As scientists tease out the surprising secrets to aging well, they’re also discounting certain factors once thought important:
- Your parents’ ages. Don’t count on repeating long-lived ancestors if you yourself smoke, have high cholesterol, and lead a couch-potato life — all factors associated with shortening one’s lifespan. Lifestyle factors can trump genetics.
- Enduring fewer stressful life events. It’s how one deals with major stressful events, not just the presence or absence of them, that seems to be the bigger X factor.
- Nationality and geography. “Japanese longevity” or the “French paradox” seem to have more to do with lifestyle and diet than with the virtue of being born in a certain place. The good news: Anyone can adapt the diet of Mediterranean or Okinawan cultures, snack less, exercise more, and reduce stress.
- Social and economic status. A landmark Harvard study of 10 years ago pegged more education as a more reliable predictor of longevity than higher income or higher social rank.
- Herbs and supplements. Certain vitamins seem to shore up aspects of health, but no miracle supplement or nutrient cocktail has yet been found to tur