It seems that almost every day we read about another centenarian swimming across the English Channel blind-folded with one hand tied behind his back or jumping out of an airplane while she knits a scarf without dropping a single stitch. OK, slight exaggerations perhaps, but without a doubt, more people are living to the ripe old age of 100 -- or longer. Certainly, medical advances are a principal reason behind the longevity boost and to a large extent you will play the genes you are dealt. But here are a few more ways to improve your odds of reaching a triple-digit birthday:
1. Run like your life depends on it.
Why? Because it may. Stanford University researchers tracked runners and non-runners for 21 years. They found that runners didn't just get less heart disease, they also had fewer cancers, infections and neurologic diseases -- and yes, they live longer. Study author Eliza Chakravarty was quoted in Time saying, "Aerobic exercise keeps the immune system young."
How much exercise is enough to make a difference? Opinions vary but If you don't like to run, even 20 minutes a day of any activity that leaves you breathless can boost your health, she says.
Even a moderate jog can add between five and six years to your life, according to a 2012 analysis of data from a Copenhagen City Heart study. But gains from running do hit a place of diminished returns when it comes to longevity. Researchers from the University of South Carolina found that people who run more than 20 miles a week, faster than seven miles an hour, or more than five times a week, lose the longevity boost.
Bottom line: Exercise and you may live longer.
2. Eat the right colors.
Diets rich in green and purple vegetables are good not only for your heart, but also as a way to protect against Alzheimer's disease. One study found those who ate plants from the mustard family -- broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage -- tended to have a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality. The vegetables contain vitamin C, which brings health perks.
Eat red -- as in red meat -- only in small amounts if you must, please. Vegetarians have a 12 percent lower risk of premature death than their meat-eating cohorts, according to a JAMA Internal Medicine study that included 73,308 Seventh-Day Adventist men and women who do not eat meat for religious reasons.
Elderly people who eat a Mediterranean diet -- which is high in fish and vegetables and low in animal products like milk and red meat -- have about a 20 percent increased chance of living longer compared with their non-Mediterranean-eating counterparts, according to a Swedish study reported in the journal AGE. They live an estimated two to three years longer than those who don't, Gianluca Tognon, scientist at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, said in a statement reported in HuffPost.
3. Act like a squirrel.
Scamper freely through life and eat nuts. In other words, have fun! When you think about it, aren't squirrels really just little self-contained parties -- darting around the park chasing one another, dodging cars in a game of "Chicken," mocking your dog who is leashed and can't reach them? They are happy little guys.
Happier people live longer. A 2011 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that among older people, the group that scored as “happiest” (having the highest “positive affect”) had a death rate of 3.6 percent -- less than half the death rate of the unhappiest group, which was 7.3 percent.
And while we're talking squirrels, let's not ignore the value of nuts. Eating nuts could help you live longer, according to a study in BioMed Central of 7,000 people ages 55 to 90. The study found that nut eaters had a 39 percent lower risk of early death from cancer or cardiovascular disease, and walnut eaters in particular had a 45 percent lower risk of early death from cancer or cardiovascular disease than non-nut eaters.
4. Make sure you return your stomach to its original upright position.
Extra weight in your mid-section isn't good for your longevity. Post-menopausal woman who have lost their waistline are at a higher risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It's harder to keep a stomach flat after menopause because shifting hormones cause the extra weight to settle in your mid-section. Scientists working for the International Menopause Society looked at published studies on the impact of menopause on body weight. They concluded that the loss of the estrogen leads to a change in the pattern of body fat, which shifts from the hips to the abdomen.
5. Be alert to what you no longer can smell.
An NIH-supported study involving approximately 3,000 older individuals showed that those who could no longer detect or distinguish odors were four times more likely to die within five years than those with normal olfaction. The findings were the first to indicate the importance of olfaction in mortality risk for older adults.
Still think your sense of smell doesn't matter? It's actually responsible for your sense of taste. Try holding your nose when you eat chocolate. You will be able to distinguish between its sweetness and bitterness, but you won't be able to identify the chocolate flavor. That's because the distinguishing characteristic of chocolate is largely identified by our sense of smell as aromas are released during chewing, the NIH website states.
6. Laugh a lot.
In a 2012 study published in the journal Aging, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yeshiva University researchers identified what personality characteristics that a group of 243 centenarians had in common. Among them? They all found a reason to laugh a lot. “They considered laughter an important part of life,” the lead researcher said.
7. Learn to drink tea the healthy way.
Both green and black teas contain a concentrated dose of catechins, substances that relax blood vessels and protect your heart. In a Japanese study of more than 40,500 men and women, those who consumed green tea had a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Other studies involving black tea showed similar results.
Ready-to-drink teas don't count because the catechins degrade once water is added. And some studies suggest that adding milk diminishes tea's protective effects on the cardiovascular system; stick to lemon or honey.
8. Be a giver, not a taker.
Generous people give of themselves in many ways. They do favors, pay compliments, go out of their way to help others. And what they get in return for it is, among other things, a longer life. Researchers from the University of Buffalo found a link between giving and having a lower risk of early death. “Our conclusion is that helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality," study researcher Michael J. Poulin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, told PsychCentral.
9. Keep busy.
While you may joke and say that you plan on spending the first year of your retirement napping on the front porch, the best way to extend your life may be to keep working. Of the men who were subjects of Harvard’s famed Longevity Project, those who made it into old, old age had successful, satisfying careers and continued to work -- at least on a part-time basis -- into their 70s. "The stress that comes from an ambitious career can be beneficial to health," The Atlantic noted in a quote from the Longevity Project book.
10. Don't binge-watch TV.
Every hour of TV you watch after age 25 cuts your lifespan by about 22 minutes, according to research from The University of Queensland, Australia. They also found that people who sat in front of a television screen for an average six hours a day died nearly five years sooner than people who didn't watch any TV. We can only assume they don't get Netflix in Australia.
It's not the TV per se that does the damage, but the inactivity that occurs while you watch it.
Have any of your own tips to add? Let us know in comments.