people born as early as the 19th century, a heteronormative lifestyle was advised by many centenarians. "Have a good wife, and be easy going," advised Samuel Ball, 102. "My longevity is attributed to my long happy marriage," said Gardner Watts, 98.

Mind your own business

Southern belle Besse Cooper, who died at the age of 116 in Monroe, Georgia, had endearingly forthright reasoning for her long life: "I mind my own business," Cooper said. "And I don't eat junk food … work hard, and love what you do."


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