The Unexpected Way to Live to Your 90s and Beyond

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | March 29, 2018

Over the years, average life expectancy has been increasing. Most people agree that this is a good thing and that they would want to live as long as possible – assuming the quality of life stays on the same trajectory.

There are plenty of lifestyle habits that we can adopt in order to increase our chances of living longer and maintaining good health well beyond 90 years of age.

Dr. Claudia Kawas, a neurologist from the University of California in Irvine, conducted a long-term study, called the 90+ Study, on individuals between the ages of 90 and 99, also referred to as nonagenarians. Beginning in 2003, she looked at 1700 nonagenarians, their daily lifestyle habits, and how they relate to longevity.

When comparing daily alcohol intake with daily exercise habits, the neurologist concluded that the individuals who drank approximately two alcoholic drinks – beer or wine – per day were 18 percent less likely to experience a premature death. Individuals who exercised for 15 to 45 minutes daily decreased their risk of premature death by 11 percent. In addition, those who drank two cups of coffee per day decreased their risk of death by 10 percent. She was as surprised as the rest of us to find these results, but she now believes that moderate alcohol consumption improves longevity.

She also found that weight was another predictor of longevity. The participants in her study who were slightly overweight decreased their risk of early death by 3 percent. She stated, “It’s not bad to be skinny when you’re young, but it’s very bad to be skinny when you’re old.”

Another interesting finding to add was that individuals who spent two hours on average per day on a hobby that they were interested in decreasing their risk of dying prematurely by 21 percent.

Based on this study, can we conclude that happiness and enjoyment have the most impact of all? I’ll leave that to you to decide. While it’s a nice thought, we need to conduct more research into the topic and more studies to see how genetics are related to these findings. Still, this is an interesting way to look at our lifestyle habits and our priorities as we age.


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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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