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Longevity extends to factors beyond genetics

December 13, 2012

Most seniors put a premium on healthy aging, and while some people assume they owe a lot to their genes, that's not always the case. There are a number of small steps seniors can take to increase their lifespan that extend well beyond relying on their DNA, reports The Washington Post.

It's no secret that getting plenty of sleep is critical, and it is also part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Experts say older adults who get less than seven hours of sleep each night put themselves at a greater risk for a variety of health conditions, ranging from cardiovascular issues to diabetes.

Physical activity is a cornerstone of healthy aging, but it does not have to be anything too strenuous, experts say. Even something as simple as walking a little farther or general physical activity can be enough. In fact, a recent study found that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week could extend a person's lifespan by seven years.

"When people talk about physical activity, they always think about jogging or, you know, doing intense physical activity," Luigi Ferrucci, scientific director of the National Institute on Aging, told the newspaper. "But you don't gain by jogging as much as you gain by going from being a couch potato to just walking 10 minutes per day. That is a huge difference."

It's not just enough to stay physically engaged, seniors should also make a point to maintain their hobbies and interests well into retirement, according to the newspaper. Hobbies will help keep older adults' brains active, which can offer benefits ranging from stress release to the prevention of cognitive decline.

Older adults seem to be heeding the advice when it comes to longevity. The Census Bureau reports there are more than 53,300 people in the United States who are 100 or older.